|FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
We want to provide our customers with as much knowledge about their
irrigation systems as possible. The categories will help you find
the answers quickly. If you cannot find the answers about your
irrigation system listed below you can also
email us and we will do our
best to get that information for you.
PARTS, TECHNICAL TERMS, PROBLEM SOLVING
SPRING START UP
CONTROLLERS - MANUALS
Links to more info can be on the
Rain Bird and
What are the pros of
automatic irrigation systems? Are they wasteful?
Irrigation systems are convenient,
especially for those who travel. When installed, programmed and
maintained properly, irrigation systems can even save you money. Dead
lawn grass, plants, and shrubs that need to be replaced, can get
expensive. But the overall savings from automatic irrigation systems can
go far and beyond that.
Will my water bill
If you have never watered your
lawn before, yes. If you have been watering your yard with a garden hose
and a sprinkler, you might notice a decrease in your water bill.
What equipment is required for an irrigation system?
There are five basic components of an irrigation system: The controller,
backflow preventer, valves, underground piping and sprinkler heads.
What is a Backflow
Preventer and why do we need one?
A backflow preventer is a device that allows water to flow in only one
direction. Its purpose in an irrigation system is to permit water to
exit a home or building for watering the lawn while keeping it from
going back into the building or home. A backflow device must be
installed in all systems that tie into a public water supply.
These devices must be tested annually by a certified Technician.
What is a watering program?
Watering programs require three basic instructions to operate
1. When to water (program start time)
2. What days to water (watering days)
3. How long to water (station run time)
Why do some controllers have
Various yards have plants with different water requirements. For that
reason, the lawn stations can be assigned to a different program than
the shrubs. With a single program timer, all stations would have to
water on the same days.
Do you charge to give estimates on
No, we will meet you at the property, and provide you a professional bid
at no charge.
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What is winterization and why is it important?
Winterization is required in order to prevent the pipes, and other
components of your irrigation system from freezing. Winterization should
be performed shortly before the first winter freeze. Your irrigation
system was designed to withstand one or two days of below freezing
temperature, so there is a bit of latitude as to when the winterization
process must be performed. Irrigation winterization is
accomplished by opening the manual drain valves and forcing compressed
air into the irrigation system from the backflow device and evacuating
the water in the main and lateral lines.
Winterization procedure on Irrigation
Recommended time: When night time temperature begins to dip below 32
Step 1: Shut main water supply off.
Step 2: Connect 125 PSI air supply to backflow unit or quick coupler
Step 3: Start air supply.
Step 4: Manual start controller and cycle through each station until
all water has been blown out. (recommended twice)
Step 5: Shut down air supply.
Step 6: Disconnect air supply.
Step 7: Turn controller to off position.
SPRING START UP
What is spring start
up and why is it important?
Spring start up is the procedure that your irrigation system
technician performs in the spring of the year after the last freeze in
order to re-activate your irrigation system after the winter.
Generally, water pressure is re-applied to the mainline by slowly
filling the irrigation system from the main shut off valve. At the
time of spring start-up, there are other routine checks that must/should
All the heads should be checked and
The electronic controller should be checked
The backflow device should be checked for
The backflow tested annually.
Spring Start-up Procedures
Recommended time: When
natural rainfall decreases below 1” per week and night time temperature
is above 32 degrees.
Step 1: Make sure all test cocks on backflow are closed.
Step 2: Turn main water supply on.
Step 3: Turn controller to on position.
Step 4: Manual start controller.
Step 5: Step through each station and physically check and adjust all
heads to insure proper operation.
Step 6: Set controller to appropriate programming.
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PARTS, TECHNICAL TERMS, PROBLEM SOLVING & MAINTENANCE
There are two types of lawn sprinkler heads. What is the difference
between “spray” heads “rotor” heads?
Spray heads are designed to
pop-up out of the ground when the sprinkler system is activated, while
others rest on the pipes that remain aboveground at all times. Sprays
discharge a large volume of water in a reasonably short period of time,
giving them a high application rate.
Rotor heads have a lower application rate, so they’re simpler to use
on slopes. Rotor heads also apply water more uniformly than do spray
heads, making them more suitable for watering large areas.
How can I adjust my Rotors?
Rotors need to be adjusted using a special plastic key or a small
rotor may not rotate completely through its designed cycle. Disassemble
the rotor head by unscrewing the head from the housing. Wash out the
head by removing debris from the rotor mechanism and reassemble. If this
does not solve the problem call Keithley.
Water seeps from one sprinkler. Is there something wrong with the
No, water will drain through the lowest head until the pipe empties. IF
the seepage doesn’t stop the problem is with the valve that controls
that irrigation zone. The problem could be as simple as a small piece of
debris inside the valve. Make sure to shut the water supply off,
before disassembling the valve.
I think I have a leak in my irrigation system. How can I be sure?
The easiest way to determine if there is an active leak in the
irrigation system is to look at the water meter. There is a micro dial
that is often shaped like a star or triangle. If no water in the home is
running (no leaking toilets, etc.) the micro dial should be stationary.
However, if this is moving, we can assume there is an active irrigation
Water leak or pooling
1) If there is water “pooling on the ground”
you may have a water leak, but you may
also be watering that zone with too much watering time.
2) If there is water “spraying” profusely or a major leak, do not panic.
There is a gate valve located in the main irrigation line between the
backflow preventer and the water meter. Shut this valve off and call
Keithley. Or you may shut down the backflow preventer valve (either one)
to stop the water flow.
Zone failure or drying areas
Occasionally there will be a zone failure caused by one of several
anomalies in the system. If an area seems to be receiving less water or
inadequate water, there may be a problem with that zone. First check the
time on all zones to insure that each zone has adequate watering time.
Adequate watering time should be determined by your landscape
contractor. If you have determined that the problem is not inadequate
watering time, call Keithley for assistance. It is not necessary to stop
watering the other areas of the yard while waiting for an irrigation
Electronic Controller is not responding properly
If the Electronic Controller is responding unpredictably or not at
all, check the fuse inside of the controller (not all controllers have a
fuse). Insure that the circuit breaker for the electrical outlet is in
the proper position. Reset all of the controller time settings to zero,
then back to the original times specified. If this does not fix the
problem, call Keithley for assistance.
Physical damage to irrigation system
If damage occurs to the system from digging or perhaps lawn mower
action, mark the damage with a wooden stake or irrigation flag and call
Lighting can strike the ground and damage
your irrigation system. Although controllers
have a fuse for protection; occasionally lighting can damage a
controller. If a thunderstorm has passed over recently and there are
problems with the irrigation system, lighting damage could be the
problem, call Keithley for service. The entire electrical system must be
Occasionally a zone may stay on after the controller has issued a
stop command. This is usually from a valve sticking in the “on”
position. The easy solution is to shut the irrigation system down
manually with the main cutoff valve between the backflow and the water
meter or turn down one of the valves on the backflow preventer. You may
find that by cycling the controller through all of the stations manually
that this will cut the zone off. If this does not solve the problem,
shut the irrigation system down and call Keithley.
If a spray nozzle becomes noticeably blocked, turn the irrigation
system off at the electronic controller, lift up the spray “pop-up” and
unscrew the nozzle from the head. This will usually fix the problem. If,
after re-starting the zone, the problem persists, call Keithley to have
a technician to trouble shoot the problem.
If the backflow washes the water out of the lower housing, there has
been a breech of system integrity. Shut down the irrigation system
manually using the gate valve between the backflow and the water meter
and call Keithley.
Pop-up not reacting
If the spray head remains in the up position after the zone has
cycled to the off position, un-screw the bonnet, wash out the mechanism
and reassemble the head. Generally, this this will fix the problem.
Geyser or head blow-out
If a head blows out of the ground, you can attempt to solve the
problem yourself by turning the irrigation system off at the controller
and digging slightly around the hole and re-connect the head to the flex
cable. If the head is broken or the fittings are broken you must call
Keithley to fix the problem.
Controller operational problems
Your controller manual provides a problem solving section in the
controller operating manual. Please refer to that section or
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Water is a precious resource. We should
use it wisely when watering your lawn to insure that it will always be
available to us and to save money on water bills. It may seem like
an oxymoron for an irrigation company to discuss water conservation
while seemingly promoting the sale of an irrigation system. We at
Keithley Irrigation Systems, Inc. however, believe that irrigation can
be wonderful if used prudently, or that it can be vile waste of a
precious resource when used irresponsibly. Most people over-water
some portion of their yard by not learning the best way to water each
section of their yard. For best results consult your landscape
contractor or local garden center. Below are some tips for water
Tip # 1 – Monitor closely the time each
station on the controller waters the yard. Only water as long
as necessary. Each station will put out anywhere from 15 to 30 gallons
of water per minute (or more in some cases). Each minute can cost 3 to 4
cents at 20 gallons per minute.
Tip # 2 – Established shrubs need less water than turf. (As much as 75%
less than turf).
Tip # 3 – Generally, your irrigation
system does not need to run everyday, every other day or every third day
may be all that is necessary. The exception to this may be in the heat
of the summer or during a drought.
Tip # 4 – Less water
promotes deeper root development. This can carry turf and shrubs through
Tip # 5 – Too much
water can promote mold, fungus, or any one of a number of undesirable
Tip # 6 – Mulched
beds will hold water below the surface better than un-mulched beds.
Check this before assuming that the bed is dry because the bed “looks”
Tip # 7 – Pooling
caused by over watering can create unsightly mud basins.
Tip # 8 – Turf will
grow faster the more you water.
How can rain sensors
work with irrigation timers for water conservation?
Plants get thirstier in the summer than during spring and fall, so
program your controller accordingly, rather than constantly keeping the
irrigation timer on the same setting. This will support water
conservation, as will watering at the right time of day and overriding
irrigation timers with rain sensors.
For optimal water conservation, it will
be necessary to override the timer of your irrigation system, if your
area receives heavy rains the night before your system is programmed to
come on. If you’d rather not worry about overriding your system
manually, install a rain sensor. Rain sensors can be tied into your
irrigation system, shutting them off for you after a period of rain.
What are drip irrigation systems and how
do the support water conservation?
Drip irrigation systems are rather basic; they are constituted by a
series of tubes that have holes opened along them at intervals. Drip
irrigation systems are usually installed in pots. Drip irrigation allows
you to target plant roots even more precisely than do sprinklers,
resulting in enhanced plant health and improved water conservation.
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CONTROLLERS - MANUALS
Instruction manuals and troubleshooting guides have been formatted in
Adobe Acrobat (PDF) for easy downloading and printing. You will
need the Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed on your computer to
view and print the files. If you don't already have it installed,
download Acrobat for free from Adobe's website. Please not
that some manuals may take several minutes to download (depending on
your connection speed and file size).
RAIN BIRD CONTROLLERS
ESP-LX Modular Series
(ESP-6LX+, ESP-8LX+, ESP-12LX+,
ESP-16LX+, ESP-20LX+, ESP-24LX+,
ESP-8LXi+, ESP-12LXi+, ESP-16LXi+)
(ESP-4TM, ESP-6TM, ESP-8TM)
(E-4c, E-6c, E-9c)
(ESP-4Si, ESP-6Si, ESP-8Si)
(ESP-4, ESP-6, ESP-8)
(E-3i, E-3, E-6i, E-6, E-9i, E-9, E-12i, E-12)