Expert guide for spring opening of an irrigation system

irrigation system structure

This post is for diy-ers and the difficulty level is medium 😀. These steps might be useful for most of the systems but not for all of them.

If your irrigation system is not a simply luxurious one but it was installed due to its usefulness you probably feel the sparing important besides the environment friendliness. In this case good to know that the spring opening of your irrigation system is not a rocket science.

Goal of spring opening or recomissioning is obviously checking of the functions to get prepared for the summer season. Let’s fire it up then!

Initial steps

Visible pipework and valve boxes

Prior to opening the water check the visible pipework if they have been disconnected or damaged. This concerns to solenoids in valve boxes too. Some irrigation companies leave the solenoids open or dismantled for winter to avoid frost damage by any remnant water in them.

Solenoids in valve box

If the solenoids are dismantled, lift their top up and check. They should not be dirty inside because any contamination could prevent them working properly. Inside them usually a rubber membrane and a spring can be found. In lack of these the solenoids are not able to work. At assembing all screws need to get to their places back and need to be tightened up properly.

After assembling the coil (a plastic cylinder) needs to be screwed in and check that the manual switch on its side (if any) is in “Auto” position. If no any text on it, the switch must be parallel with longitudinal axis of the coil.

Isolation tap in the valve box mounted on the pipework needs to be open as well. Usually the handle must be parallel with longitudinal axis of the tap when it’s open.

These processes need to be repeated at each valve box belongs to the system as the most boring process of every spring opening.

Open mains

Now the main isolation tap can be opened. This can be anywhere on a system but you must know it because that is a kind of emergency isolator at bursting for example. As long as it’s touched worth to test if it can be turned easily and not dripping.

Firstly switch on the power of controller and if it’s necessary attach the plugs of controller and pump/relay in the socket(s). At battery controllers change the batteries because they must not to be discharged in a drought period when you are on the seashore for two weeks far away from your garden. Emergency batteries in mains controllers should be changed every 2-3 years only.

Systems with pump

If your system works from main water (you don’t have tank and pump) the next chapter can be skipped in spring opening process.

Around the tank

On a pump system next step is to check filling up of the tank. Most of the time a ball valve can be found in an overground tank. That should be on one of the pipe connected in the tank. That pipe must be the main inlet. Sometimes an isolation tap is installed on this just before the ball valve and that needs to be opened obviously.

Taken lid of tank off you have to reach the ball. When you push it down carefully the water is flowing into the tank. When you release it the water must stop. You have to be sure it happens unless everything around the tank will be flooded and this is a big money waste compared to simplicity of its operation.

At an underground tank the things are slightly different. Opening and closing of the main water is usually managed by a solenoid and a float switch connected to it. First check the solenoid if the manual switch is in “Auto” position (refer to the previous paragraphs).

There must be some cable run into the tank. One of them must go to the pump and there might be one or more float switches besides it. If you are not sure which one is responsible for closing the main water just pull them up one by one. When you lift up the right one and its float ball is turning down the solenoid will be operating and the water starts flowing in the tank. Release the cable carefully just to make sure it isn’t got stuck anywhere. When the float ball is pointing upwards the water should stop. Very important to make sure this operation works perfectly unless you will waste lots of money without noticing it because the redundant water will leave the tank on the overflow pipe straight away.

Rain harvesting

If your tank is part of a rain harvesting system as well there should be a mechanical filter connected on the rainwater inlet(s). As long as you are around that it worths to clean it for giving the rain harvesting system a spring opening as well.

Submersible pumps

Most of underground tanks and lots of overground ones have submersible pump.

Water outlet of these pumps can be sorted on two different ways basically. One of them is quite simple: pipe from the submersible pump comes up and connected to the pipework runs to the solenoids. At this case there is no need to do anything with this part.

The other one when there is a bypass installed on the pipe. Water comes up from the pump and being forced to take a small run via this bypass back in the tank. Other parts of the system are isolated by a tap or cockstop. This is for making a winter cycle when the pump is programmed to run frequently to avoid water freezing in the tank and get the pump damaged. At that case if the bypass is active you have to isolate that and open the tap leading to other parts of the system. Otherwise the water pumped up will be going back in the tank.

Pumps outside the tank

The pump must have been drained in the autumn. They have a bleeding and a draining point at the propeller end closed by screws or caps. The lower one (drainage point) needs to be screwed back in before firing up the pump.

At the bleeding point you have to fill the propeller house up with clean water. Use a watering can or other accessories with narrow bead. When the pump is filled up screw the bleeding screw back in.

After this operation the power of pump can be switched on.

Normally the water outlet is on top of the pump. After this point there might be few equipment installed like pressure vessel, gauge, isolation tap and solenoid. Check if the isolation tap is open and the solenoid is in “Auto” position.

Testing of system

Hereupon you can start testing. Based on type of your controller there are several variations for manual start. Best to look through the manual. If you don’t find yours download the most popular ones directly from their official site here (Hunter, Rain Bird, Weathermatic, Orbit)

Fire up the first zone. If the solenoids are nearby, a clicking noise can be heard from there. At a pump system, a clicking noise can come from the relay as well and obviously the pump will start too.

If it doesn’t happen and surely everything in this guide has been done it’s worth to try to shake and/or lift up the pipe coming up from the pump. Namely the propeller could stick in the wintertime and this small movement definitely could help to give it a mechanical push.

If the first zone run working of emitters on that zone must be checked. Depending on the length of pipework some time has to pass before the water starts flowing/dripping/jetting.


Pop-up jets need to reach or at least approach the neighbour head(s) around them. Of course the heads need to turn around within their set angle.

If the sprinklers need to be adjusted usually you will need to have a specific key but some of them can be set by tiny allen key or flat screwdriver. Refer to the brand written on top of the sprinkler head.

Walk to each head (try to avoid the water jets 😀) and have a look if there is no serious water leaking around the heads or rising water anywhere referring to any leak on pipes.

Repeat these on each lawn zone.


Prior to starting bed zones with micro sprinklers visually check their position and condition. Fallen nozzles can be mounted back and tilted stakes can be repositioned.

After start you can see or hear the holes, chews and cuts. Either under pressure or at turned off zone these problems can be repaired easily with our Repair Kit. If you have affinity, order one from our site.

Planters and baskets

Emitters in planters and hanging baskets should be checked one by one. If there are no plants in them yet turn off the adjustable bubblers for reducing the useless water consumption.

Sensor check

Good news is you are over the hardest job in spring opening of your irrigation system. There couple of bits left.

Rain sensor

Go to the rain sensor and test it. Most of the time a small stick can be found on their top. Push the stick in for couple of seconds and see if the feedback was coming up on the controller screen. Sometimes the screen cannot be seen from location of the sensor so you might need help to perform this action.

If the stick can’t be moved either way probably the sensor got dirty. Firstly note the setting of the cap and take off it by turning carefully to the neutral position and pull up. Following that you can pull out the stick from its nest with its special rings together. Don’t let these rings fall because they are the most important parts of the sensor.

Now the nest and the rings can be cleaned from spider webs, dirts, etc. Do the steps other way for assembly and test the sensor again.

In case of wireless sensor its condition can be read from the receiver panel installed on the side of controller. (Manual of popular models can be downloaded from here.)

If the batteries of sender module are discharged they must be replaced.

Other sensors

Moisture sensors cannot be tested. The only way you know they don’t work if your system stopped by the sensor (noticed on controller screen) and the soil is dry around it. Unfortunately their location is unknown most of the time.

Check the program

If you are done with all these above the only thing to do is check the time and program on the controller. Run through the settings and check up them.

If everything fine turn the setting switch to “Run” or “Auto” position and switch of the sensor to “Active” or activate the sensor on the right way.

That’s all, finally the mysterious spring opening is successfully done.

From now on our system is ready. Our deal is enjoying the garden and the time saved on hand watering.

If you need help with your spring opening

Please be aware we don’t know your own system and especially we don’t know the installer of your system so we cannot guarantee you will find our guide 100% useful. If you have any problem in recomissioning your system please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our skilled engineers will give you expert advice regarding your problems and obviously ready to fix them.

And you can even request spring-autumn service guide tailored to your own system to make the yearly maintenance easy. Book now!