Why Does My Sprinkler System Skip a Zone?

a sprinkler head in the groundOwning a home comes with plenty of responsibilities, both inside and outside. Homeowners are constantly tested by the time and energy it takes to stay ahead of it all, and landscape maintenance is no exception.

A sprinkler system simplifies watering and soil moisture management. Most homes nowadays have sprinkler systems installed, and if that system is functioning properly it can be easy to forget it’s there. However, the moment something breaks, the convenience of automated watering is lost and now you’re stuck with a frustrating sprinkler system problem.

One issue that can occur is the system skipping a zone. Unless you monitor your system’s performance on a regular basis, a skipped zone can be easy to miss. So, what could cause your sprinkler system to skip a zone? There are a few possible reasons:

  • Leaks: a loose connection or break in the supply line will prevent water from reaching the heads.
  • Controller issues: a malfunction in the controller or wiring issue can be the cause.
  • Valve issues: various problems can arise with zone valves that will impact a zone’s water supply.
  • Pump location (if present): if your system utilizes a pump to supply the irrigation system, and that pump isn’t within a few feet of your water source, air can enter the supply line and interrupt the flow and pressure of the water.

So how do the professionals at Andy’s repair your sprinklers when a skipped zone problem occurs?

What is a Skipped Zone?

Before we can get into the why of it all, it’s necessary clarify what it means for a zone to be skipped.

Automated irrigation systems are organized into zones. Each zone covers a section of the landscape, and while these zones are a part of the same system they operate independently from the others. If a zone never activates or fails to deliver water to its section, it is being skipped. The system still runs, and other zones appear to be working properly, but one (or multiple) zones seem like they don’t ever turn on.

There are several possibilities as to why a skipped zone would occur.

Water Line Leaks

The very first, and easiest, place to start when diagnosing a skipped zone issue is to check for leaks. If the water lines in a zone have a leak, it will negatively affect the pressure required for the zone to function.

Finding a leak can sometimes be easy, and sometimes not. Visual inspection of the system, while it’s running, can often indicate if a leak is present. Water pooling in an area of the yard, dead spots (or even overgrown spots), or overly soggy areas can all be indicators that a leak is present.

Fixing a line leak that is easy to spot is a fairly straight-forward repair. However, if a leak is not easily seen without digging, finding that problem area will take a bit more effort. Luckily the experienced techs at Andy’s have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to find a leak with minimal impact on your yard.

Controller Issues

If a leak is not easily identifiable by visual inspection, the controller is the next place to look. An irrigation controller is the brains of the system and is essentially a small computer that manages watering schedules and sends low voltage electrical signals to the valves to open.

Using an electrical meter, the Andy’s tech will test the controller’s voltage and ohms directly at the source. If levels are outside the normal range (or not present at all), a wiring issue is the likely culprit.

Other potential issues can exist with a controller that could cause a zone skip issue, and a thorough test of the controller’s functionality will indicate if that is the source of the problem.

Valve Issues

Once the electrical signal is sent from the controller to a zone’s valve, a properly functioning valve will open, allowing the pressurized water to charge those zones lines. Once a zone’s proper charge is reached, the heads will activate and make your landscape happy!

If any process within the valve malfunctions, the water supply needed for a zone to operate will be affected. Several tests will need to be conducted at the valve to figure out if the zone skip is caused by the valve or not.

Pump Problems

For irrigation systems using a natural water supply source (well, lake, etc.), a pump is necessary in order to pressurize the water so the system can run properly. Issues with pump-driven systems can range from simple (clogged intake or a crack in the line) to complex (over-cycling or pressure imbalance). If you have a lake-fed water supply, Andy’s can typically help with most issues. If your pump is in a well, a pump specialist is recommended prior to any irrigation service.

If Your Sprinkler System Skips a Zone, We Can Help You Fix It

There are plenty of reasons why a sprinkler system might skip a zone, but we know sprinkler issues can be frustrating and the reasons why are probably less important than “how quick can you fix it?”. Maintaining your landscape and the soil moisture around your home is an important part of homeownership, and Andy’s is here to help!

Call us any time at Andy’s Sprinkler, Drainage, and Lighting for all of your sprinkler system needs. We can diagnose and resolve issues, and we can ensure that your lawn is always in top shape.