Irrigation Valves: What is a Valve and How to Fix or Replace Them

Irrigation Valves: What is a Valve and How to Fix or Replace Them

May 9th 2024

Irrigation valves are essential to lawn and garden irrigation systems, allowing you to control the water flow to different zones within the system. These valves are usually located inside the valve box. 

If you're considering installing a new irrigation system or updating your existing system, it is essential to know how these valves work, how to find the buried irrigation valve, how to replace a valve, and more. This irrigation valve article can prepare you to maintain and troubleshoot your irrigation system. Read on to learn all about irrigation valves in this comprehensive guide.

What is an Irrigation Valve?

Irrigation or sprinkler valves control the flow of water to different watering zones in the system. The valves are installed in a valve box and release water into emitters or sprinklers, ensuring the water is delivered efficiently to all plants. Most drip irrigation systems have a master valve and irrigation valves, which can make it confusing to differentiate between them. A master valve is a point where water enters the irrigation system. The master valve distributes water to irrigation valves.

Irrigation valves allow for one irrigation system to divide into multiple zones. Not all zones require the same amount of water. Some require higher pressure and flow, while others may need low pressure and have lower flow. Irrigation valves allow you to water each zone according to its specific needs.

Irrigation valves come in three types: electric, manual, and battery. The electric valve contains a solenoid operated by an electrical signal from the irrigation controller. The high-quality, full-flow, in-line DC valves are used with commercial-grade battery timers and require no electric source. The user controls the manual valves entirely.

How to Locate a Buried Irrigation Valve

You will need to find the valve first to inspect or repair it. The irrigation valve boxes are usually buried. They can be difficult to locate when they need maintenance or replacement. In small yards, the valve box is located near the point where the pipes enter the ground. Start looking for visible valve boxes. The valve boxes can be green or black plastic valve boxes with covers. Whether irrigation valves are present in valve boxes or unprotected, they may be hidden by dirt, grass, or mulch. Here are some of the easiest ways to find buried irrigation valves.

  1. Probing the soil using a thin rod is the easiest way to locate a buried irrigation valve. Determine the rough location of the valve and then find the valve box by probing the ground. However, if you are trying this method, you must ensure that the valves are buried in the valve box so that probing cannot damage the valve wire or solenoid. To determine the valve's location, mark the point where the controller or timerwire enters the ground and estimate the wire's path. Probe the ground and listen to the sound of a hollow valve box. When you have found the valve box, carefully dig down the area with a hand trowel to avoid any damage to controller wires and pipes.
  1. A tool called a valve locator is used to find an irrigation valve. This device works like a metal detector. It traces the controller wires using a transmitter, lead wires, receiver, and a grounding stake. It is expensive and used mainly by professionals. However, homeowners can rent the tool from sprinkler suppliers.
  2. Another tool, known as a chatter locator, can also be used to locate the buried valve. The device energizes the solenoid and lets you find the valve by listening to its clicking sound.

Related Post: What is an Irrigation Valve Box and Why You Should Use It?

Signs of Faulty Irrigation Valve

If you notice low water pressure in your irrigation system and dry patches in your yard, they could be signs of an issue with your irrigation system, mainly the irrigation valve. The most common valve issues are valve leaking and not opening or closing. Whenever your irrigation system acts strangely, it can be a sign that your irrigation valve is damaged. A broken irrigation valve will likely not turn on or off on its own. This will lead to underwatering or overwatering through the irrigation system, resulting in an unhealthy yard or lawn. If your irrigation valve is faulty or broken, here are common symptoms you'll notice.

  • Leaks or pooling water around the valve or at the sprinkler head closest to the valve
  • Low water pressure and inadequate water delivery to sprinkler heads
  • Sprinkler heads are not turning off

Repairing an Irrigation Valve

You can sometimes repair a faulty irrigation valve rather than replace it completely. Turn off the water to the irrigation system and disassemble the irrigation valve. The water pressure issues could be due to clogging around the valve. It is one of the common issues you can troubleshoot on your own. Clear clogs to fix the problem. If the clog has damaged the valve entirely, you should replace it. 

Install a filter before the valve to prevent blockage and build-up. Additionally, a pressure regulator should be installed to avoid water pressure problems. It is also a must to winterize and maintain your irrigation lines.

How to Replace an Irrigation Valve

Replacing an irrigation valve is easy, requiring basic tools and materials. However, the crucial part of this task is to find an exact replacement part for the valve.

Determine the size and type of valve or remove it and take it to the store to find the exact part. Ensure the PVC pipe adapters fit the valve inlet and outlet when buying the new irrigation valve. Irrigation valves will have the manufacturer's name and thread size marked to be easily identified. If there is no readable marking on the valve, purchase one compatible with your timer. 

Required Tools

The tools and materials needed to replace an irrigation valve include:

Step-by-Step Process to Replace an Irrigation Valve

Once you have all the supplies and are ready to replace the valve, turn off the water supply to the irrigation system. This will prevent water from spraying all over the area and on you while you're replacing it. Now, let's begin to replace your damaged valve.

Disconnect the Wiring: Disconnect the wires attached to the valve. Watch how you disassemble the wiring, as you will need to connect the wires to the new valve in the same way. You can take a picture of the wiring for convenience.

Remove the Old Irrigation Valve: Cut the PVC irrigation pipe below the PVC adapters using a saw or pipe cutter. Make sure to cut closely to the old fitting to save the pipe length.

Prepare New Valve for Replacement: Install the PVC male adapters onto the new irrigation valve. Use thread seal tape or Teflon tape on the threads for a better seal. Tighten the adapters with pliers, but avoid overtightening, as it can crack the plastic.

Install New Valve: Apply PVC glue to the insides of adapters and outsides of pipes' ends. Afterward, push the new valve into the system until the pipes are fully seated into the adapter. Let the glue dry for at least two hours before testing.

Reconnect the Wiring: Connect the wiring to the new valve in the same way it was before. See the photo you took before disassembling to ensure everything is in place.

Test the Valve: Once the new irrigation valve is installed, slowly turn the water on to test the valve and check for leaks.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace an Irrigation Valve?

Replacing an irrigation valve can cost between $30 and $175. You can also hire a professional plumber for a project, which costs between $50 to $100 for an hour of labor. 

Why Isn't My Irrigation Valve Opening?

If your valve is not opening, it is due to the debris getting stuck in the valve, which keeps it closed. To fix the issue, disassemble the valve and clean the debris and build-up.

Why Won't my Irrigation Valve shut off? 

Check your solenoids; you may have a bad solenoid if your valve doesn't shut off. A problem with the plunger can prevent the solenoid from closing the valve when it's time. The first step to fixing this problem is to turn off the water. Replacement solenoids are available at irrigation stores. It is best to replace the defective solenoid with the same brand as the defective one. Some brands are compatible with others, so you must know which valve type you have to purchase correctly. 

Why Is My Irrigation Valve Getting Hot?

If your valve is overheating, it's crucial to identify the cause for safety reasons. It could be an issue with electrical flow or debris lodged in the mechanism. Open and check the valve to confirm the cause. If sediment is in the system, this is the cause of overheating. Alternatively, it could be due to an electrical issue. 

At DripWorks, we offer a wide range of high-quality irrigation valves. Whether you need battery-powered valves, electronic AC valves, or automatic distribution valves, we have the perfect solution to suit your irrigation system. 

Browse through our collection of irrigation valves, wire connectors, direct burial wire, and valve boxes. If you have any questions, contact our irrigation experts!