Irrigation System Check Up

As we head into the dry summer season, it is absolutely essential that a complete check of your or your clients irrigation system be among your top priorities. The worst thing you can do for your landscape is to wait until the last minute when you need the system operating to find you have problems.

Scheduling a thorough inspection and run-through of irrigation systems in advance of when needed will save time, money and headaches associated with malfunctions.

Recommended Irrigation Check List

• Is the controller working properly? An unresponsive controller may be an indicator of damaged components or improper voltage required to perform successfully. If your controller should be operating at 120 volts, and a simple check if it’s operating at an over or under voltage condition which will cause harm to the controller.

On larger systems, check the communications between the controller and the central control system computer to make sure everything is communicating properly.

•Check each zone. Valve wiring are generally the first function of the controller system to malfunction. Typically these failures are caused when a wire from the controller to the control valve is broken or has a poor splice.  However, even a nick can cause a system which had been working, to fail when the soil dries out.

Having the proper tools on hand to assist you in locating wire issues will help save time and reduce labor. The following are essential items for your irrigation toolbox:

• Voltmeter. A voltmeter is a tool used to measure voltage. If a particular valve is not coming on, check to see if you have the proper voltage to the rotor or valve.

• Clamp-on Amp Meter. An amp meter measures current flow in amperes through a wire. It can isolate a specific wire in a bundle that may be causing the problem, or possibly rule out wires and solenoids that are functioning, meaning it could be a hydraulic issue at the rotor or valve itself. It can also detect if a solenoid is drawing above the normal amperage load and in need of replacement before damaging controller components due to overstress.

• Wire locator. A wire locator is a tool used to help you quickly locate a wire path/run. This tool can save a lot of time and aggravation if another project is going on in the area and wires and pipe needed to be avoided. This is also a great partner tool to be used with a Pulser and A-frame.

• Pulser and A-Frame. This tool is wonderful in finding breaks or nicks in wires that can cause low voltage in wire runs, and can find a bad spot in a wire down to the inch — avoiding unnecessary guessing and replacement of entire wire runs.

• Sprinkler adjustments. Make sure each sprinkler is properly adjusted to irrigate the intended area and that the nozzles are not clogged or missing.

Consider replacing older low-efficiency nozzles with more efficient nozzles which are available today.  If you do this however, change out the entire circuit not just one or two sprinklers as they may have slightly different precipitation rates.  Most older spray nozzles from 5 years ago operate at 45 to 60% efficiency where some of the newer sprinklers can operate in the 75 to 80+% efficiency range today.

When the sprinkler is popping up, is there too much flow-by from around the stem indicating a wiper seal needs to be replaced or debris is inside the sprinkler body.

• Piping system. Check for leaks or wet areas after you’ve run the system to make sure nothing has been damaged during the wet season.

Inspecting and repairing your irrigation system early will keep your customers happy, will generate income for your firm and minimizes the emergency last-minute and/or costly repairs that could have been prevented.


• Perform a complete system check before the dry season begins.

• Schedule regular system checks during the season.

• React swiftly to reported problems quickly before they grow into major problems.

Lastly, if you need help, be sure to tap into your Hawaii support network, including your fellow LICH members, consultants, and distributor who most likely has encountered a problem just like yours and can help you resolve it quickly.


Mr. Schildknecht is the President of Irrigation Hawaii, Ltd and is a Professional Member of the American Society of Irrigation Consultants (ASIC), an Irrigation Association certified irrigation designer (CID), a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), was Hawaii’s first EPA Water Sense Partner.

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About the author  ⁄ Chauncey Hirose-Hulbert

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