Skip to content
How to Turn on Your Sprinkler System

How to Turn on Your Sprinkler System

When the dreaded winter season finally gives way to the beautiful awakening of spring, it’s time to get the lawn back to its vibrant spring green. If your sprinkler system was offline during the cold, starting it back up shouldn’t be a complicated task.

Turning the system on in the spring is much easier than many homeowners think. You can choose to do it yourself.

It should take you no more than 30 minutes to a couple of hours to complete. The actual time will depend on the size and complexity of the system.

How Much Does It Cost to De-Winterize Your Sprinkler System?

Before we dive into the de-winterization process, you may be itching to know how much it will cost you.

Turning on the sprinkler system can cost anything from $75 to upwards of $1000. This will depend on how many irrigation zones there are on your system and the average cost in your area.

Another consideration will be any repairs you may need to make — turning on the sprinkler provides a good opportunity to inspect your irrigation system’s components to check if all the parts are working well. 

If you notice anything amiss, don’t hesitate to contact Sprinkler Supply Store for a wide range of replacement parts for your sprinkler system.

Jeffrey Hall Customer Reivew
Jeffrey Hall | Customer Review

When to De-Winterize Your Irrigation System

Knowing when to turn on your system depends on where you live, as you’ll typically base your decision on the area’s last frost date.

From there, you have to wait at least two weeks as that’s when the ground stops freezing at night.

You will also need to keep an eye out for projected spring weather. When the forecast starts showing consecutive warm weather over 32 degrees Fahrenheit, give it a week for the ground to thaw entirely before turning on your irrigation system.

Timing will be earlier in the spring for southern states and later for northern states.

Turning on the Sprinkler System After Winter

Step 1: Check if the Ground Has Thawed

Before you turn on the irrigation system, check if the ground has thawed enough after the winter frost.

You will need to dig at least one foot into the ground. If there are still signs of frost, give it another week or two.

Activating the sprinkler system when the ground is still frozen can cause cracks and damage to your equipment. If watering can no longer wait, use an old-fashioned hose in the meantime.

Check for ground frost at weekly intervals. Once the soil is frost-free, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Turn the Vacuum Breaker Valves Off and the Solenoid Valves On

To get the sprinkler system back on, turn off the two vacuum breaker stop valves that are on each side of the vacuum breaker valve.

The ball valves will be the ones in a parallel position to the pipes. You will need to put the vacuum breaker valve to an off position to keep water from flowing through.

Do this by turning the vacuum breaker valve 45 degrees in a counter-clockwise direction until the valves are perpendicular to the pipes.

Then, turn the solenoid valves — the valve at the top of the vacuum breaker, pictured below — 90 degrees in a counter-clockwise direction.

Rain Bird - 236239 - E-Z Bleed Solenoid Assembly Kit
Rain Bird - 236239

The valves may leak a little when you first turn them on, but they should stop after a few minutes. If the valves continue to run, it could be a sign of winter damage.

Note: Make sure to turn the valve on as slowly as possible to prevent too much pressure from damaging the equipment.

Step 3: Check the Sprinkler Heads

sprinkler head with a control valve to handle water flow
Rain Bird - 1804SAM - 4" Pop-up Spray Head

Check each sprinkler head for damage — this helps to prevent pressure build-up if any of the sprinklers are blocked or damaged.

If the sprinkler head is damaged, unscrew the nozzle from the head and get a replacement. 

You can find options at the Sprinkler Supply Store.

If the entire head assembly is damaged, consult irrigation maintenance professionals like those also at the Sprinkler Supply Store for a thorough assessment and advice on the best replacement parts.

Next, thoroughly clean the nozzles using a small brush or toothbrush. If the sprinkler heads are blocked, it will affect the spray pattern and leave patches of lawn unwatered.

Step 4: Slowly Turn on the Water

Locate the main valve that connects your sprinkler system to your home water supply. Then, taking your time, open it.

Slowly do so until you can hear the sound of the water flowing through. Wait about 10 minutes for the water to feed into the mainline.

When it’s time, every five minutes open the valve a little wider until it’s completely opened.

Caution: Ensure you turn the valve on as slowly as possible. If you open the main water supply too quickly, the water pressure can create a water hammer.

This happens when water surges through the irrigation system at an extremely high pressure, causing the pipes, valves, or sprinkler heads to burst. 

Step 5: Check Irrigation Zones

Once the water is flowing through the system, you need to test if all the sprinkler zones are working properly.

To do this, use the control panel to start the irrigation program one zone at a time. Keep an eye on that irrigation zone and check for the following:

  • Even water flow.
  • A consistent spray pattern. 
  • Wet areas in between the sprinkler zones — any soaked areas could indicate that there are broken pipes in the waterline.

If you notice any anomalies in the spray pattern and water line, you need to shut off the main water supply until the problem is dealt with.

If you have leaks in your system and need help identifying and fixing the issue, the Sprinkler Supply Store is here to help.  

Step 6: Put the Timer Back on

Orbit - 58910 - 1-Dial 2-Port Hose Faucet Timer

After you test all the zones on your irrigation system and find everything working well, you can now set your timer.

Set the date and time correctly and turn on the setting of your choice.

Your Sprinkler System Is Ready for Spring

Your sprinkler system is now back online, ready to turn your lawn into a lush green spring delight.

For extra assistance, here’s a step-by-step video:

If you need any help at any point of the process, get in touch with the Sprinkler Supply Store. We’re happy to talk to you about your issues, and we’ll supply you with top-quality parts at the best prices.

Jeff Stevenson customer review
Jeff Stevenson | Customer Review

Previous article Water Conservation Guide for Homeowners
Next article CPVC vs PVC