Learn how to turn on your sprinkler system after winter in just 9 easy steps. Our guide covers everything you need to know, from inspecting your system for damage to adjusting your coverage. Keep your lawn healthy and vibrant all season long with these simple tips.
Springtime is here and, if you are like us and have to turn off your sprinkler line as a part of your spring yard clean up, then it’s time to start turning on sprinkler system after winter.
During the winter, your sprinkler system has been turned off after blowing it out to winterize it and now it is time to turn it back on! With the freezing temperatures gone the first thing your grass will need to start growing again is water.
Some may think this is as simple as turning a valve back on, but in there is quite a bit more to it than that. We will go over each next step here to get your sprinkler system turned back on and meet all the needs for the year!
There are a lot of different types of sprinkler systems out there and many different ways to accomplish your home watering needs. We’ll cover some of the basics here but keep in mind your type of system may look a bit different.
If this is your first time activating your underground sprinkler systems then we’ll simplify this process below.
This guide for turning on sprinklers after winter contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend anyway! Read my full disclosure here.
Step 1. Locate your sprinkler system heads and clear
Before attempting to turn the water back on to your sprinkler system, check all of your sprinkler heads for any debris that might be blocking them.
Gently dig out any heads that were buried over the winter with a handheld shovel or hands. This is a good idea to prevent any costly repairs before you repressurized your system.
Step 2. Find the main valve for turning on the sprinkler system
Generally, you can find your main shut-off valve in a green garden box labeled “control valve”. You should have one (or two) shutoff valves and a backflow device in this same box.
If you are having trouble finding it you can start with your water main for your home and follow any piping leading out from there.
Start by gently turning the system shutoff valve on about halfway (instead of all the way). This lets the water slowly pressurize the system to prevent a water hammer from causing damage to the system. This helps the pressure adjust more evenly and slowly to prevent damage to your sprinkler system.
We’re going to keep the valve set at halfway for Steps 3 & 4. We’ll come back and turn the water fully on in Step 5.
Note: if you have two shutoff valves (on each side of your backflow preventer), start by turning the valve in front of the preventer halfway (instead of all the way). Let the backflow preventer fill with water (Step 3) and then turn the 2nd valve on halfway. Continue with the next steps as normal.
Step 3. Clean your backflow preventer valve
We can’t go over every type of backflow preventer and vacuum breaker valve there is in this tutorial. But in general, they all have test cocks on the side of the vacuum breaker valve operated with a flathead screwdriver.
You can loosen the black caps and open the test cocks with a flathead screwdriver to clear any debris that might have settled on top of them. Once they are loosened, a little bit of water will spill out the top once you open them with a screwdriver. Close them back up and tighten the caps. Repeat the process with the other cap.
Next, check for leaks on the backflow preventer.
Step 4. Turning on the sprinkler system in each zone
Find the instructions located on the inside door of your sprinkler timer and start manually cycling through each irrigation zone.
One by one, run your sprinkler zones each for at least 3 minutes to allow for the system to pressurize enough to push up your sprinkler heads. As the zone pressurizes, water will slowly begin spilling out of the sprinkler head and eventually will push it up so it is running as normal. It may take a few minutes.
Step 5. Turn on water valves all the way
Go back to the control valve box and turn on the water valve/s all of the way. This will fully pressurize the water in the sprinkler system.
Step 6. Adjusting spray patterns after winter
With all your zones pressurized and your water turned all the way on, now is a good time to set the timer for a bit longer – around 5-8 minutes – zone-by-zone.
While it is running, walk around to manually check your entire system for any leaks and adjust the sprinkler heads as needed to properly cover your lawn. Adjust the coverage as needed.
Every sprinkler head is a bit different, but for ours – you can use a screwdriver on the top to adjust the arc and manually turn the head left or right with your hand.
Check valves, heads, and exposed lines for leaks that may have been caused by winter weather.
Step 7. Replace any broken sprinkler heads or valves
Ideally, your system was winterized properly for the cold weather and you have no damage. If you have any low pressure due to a system break then now is the best time to make those repairs.
We didn’t run into any broken sprinkler heads this year, but here’s a great tutorial on how to replace a sprinkler head if you find one.
Step 8. Test your backflow preventer valve
Check your local codes here but typically you’ll be required to test your backflow preventer valve annually to ensure working condition.
If you are unsure at all how to do this then it’s best to call an irrigation contractor. In most areas, the testing needs to be done by certified tester or approved backflow prevention device so do your research here.
The reason you have a valve is to prevent contaminated water from entering your potable water. Each device has springs inside that close the valve if there is a significant drop in water pressure that would pull water back into your main line.
Step 9. Set up a watering schedule for spring
We have included a picture here of our automatic timer instructions located at the door of our control panel. This is where your instructions should be so you can set up a watering schedule to meet your lawn needs.
Always check local codes for any rules about lawn watering. In our town, the even and odd addresses must water on even and odd days respectively. This helps the entire city water system by providing adequate pressure.
Beyond that, the most important thing to do is give your lawn the appropriate amount of water that it needs. Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to adjust your schedule throughout the season as well.
Too little with dry your lawn out and too much will create a mossy swamp with all the excess water.
Be sure to also check the rain mode feature and your rain sensor. This adjusts your amount of water use by a flat percentage and can really impact how much water is sent through the water lines.
There you have it. Turning on your sprinkler system after winter isn’t too hard and just one more thing you can do yourself. I just love getting back to spring and planting our garden. The kids love to play on the lawn and run through the sprinklers on a hot day!
Hopefully, you have the confidence now to tackle this yourself save some money and bring on spring! Now that your sprinklers are on, check out our other spring outdoor articles below:
- How to Plant Grass Seed
- Everything You Need To Know About Installing Your Own Sprinkler System
- How To Install Sprinkler Valve Manifold & Other Tips for How To Install Sprinklers
- Spring Yard Clean up for your Yard and Landscaping
- 11 Different Types of Landscaping Mulch
- Backyard Deck Ideas On A Budget
- Decking Oil or Stain: What Should I Use On My Wood Deck?
- DIY Build for Outdoor Vertical Garden Pots (With Free Plans)
- DIY Planter Box For Front Porch
- How To Make Stamped Garden Stepping Stones
- Easy Garden Tool Storage In Backyard Shed
- Simple Front Yard Landscaping and Curb Appeal Ideas
- DIY Cedar Raised Garden Beds | Cheap and Easy Waist High Garden Plans
Do you have any questions about turning on sprinkler system after winter?
Let us know in the comments!
- Locate your sprinkler system heads and clear
- Find the main valve for turning on the sprinkler system
- Clean your backflow preventer valve
- Turning on the sprinkler system in each zone
- Turn on water valves all the way
- Adjusting spray patterns after winter
- Replace any broken sprinkler heads or valves
- Test your backflow preventer valve
- Set up a watering schedule for spring