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    Thread: Shut off water to sprinkler system?

    1. 08-12-2012 02:35 PM #1
      My wife and I received a $130 water bill (normally around $50). I can see the water meter spinning even when were not using water. I would like to shut off water to the sprinkler system to see if the meter stops, but I'm not sure how (pictures below).

      More information: I can turn off the main water AFTER the meter (between the meter & house/sprinker), and the meter stops, so it isn't a leaking meter, or anything. Also, our box isn't normally filled with water, but we have had 7-8 straight days of rain supposedly (I was out of town this past week), so I assume this is normal. I have 4 zones if that helps, and I think everything is rainbird, but not sure. One more thing, sprinkler appears to work normally.

      Here are some pics. Any help would be greatly appreciated it. Not to sound like a sissy, but I was little scared to mess with it.





      Tried turning the "black things" to off, but the meter kept spinning.


      I turned this valve off, and the meter stopped spinning, but it shut off water to EVRYTHING.

    2. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-12-2012 03:05 PM #2
      Your meter feeds the whole house. There will be a shut-off in the house that shuts everything off, or outside the house that will feed water to a vacuum breaker that will be located about 3 feet above the highest head on the property. This back-flow preventer is in place to keep water that's in your sprinkler pipes from being drawn back into the domestic water system, spoiling it for everyone nearby. It has its own pair of shut-offs. Close one valve and it will isolate your sprinkler system.

      Do you have a pool or a water softener? These often have chemical injection systems that use water pressure to work. A stuck valve or solenoid can make the systems flow full time.

      There are many potential sources for leaks. The biggest are the toilets in the house. A bad flapper seal can blow through 20,000 gallons a year. That's just a simple dye test. Put some dark blue toilet bowl cleaner in the reserve tank and leave it alone for two hours. If the water in the bowl turns blue the seal is leaking.

      Are you on a slab? Copper pipes embedded in concrete can crack at expansion joints or can be eaten away by chemicals from the inside. The lye in cement can eat copper from the outside.

      More info, please.
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    3. 08-12-2012 06:13 PM #3
      Thanks Barry.

      Our house was built in 2009, in Central GA. We have a slab foundation, with PEX plumbing. There is no copper that I'm aware except for the maybe the pipe that runs from the cold/hot selector up to the shower head -not sure though.

      There are no external cutoffs that I'm aware of.

      The toilets don't appear to run and exhibit the same behavior as they always have. I have not tried the dye, but I did close the valves on all the indoor plumbing and then checked the meter - still spinning.

      Yard is soggy in places, but we have had so much rain lately so it could be normal.

      Hopefully the water will evaporate out of the irrigation boxes and I can get you some better pictures.

      If you want any pictures of our house, just let me know.

    4. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-12-2012 06:30 PM #4
      Quote Originally Posted by Brett92 View Post
      Yard is soggy in places, but we have had so much rain lately so it could be normal.
      There has to be a shut-off in the house. No one would be expected to run out to the street to kill the flow. I'm pretty sure it's code, too. In Georgia it may one in the garage as your ground doesn't freeze.

      If your yard is soggy there's probably a break in the supply line, between the meter and the house. It's probably pretty close to the surface. It may even be under your driveway. I would dig a small hole alongside your concrete and see if water creeps out from under the slab.

      The only true way to tell, though would be to find the main shut-off in the house. If you shut that and the meter still turns the problem is between the shut-off and the meter. Unfortunately, you're responsible for everything past the water meter, leaked water included.

      One more test. Shut the water off at the main and see if the water level in the valve box hole goes down overnight. If it does, you're supplying the water. Check your neighbor's valve box to see the water table.
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      08-12-2012 10:47 PM #5
      You might want to contact your local water supplier. Sometimes they offer leak detection service. Especially if you are in a drought prone area.

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      08-13-2012 02:27 PM #6
      Further to the comments above...my dad had a secondary sump pump that was for power outages...it ran off the pressure of the municipal water, and spun a small pump to keep the basement from flooding during a heavy storm.
      On his pump, the level switch had failed, and the unit was quietly spinning for a few weeks undetected.
      That was a big bill.

      Grasping at straws here for you...good luck.
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    7. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-13-2012 03:05 PM #7
      /\ Damned good suggestion. Forgot about water driven sump pumps. If the float sticks you're screwed until you notice it.
      Garmin Is My Pilot.

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    8. 08-13-2012 05:18 PM #8
      Thanks guys for the responses. I plan to tackle the issue later this afternoon and be as thorough as possible.

      I'm hoping that the house water shut off will be near the water heater, because that's only place I know of with piping in our house. I don't see any valves outside that control water (unless it's buried or something).

      I talked to my neighbor about it and he said that's he's had leaky sprinkler heads before, but it didn't cause any issues (other than it not spraying right). He said the heads are pressure activated, and there is only water pressure when it's turned on, so I'm thinking the sprinkler system is fine, and that there is a leak elsewhere.

      The truly scary part to this is that I contacted my local water authority and inquired about my bill, hoping that it was some sort of mistake. On the contrary, the lady informed me that I was ALREADY EXCEEDING past month's consumption for the current period!

      Really hope I can get this resolved quickly. I tried asking the county about leak detection, but they didn't have any recommendations. I hate throwing money down the drain and this seems as close to that as it gets.

    9. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-13-2012 05:30 PM #9
      From what you describe, your shut-off will be near your water heater. The vacuum breaker for the sprinkler may be there, too.

      I'm betting on a leak in the pipe between the vacuum breaker and the sprinkler valve box.

      You never told us if your house is on a slab.
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    10. 08-13-2012 05:40 PM #10
      Thanks Barry, you may have missed it in my second post...

      Quote Originally Posted by Brett92 View Post
      Thanks Barry.
      Our house was built in 2009, in Central GA. We have a slab foundation, with PEX plumbing.

      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post
      From what you describe, your shut-off will be near your water heater. The vacuum breaker for the sprinkler may be there, too.

      I'm betting on a leak in the pipe between the vacuum breaker and the sprinkler valve box.
      I'll take some pictures tonight (If you all don't mind helping), and maybe we can figure what/where everything is. Sadly, I don't remember our home inspector pointing anything out to us when I was accompanying him on the inspection. Would have been nice, but then again I guess that really isn't his job to teach us about our house.

    11. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-13-2012 05:42 PM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by Brett92 View Post
      Thanks Barry, you may have missed it in my second post...
      .
      I did. Walk around your house. Water might exhibit itself somewhere around the perimeter, but I'm still betting the pressure hose that feeds the sprinkler valves.

      Pictures.
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    12. 08-13-2012 06:25 PM #12
      Found the leak ......



      This looks like an access hole/junction for the main line going into my house (I have no idea, but pretty sure this is where the main line goes in).

      IS it safe for me to spin off the top cap?

    13. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-13-2012 06:35 PM #13
      Quote Originally Posted by Brett92 View Post
      Found the leak ......



      This looks like an access hole/junction for the main line going into my house (I have no idea, but pretty sure this is where the main line goes in).

      IS it safe for me to spin off the top cap?
      No that's the clean-out for the sewer. That's what takes the waste water away from the house. It's there so you can clean out the line going to the main sewer.

      It's just showing itself there. It looks like your leak is under the house. You need something to amplify the sound of rushing water. I've had good luck with a piece of conduit. Plumbers have listening devices for this purpose. In the meantime, shut the water off.

      Did you ever find the main shut off?
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    14. 08-13-2012 06:50 PM #14
      Hey Barry, found an old in construction picture of our house. Looks like there are 2 pipes in that vicinity (the big one and a small one one). Could the small one be the main water line?



      Here's a later picture...


      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post
      Did you ever find the main shut off?
      No, I have it turned off at the road right now.

    15. 08-13-2012 06:54 PM #15
      In your opinion, should I excavate, or just call a pro to handle it from here?

    16. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-13-2012 06:57 PM #16
      The white one is connected to the fitting you found outside. It goes out to the main sewer. The other pipe is likely the water supply to the house.
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    17. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-13-2012 07:02 PM #17
      I would dig outside in that area and see if the water is coming from inside or outside. You'll have to dig down and expose those pipes. Once you know that you can talk intelligently to a contractor.

      I still can't imagine a sprinkler-system without a vacuum breaker.
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    18. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-13-2012 07:05 PM #18
      In your picture there's a blue pipe sticking up. The pipes curving up to the right of that look like your main feed. What's in that area? Water heater? Laundry room.
      Garmin Is My Pilot.

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    19. 08-14-2012 12:39 PM #19
      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post
      In your picture there's a blue pipe sticking up. The pipes curving up to the right of that look like your main feed. What's in that area? Water heater? Laundry room.
      There's a lot actually. The hot/cold right there is for the washer/dryer. Behind the washer/dryer is the master bath. Here's a non-detailed blueprint...



      Also, I dug down yesterday for a couple of hours, and water just rushed into where I was digging. It was like digging at the beach. I tried using bucket to get out the water but it kept filling. Here's a picture from this morning - it was at least a foot higher yesterday. I found an "irrigation control valve" opening. Not exactly sure if water is coming from there. I never could find the main line, but I'm sure it's near there.

      I called my stepbrother who is a Master Plumber and he's going to come out and look at it. So hopefully today I'll know more. Any questions I should ask? Thanks again for the help!


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      08-14-2012 12:45 PM #20
      I have to start taking regional weather needs into consideration. You may only have the one shut-off, by the street. You may also have a horizontal vacuum-breaker that can be buried. Just curious, where is your timer for the sprinkler?

      Please let us know what your brother finds.
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    21. 08-14-2012 12:54 PM #21
      The sprinkler timer is in the garage, and right now the whole unit is set to off.

      I plan to ask if there's a second water shut off, or separate irrigation shut off too. Mos of the plumbing he does is new construction in the same area so he probably has an idea where everything is.

    22. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-14-2012 01:07 PM #22
      I would think you'd find it in the garage near the water heater or in the laundry room behind it. Are there any cabinets or access panels there?

      Vacuum breakers are never in the house because they spew water when first turned on, so I'd be looking in the garage. Have you looked behind your bushes for a vacuum breaker?

      It should look something like this.

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    23. 08-14-2012 08:37 PM #23
      UPDATE: Step brother came by and dug out the hole a little more. After some trial and error, he found the leak. It was straight pvc connection pipe that joins into an elbow. There were 3 little pin holes where the threads start. Replaced the section of pipe and glued. No leaks that we can tell...yay!




      However, I was just looking at the water meter and noticed some movement from the leak detector. Home much movement (if any is acceptable). I counted to 35 for the leak detector to run 1/4 section of the guage. Is that within tolerance? Nothing was on btw. Thanks!


    24. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-14-2012 09:02 PM #24
      That may not be your only leak. If the system was pressurizes before the glue set you could have leaks elsewhere.

      Is there a shutoff in the house? Is there a vacuum breaker for the sprinkler system?
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    25. 08-14-2012 09:28 PM #25
      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post
      Is there a shutoff in the house?
      Definitely no shutoff. My step brother says that they(home-builders collectivity) typically do not install them on new houses, especially ones like mine because the meter is so close to the house already.

      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post
      Is there a vacuum breaker for the sprinkler system?
      Not sure on that one. I forgot to ask. I'll email him and ask. Actually, he did mention a backflow device. Could that be part of it?

      When I was timing my water meter, I had everything off except the refrigerator, and the washing machine. Hoping maybe it was the refrigerator making ice.

      I'm just glad that there is no (doesn't appear to be) leak under the house. My step brother commented that I had the Wirsbo PEX piping, which is very good, and better than the so called cheaper PEX that is sometimes used. Supposedly it has a 25 year warranty which will help me to sleep better at night.
      Last edited by Brett92; 08-14-2012 at 09:30 PM.

    26. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-15-2012 05:07 PM #26
      Resolved?

      Yes, the back-flow device. Where is it?
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    27. 08-16-2012 10:10 AM #27
      I think so (I hope so at least). Were letting the area dry out right now.

      I've checked the water meter a couple of times and it seems almost still. The leak detector (red triangle) will make 1 revolution every 3 minutes or so. When you look at it for 2-3 seconds it looks still...you have to watch it to notice the movement.

      My brother mentioned a backflow device (I think), but he didn't point out where it was. Sorry, I'm not helping you on this Barry. The picture I posted above is the only area my step brother has worked in, so it must be in there somewhere. That's where he mentioned it. I know there's a pressure reducer valve in there (It's the "black thing" in the first section of diagonal pipe, furthest from the house in the picture). Maybe it's built-in to that.

      Last edited by Brett92; 08-16-2012 at 10:20 AM.

    28. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-16-2012 10:24 AM #28
      That meter should not be turning.

      Each of your toilets and faucets and dishwasher, washer and dryer and water heater will have a shutoff on them.

      Go around your house and turn them off and leave them off, one at a time. Have someone be looking at the leak detector to see if it stops. If everything is shut off the problem has to be in the piping, not the devices.

      Try that. Often times trouble-shooting is a process of elimination.
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    29. 08-16-2012 10:44 AM #29
      Yeah, I tried turning off all toilets, faucets and water heater - meter still spins.

      I need to try the washer, and the refrigerator. I can't reach the refrigerator turn off, but I wonder if turning off the icemaker will be enough.

      Might need to bring a leak detection service in -I hope not.

      If there is another leak, I wonder how long we've been living with it. Scary to think about it.

    30. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-18-2012 03:00 PM #30
      Quote Originally Posted by Brett92 View Post
      Yeah, I tried turning off all toilets, faucets and water heater - meter still spins.

      I need to try the washer, and the refrigerator. I can't reach the refrigerator turn off, but I wonder if turning off the icemaker will be enough.

      Might need to bring a leak detection service in -I hope not.

      If there is another leak, I wonder how long we've been living with it. Scary to think about it.
      I still think it could be your sprinkler system. Is there a main shutoff for the system in one og those ground boxes or just zone valves? How many zones do you have? is there still water in the valve or meter box?
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    31. 08-21-2012 01:33 AM #31
      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post
      I still think it could be your sprinkler system. Is there a main shutoff for the system in one og those ground boxes or just zone valves? How many zones do you have? is there still water in the valve or meter box?
      I'm sure there is, but I can't seem to find it. I have 4 zones, which makes sense because there is 4 "valves" in one of the boxes. There is a round circular control box with just 1 valve in it (the one closest to the water meter), which I assume is the main irrigation valve, but it doesn't have a normal turn-off (no lever, or faucet style knob). However, at the top it does have arrows (in one direction it says off, other direction on). I have tried turning it, but no change to water meter, and the the sprinkler system still comes on.

      Also, no water in the boxes 2 days ago, but then it rained today, so I'm sure they're filled now. That's another issue that's affecting my troubleshooting. It's raining a lot (thank God), so there are a lot of wet areas in my yard, but that makes it hard to find leaks. I still haven't filled in the hole where we found the initial leak. I wanted it to dry out as much as possible, but every time it dries, there's a shower. I'll probably just suck as much water tomorrow and just fill it.

      Thinking about calling in a leak detection group just to make sure it isn't something leaking inside the house. I think our home-owners insurance will pay for their services for inside the house -I'm on my own if it's an irrigation issue. I just wonder if they will raise our rates once they KNOW that's there's the POTENTIAL for a leak under the house.

    32. Member barry2952's Avatar
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      08-21-2012 03:16 PM #32
      OK, I think I see the way it's set up.



      It appears that there is a main shut-off right after the meter. I believe you said that when you shut off this valve the leak detector stops spinning. This is the way it should work.

      There is a "T" in the house feed after the meter that feeds to valve in the first round hole. That should be a manual shutoff for the sprinkler system. With that in the off position your sprinkler should not work. Shut that valve and start your sprinkler. No water should come out. If you do this you have isolated the leak to the main feed/house, or feed to the sprinkler shut-off valve. The second hole is the electrically-operated main sprinkler valve. When that opens it pressurizes the 4 zone-valves controlled by the timer.

      You should dig the hole near the house a bit deeper and wait for any water at that level to drain. If later the water comes out the sleeve that surrounds the white sewer pipe and the water pipe the leak is under the house. If nothing comes out the leak is between that spot and the street.

      If I were you I would get the answer to this question by having your brother install a main shut-off in that hole with an extended handle to get it above grade. With a shut-off in that hole you can completely isolate the house to determine if the problem's in the house or in the yard.

      I don't understand how they could bury a PRV. They require service every once in a while.
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    33. 08-21-2012 11:50 PM #33
      UPDATE - Just when I was getting really down/upset about this leak, I checked the water meter and noticed that the leak indicator was not moving. Just checked it again a few minutes ago, and it still isn't moving. I know a better test would be to monitor over the course of a few hours, but I'll take a small victory right now. Both times I watched it for a good 45 seconds and it stayed steady in place. Then I gave it about 15 minutes on the 3rd attempt, and still no movement -Really excited! Not sure what changed, unless the ice maker, or washer was for some reason using water. Those were the only items not turned off.

      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post

      If I were you I would get the answer to this question by having your brother install a main shut-off in that hole with an extended handle to get it above grade. With a shut-off in that hole you can completely isolate the house to determine if the problem's in the house or in the yard.
      Yeah, that's a good idea, and I had intended to ask him about it, but I guess it slipped my mind. Also, it was very late in the afternoon when he came by so I wouldn't have wanted to keep him. Maybe that's something I can tackle with the help of a friend.

      Quote Originally Posted by barry2952 View Post
      I don't understand how they could bury a PRV. They require service every once in a while.
      Yeah, I don't understand that either. I tried searching for a picture of one buried in the ground on google and couldn't find one so maybe it's a GA thing, or something my particular county does. It wouldn't be the first time their code didn't make any sense. I was surprised to learn that it's okay to vent the bathroom exhaust fan into the attic. I think everywhere else that's a code violation, right?

      Thanks again Barry for the help. Most posters check-out long before now. Thanks for sticking around. Hopefully the next update will be "Checked water meter 17 more times, and no movement!". Then we can call it a day.

    34. 10-22-2012 11:33 AM #34
      That's great news, fingers crossed it's all ok now

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      10-22-2012 11:35 AM #35
      Quote Originally Posted by daza View Post
      That's great news, fingers crossed it's all ok now
      Nice spam. At least you're on-topic.
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