Common Drip System problems … would you know what to do?

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PHOENIX – Deborah Sands of Scottsdale, Arizona was having her morning coffee when she noticed a large puddle of water in her back yard.  When she went out to investigate, she found her drip system was running even when it wasn’t scheduled to come on.  “There was quite a bit of water,” says Deborah, “and I couldn’t get it to shut off even when I turned the timer off.  I had to call a repair company and they told me to turn the water supply valve off until they could come out to fix it.”

So what exactly happened? According to Dennis Lee of D & L Sprinkler Service, the company Deborah called, it’s a very common problem. “The valve that controls Deborah’s drip system was stuck open. It happens all the time when valves wear out. They can stick open, stick shut or leak. I explained to her how to locate the water line that supplies the irrigation valves. That supply line should have a shut off. When you shut that supply line off it stops the water supply to the irrigation system without having to shut the water off to the entire house.”

According to Dennis, many people don’t check their irrigation systems regularly and therefore don’t notice problems right away.  He has seen instances where irrigation valves have been stuck on for many hours, over night, several days or even several weeks before people even notice what’s going on.  This can lead to many problems for home owners including high water bills, sink holes, molding soil or lawns, dying plants and trees, wet foundations and decaying walls.  He also knows many people don’t know how to shut off their irrigation supply lines without shutting off the water to the whole house.

He has this helpful advice:  “Locate the copper pipes outside where the main water shut off is for the house. There should be a separate pipe that “T”s off from the main water line and elbows back down into the ground. That pipe will lead to the valve box in the ground that houses your irrigation valves. That pipe is the irrigation supply line and should have its own shut off.  Turn the handle of the shut off until it is perpendicular to the pipe. That is the “off” position. That will stop the irrigation from running uncontrollably until the problem can be fixed.”

So is this a major repair issue? Can home owners expect a huge bill to fix it?  “Oh gosh no,” says Dennis, “it’s a common problem that can usually be fixed within an hour and with parts and labor will be right around $100.”

So what can you do to prevent issues like this from happening? Experts agree there is no foolproof way of preventing problems from happening, but you can definitely catch them early on before they become a crisis. Dennis has more helpful advice:  “I always tell people to do a monthly inspection of their irrigation system. They can do it themselves. All they need to do is turn the system on and walk around the property.”  He says to make sure the drip heads are putting out enough water. Watch for puddles and unusual wet spots. Make sure the drip line has good water pressure and shuts off when it’s supposed to.  A brief monthly inspection you can do yourself will familiarize you with your system and make problems easy to spot when they occur.

And when problems occur that you cannot fix yourself, give Dennis a call he says, “I’ve been doing this since 1999 so there isn’t a problem that I can’t fix.”

Dennis Lee is the owner/operator of D & L Sprinkler Service in Phoenix which serve customers valley wide. Call his friendly staff at 602-329-3396 Monday through Saturday.