I redid a new sprinkler line around the house this summer, and tested it
initially when it was completed for leaks and adjusted all the heads and
directions etc...since it rains a lot during the summer in Miami, I did not
use the system for a few months until yesterday.
When I turned it on yesterday, some of the heads did not pop up, or when
they do pop up the flow coming out of them are very low. Instead of
spraying, it was more like a squirting.
I used three types of heads in the two lines I have, in the larger areas of
the lawn I used Rainbird 12SA Mini Rotor Sprinklers; around shrubs and odd
shaped areas I used Toro 570 2" pop-up body fitted with variety of spray
heads, and in the other areas I used the Orbit Hard Top spray heads. The
ones that are having trouble are all Orbit Hard Top ones.
I bought that one because the top of metal and can stand abuse from lawn
mowers and weed eaters, and it has adjustable sweeps at a very reasonable
In some cases, it was the lawn growing with denser grasses covering the
heads over the last few months, as well as lawn mower cutting the grass and
lots of grass clipping end up jamming the heads a bit. If I move the grass
out of the way and jiggle the heads a bit, they will pop out but the flow is
still very low, when I tested them after initial installation they were
I am wondering if it is because this is a subpar sprinkler head with poor
design? Other heads I have the Rainbird rotors and the Toto spray heads or
shrub heads do not exhibit any problems.
It sounds strongly like you are losing water somewhere, as your system lacks
enough pressure to pop up the heads. Or, the valve on that circuit may be
defective. Check to see if it has a manual knob that allows you to open
the valve manually, without the need for the electrical valve to work.
If you leave the circuit on long enough, you should be able to see a
concentrated flooded spot somewhere.
Would losing water cause only this brand of heads to not pop up fully while
other brands of head (even further downstream ones) pop up and spray freely
and nicely? for example one of them I had three rotors, 3 spray heads of
other brands, 1 shrub head, and 1 misting head all working great, all
downstream of it. The 3 out of 4 Orbit Hardtop spray heads are exhibiting
problems in this particular branch.
Having different heads on the same zone typically does create an
*imbalance* problem such as you describe. Water is going to seek the
path of least resistance so will flow from the least restrictive heads
first. Each head should have a method for adjusting rate of flow,
usually a small screw that acts as an on/off valve. You need to close
the valves on those heads that are flowing and see if water then flows
from those heads that were not flowing. Then go about attempting to
adjust all the heads in hopes of creating a balance. But to be
truthful there should only be one type of head for each zone... it
seems like you tried to save labor and money by cutting down on the
number of zones by mixing types of heads in a single zone... that is
not going to work, and because water pressure changes constantly, and
drops significantly during periods of high usage, it will be
especially difficult to balance different types of heads in one zone.
I doubt you have an underground leak or you'd have found it by now.
There could also be a problem of having too many heads on one zone...
and there can be other problems such as equipment failure, sand in the
system will inhibit pop-ups.
I don't think it is any leak either as these lines are newly laid.
As far as mixing different types of heads, I only divided them into two
zones serving the west and east side of the yard which is divided by the
house. On one side the line goes through lawn areas, shrubs, flower beds
and eventually ended up on the planter areas by the front doors. Each type
requires a different spray head. The larger lawn areas I used rotors, small
grassy patches I used the spray heads (the ones I am having problems with
now), the shrubs I raised them 24" using a riser extender then a spray head
(a different kind because those fit into the risers), and when it gets to
the planter areas I raised them to 60" and used tw misting heads for the
hanging orchids. They were all working fine back in the summer when I put
them together. I did have to adjust spray strengths, direction, sweeps
etc...to get them all right, and I used it for a month with the expected
results. Then we had the rainy season and we didn't need to water anything
for the last two months.
The water comes from a well that serves only the sprinkler lines and I have
a pump so pressure should be pretty constant.
If I need to run a dedicated line for each type of head, does it mean I need
to run a 150' line back to the pump just to spray the orchids to make them a
Something has happened in the last two months to make them not work like it
used to. It could be the rain or debris got into the head from lawn cutting
or something, and seems these heads are less tolerant of it then other
heads, is my thinking.
I will plug two heads and see if the other two do better, or replace with a
new head or a different brand and see if there is any difference.
Before replacing anything it's probably best to first clean the entire
system, unscrew the heads and blast compressed air through all the
piping to clean out debris. Then inspect each head individually for
debris and back blow with a compressed air gun to remove any debris.
Once everything is cleaned screw all the heads back and start it up.
If you're using a private dedicated well I strongly suggest you add a
quality sediment filter. And still I would clean the entire system at
start up each time it's shut down for a lengthy period... I would also
run the well for an hour or two after it's been unused for a while to
purge the well of debris, run this water out from a point before the
sprinkler system or you will be putting debris back into your heads.
What you describe is typical with sprinkler systems on private shallow
wells that are only used occasonally. Your heads can also become
clogged with mineral deposits same as bathroom shower heads, there are
solutions that will dissolve these deposits with a few minutes soak.
Automatic sprinkler systems do require a certain amount of
maintenence, in some areas with very hard water this maintenence can
I assume you used anti-siphon valves on your sprinkler lines. These are
generally required by the plumbing codes.
Anti-siphon valves can be a path by which insects and spiders enter the
lines. When you turn on the system, the bugs are driven into the
sprinkler heads and clog them. It then becomes necessary to remove the
heads, disassemble them, and clean them.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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