Testing Lawn Sprinklers during a home inspectionLawn sprinklers can a great convenience and provide watering for your yard that can be adjusted to your lawn’s needs. However, this system occasionally needs to be adjusted to cater to your yard’s needs and can be tested in order to ensure that they are covering all of the necessary areas of your yard. Because the testing of lawn sprinklers is outside the scope of a home inspection according to state law, it’s important for you to test the system during your contingency period to make sure everything is operational.

Sprinkler systems are composed of several different parts that work in conjunction to provide water for your lawn. These components include:
• A control panel
• Shut-off valve
• Anti-siphon valve or backflow preventer
• Sprinkler heads

testing controller panel for irrigation during home inspectionThe control panel is usually found in the garage or an exterior wall of the home, often times near the electric meter. Newer models can be programmed to water at specific times of day, different days of the week, and some even have sensors that detect if there has been rainfall to adjust the watering schedule. Older models typically are on a simple mechanical timer that can be set for a specific watering time cycle (usually once a day for 5 to 10 minutes).

The shut off valve can often be found in an in-ground valve box (usually the green lidded boxes in yards) and can shut off water supply to the sprinkler system during the winter months. The atmospheric backflow preventer or anti-siphon valve is an important part of the irrigation system as it holds the water in your irrigation system under pressure. When the controls tell the sprinklers to turn on, it releases the pressure which cause the sprinkler heads to pop up. The backflow preventer keeps water from going back into the home’s water supply and contaminating the drinking water.

Lastly, the sprinkler heads are the final destination for the water to move through and these heads spray the water over the lawn. These can come in many different varieties and all have different ways of watering your yard most effectively. Below, we will take a look at simple ways to determine if your irrigation system is watering your lawn properly.

To test your sprinklers to see if they are watering your lawn with the correction orientation and levels, place several small cans throughout your yard. It is important that they are all the same size and they must have flat bottoms and tops (tuna or cat food cans or flat Tupperware containers tend to work best). Next, turn your sprinkler system on for 10 minutes, allowing the cans to collect some of the water. After the 10 minutes are up, check the water levels in each can with a ruler. If the cans have different levels of water, this can indicate that there is an issue with one or more of the sprinkler heads. Also, experts recommend roughly 1 inch of water every time you water your lawn.

A video guide below shows several other ways to test your sprinkler system and adjust your sprinkler heads.