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How To Turn On Your Lawn Sprinkler System This Spring

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

sprinklers going off and watering the grass

Our Wichita, KS, Landscapers Break Down the Steps It Takes to Revive Your Inground Sprinklers

When winter gives way to spring, it is time to think about starting up your sprinkler system to help your lawn and flowers flourish throughout the growing season. During the cooler months, your sprinkler is turned off and drained to prevent costly damages down the road. And while winterizing your sprinkler system is important, the same goes for properly turning it on again when warmer weather arrives.

At Meadowlark Landscape & Design, we are committed to helping homeowners better understand the ins and outs of good seasonal landscape maintenance and have laid out eight steps to bring your lawn sprinkler system out of hibernation. Get started with a flat-head screwdriver and, depending on your system, pliers and a sprinkler valve key.

Step 1: Inspect Your Sprinkler System For Winter Damage

Before anything else, it is essential you look over the visible, above-ground components of your sprinkler system to discover if any damage occurred during the winter. Your pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads can take a beating in cold weather - even if you did everything right to winterize them.

Check all pipes and mechanisms around the main valve. Clear away dirt and debris from inground sprinkler heads, as any obstruction can affect the nozzle’s spray pattern. If you come across any damage, call in professionals like us to ensure the necessary repairs are done right.

Step 2: Find Your Sprinkler System’s Shut-Off Valve

First, start at your main water shut-off valve. This can be found outside in a ground-level utility box, which may require a special key to turn on and off the valve, or inside your home. In the case of the latter, keep in mind that it will be on the outer perimeter of your house, usually on the side closest to the street.

Your sprinkler system’s shut-off valve is typically located near the sprinkler control box or in your basement or crawl space. If it is inside your home, the pipe will enter at ground level rather than below it.

Once you’ve found the right piping, look for a single shut-off valve - often a ball valve with a lever handle.

Make note of the location of these fixtures - you’ll come back to them soon.

Step 3: Locate the Vacuum Breaker

Your sprinkler system’s vacuum breaker is a type of backflow prevention device and protects your water supply from contamination. It can generally be found above ground close to the house. The copper or plastic assembly will connect two pipes, which each have their own shut-off valves.

There are also two test valves that look similar to slotted screw heads. You will probably find these turned 45 degrees - parallel to the stem they are attached to - allowing enough air to enter during winter to avoid damage. Make note of where these are, too.

Step 4: Close the Test Valves, Open the Shut-Off Valves, and Reinstall the Main Valve Bleeder Cap

Use a flat-head screwdriver to close the test valves, turning them back 45 degrees so they are now perpendicular to the stem they are attached to.

The shut-off valves can be distinguished by their butterfly-style handles and placement along each pipe leading up to the valve. For winterization purposes, these are likely perpendicular to their corresponding pipes. Open the shut-off valves by turning them parallel.

Some vacuum breakers also include a small cap to cover the bleeder nipple on the side of the valve, which is used to drain residual water when your sprinkler system is shut down for the season. If you do have a cap, make sure to snugly screw it in place.

Step 5: Slowly Open the Main Valve to Your Sprinkler System

Now, you can go back to your main shut-off valve to begin sending water to your sprinkler system. Carefully turn the lever handle, taking care to listen that the pipes are filling properly. If your main shut-off valve is in-ground, you’ll have a sprinkler valve key to use.

It is crucial you slowly work through this step, otherwise you can cause what is referred to as a water hammer. This sends shock waves throughout your pipes and can make for airborne lawn sprinkler heads.

Step 6: Test Your Sprinkler System

With water ready to go, you can manually test your sprinkler system from your control panel. You should run each irrigation zone individually for a few minutes, keeping an eye on how the sprinkler heads perform before moving on. It is natural for sprinklers to sputter when they first come on, but they should not continue after a moment or two.

It is a good idea to have a pen and paper handy, so you can jot down any issues that need to be addressed later. Adjusting spray patterns is relatively simple, but if you have problems beyond that - like replacing damaged sprinkler heads - you should call on your local irrigation specialists at Meadowlark.

Step 7: Check for Any Issues

Even if your test went off without a hitch, you should inspect your sprinkler system for any underlying issues. Check your main shut-off valve, vacuum breaker and its associated piping and valves, and each valve box to make sure everything is intact. Should you find anything loose or leaking, use pliers to tighten the fittings and perform another manual test.

Step 8: Start Irrigating With Your Sprinkler System

You have done your due diligence and your sprinkler system is officially up and running. Set your timer for the first watering, but be sure to still check in when it turns on to confirm everything is working as it should.

You can then create a watering schedule that makes sense for your lawn and garden. As a general rule, it is better to water early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the highest heat of the day.

Leave Your Sprinkler System to the Professionals at Meadowlark Landscape & Design

Sprinkler systems are complex, and if you’re not careful, you can end up doing more harm than good to not only the system itself but your home too. The safest - and smartest - route is to leave your irrigation needs in the hands of our Wichita, KS, landscapers. Our talented technicians have the knowledge and skills to handle installation, maintenance, and repairs with ease and professionalism, giving you added peace of mind.

On top of that, we offer a moisture management treatment to further enhance your lush landscape. The granular treatment is applied multiple times per year, encouraging water to condense around roots for better absorption and nutrient efficiency. You can also expect to reduce your watering needs by 30 to 50 percent, helping you save on your water bills even in the hottest, driest seasons.

For more information about our sprinkler system services and to get a free estimate, call (316) 880-0227 or fill out the contact form on our website.

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