Has your sprinkler system ever ran uncontrollably? This is a common problem that can cost homeowners thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars.
Almost every day we get calls from frantic homeowners who wake up and see their sprinklers running when they aren’t supposed to be. Confused, they go to the timer in the garage and turn the switch off. They are surprised to see the sprinklers still running. With money literally washing down the street, they need to act quickly. This guide will show anyone how to shut off sprinklers manually without shutting off water to the home.
This blog is written by licensed professionals in the Dallas metroplex. These tips are based on what we see in the field for our area. Acting quickly in these situations saves hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water.
Turning off sprinklers manually can be done without any tools if the backflow device is visible and in good condition. If not, these tools may be necessary.
Hand water pump possibly
Step One – Find the backflow box
Generally in a regular neighbourhood lot sprinkler systems have what is called a double check backflow device. These are located in a big rectangular box on the ground. Typically, the box is located within 10′ of the city water meter. It could be on the other side of the sidewalk as well if applicable. In some instances, we have seen backflow devices located in the flowerbeds near the house.
Still, having trouble finding the backflow? It’s probably covered with grass.
Locating a buried backflow can be a pain but here is how we approach it. We look at the neighbour’s house and see if we can locate their backflow easily. Chances are it is in a similar spot. From there use a shovel to poke around in the yard. Look first in a similar spot as your neighbours, then all around the water meter within a 10′ radius, lastly in the flowerbeds. When the shovel hits the plastic box it will be obvious.
Step Two – Gain Access
The next is to gain access to the device. With a properly maintained backflow skip this step. Unless the box is full of water.
If the box is full of water, use a hand pump as shown above to pump the water out quickly. These tools can be purchased at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Often, when we open up the lid the backflow is surrounded by mud. If this is the case, clean out around the backflow to gain access to the handles. Ideally, there should be no dirt touching the backflow while it’s in the box.
Step Three – Turn Off Backflow
Now that the backflow is cleared and accessible we’re able to shut off the sprinklers. Again, with a properly maintained backflow, this step can be easy. When the water is on the handles will be parallel to the pipe. If the water is off the handle will be perpendicular to the pipe. To shut off the backflow turn one of the handles 90 degrees. Now, these handles only turn in one direction. Look at the base of the handle you’ll see metal stoppers that will indicate which way it turns.
Note: Don’t mess with the test ports on the top of the backflow device.
We sometimes experience stuck handles or even missing handles if they are rusted. This is where the pliers come in. Before using the pliers be sure to turn the handle in the right direction. If you use pliers grab onto the nut in the middle and turn that instead of the handle.
Once the handle is turned fully perpendicular the water should be off. To confirm this make sure the metal stoppers are touching. Typically, only one handle needs to be turned off. However, we have seen where one valve doesn’t close all the way letting water pass through. If this happens, turn off the other handle. We recommend replacing your backflow every 10 years as well as regularly cleaning out the box to keep the device from rusting. Yearly testing is also required by most cities which ensures this device still works internally.
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