View Full Version : grounding irrigation system

12-15-2004, 01:37 PM
guys i need some good advice i dont do much irrigation work right now so im not up on all of the proper install methods. I have a job where i dont think the system is grounded. all of the valves are in the same box in a straight line, all connected together correctly. zones 1-5 run fine without any propblems but when it gets to zone 6 the timmer shuts off after about 7 minutes. Ive used my timmer to test the system... same thing happens. Used new wires w/o burrying them to test system with old and new timmer....same thing.... In the ground where the valves are is a wire comming from out of the ground going into the soil.... cant tell where it goes to or what it is attatched to ( if at all on the other end). My question is .. is this the ground wire..... if so what is on the other end of this wire? a metal rod? nothing but exposed wire? or does it run back to the home somewhere else to ground out? When groundign a system how do you properly ground the system ? How can you check to see if the system is grounded.?

Thanks for the helps guys.

12-15-2004, 06:04 PM
I've never heard of sprinkler systems being grounded. There is no need for them to be grounded since it is low voltage. The reason a grounding wire exists in electrical systems is to provide a safe path for abnormal and short-circuited energy, (excess voltage) to go where minimal damage will occur.

I'm not sure how the valves are wired up to the clock in your case. The way it should be connected is to have a one wire from each valve connect to a station on the clock. Since it's 6 zones, use a 8 strand wire. I typically wire the clock ROY G BIV...or red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, then black. Connect all the other wires from the valves and wire that to the common wire, usually white. That's all that should be wired into the clock from valves.

Let me know if you know more information, I'll help.

12-15-2004, 10:51 PM
Have you checked to see if there is a rain switch somewhere? Maybe at the end of that wire that you saw coming out of the ground? Or perhaps a pump/ Wire may be running to the pump start relay.

It sounds as though you have a bare wire, and after about 7 minutes of watering on zone 6, it shorts out.

What kind of controller is it?


12-16-2004, 02:02 AM
i know how to wire the system its done right ive checked it out many times...... it is a rain bird controller. both the customers and mine. i have spent roughly 3 hours on the phone at seperate time with rain bird and they have exhausted all resources. im a t a loss here really. its an existing maint. customer i have that has been good to me for years. i thought of the bare wire thing as well but it still does it with new wires. im lost..........

12-16-2004, 02:49 AM
I took into account that you knew how to wire the system up. But my bare wire theory was for rain switch or a pump start with the wire routed through the area watered by zone 6.

If the system is shutting down after 7 minutes and you have used two controllers and new wires, then you may have a wire that is being shorted and it is most likely on zone 6. The controllers are working fine.

Try this just for grins - Take the #6 wire and put it on the #1 terminal and fire the system up. If it craps out after 7 minutes or so, then you probably have a wire that is getting shorted by the water from those sprinklers. Or the rain switch may be mounted to low and the heads are tripping the microswitch.


12-16-2004, 09:54 AM
I have run across some installations that have an installed lock out only the original installer knows about. This will give you headaches. As mentioned try swapping zone 6 with zone 1. Try running dedicated wires from zones 1 and 6 to an external controller. Check controller output voltage when using zone 6 and make sure it is the same as when zone 1 is operating. If voltage is not the problem make sure solenoids are not blocked with dirt or rocks. You may have something blocking the water after zone 5.


12-16-2004, 10:05 AM
Try replacing the solenoid for that individual valve. I have had timers that would blow the fuse after 2-3 minutes of running, and turned out to be the solenoid. I don't care if your volt meter or any other equipment says it is ok, it could still have a problem. it could heat up and short out after your 7 minutes.

12-16-2004, 10:53 AM
itteitj - have done that that was one of the things that rainbird suggested that i do .... ive done both things switching the wires and running dedicated lines.

danamac - i have replaced the solenoid on that zone with a new one.. thought about the new one being faulty as well but what are the chances. i even swapped it with another one and still got the same responce.

ive done everything in and out of the book to try and fix this but i am at a loss of things now..... im at the point where i am curious if it is her home electrical that is the problem and after a while it is just not pulling enough volts to the clock therefore causeing the clock to trip out...... could this be so....

12-16-2004, 10:58 AM
Did you try switching the wire ( not the common) from another valve that is working fine.

12-16-2004, 11:35 AM
I had a similar thing once...the controller was plugged into a 110 volt curcuit that in turn was wired to a GFI (Ground Fault Interupter) plug. When a zone came on, the GFI got wet & tripped, causing the controller to shut off. Scratched my a head quite a bit before I figured it out.

12-16-2004, 11:54 AM
Do you have Bill Derryberry's troubleshooting book? He helped me out with a quick email reply a couple months back. As far as I'm concerned he's the expert.

Bill Derryberry
Derryberry Irrigation Consulting, Inc.
5818 E. Oak Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
Phone: (480) 423.0542
Fax: (480) 423.1322
e-mail: billderryberry@earthlink.net

12-22-2004, 12:23 AM
dbielawski- this is kinda odd but when it trips the lady resets the outlet in the garage by pushing the reset button on the GFI in the upstairs bathroom. .... odd huh somehow it is wired through that ... thats what is leading me to believe that it is her home wiring that is faulty not the irrigation system. its like after running for so long it just cant handle the constant current anylonger so it gives up and trips.... idunno im lost .....

aquamtic- yes i have done that and it still trips.... i have even put the valve directly to the controler and it does not trip ( no wires just the valve and controller) thats what puzzles me... now i know you will say well its the wiring ... well then why does it do it on the old wires, the new temp wires i ran, and a direct hot and direct common form the valve to the contoler? this is what has got me stuck... its like there is no answer but bulldoze and start over. LOL

12-22-2004, 01:42 AM
[QUOTE=i_plant_art]ive done everything in and out of the book to try and fix this but i am at a loss of things nowQUOTE]

I would start at the controller and take some measurements with an ohm meter. Remove the common from the controller and measure the resistance from each station terminal to the common wire. Should be about 20-35 ohms and pretty uniform acrossed the syste. Less might be two valves on a station or more likely a short. More will be an open.

Note any odd readings. Go the the valve box and remove the splices for the bad zone and common. Measure the solenoid. You should see readings in the 20-35 ohm range. If you get readings outside the normal from the solenoid, it's bad.

If it checks out splice the zone and common at the controller and measure the two wires at the box. You should have less than two ohms resistance. More and you have a nicked or broken wire.

You can also check each wire (disconnected at both the valve and controller) with one side of the meter in an earth ground. You should get at least 700K resistance. Less is a bad wire or splice.

I had a similar situation with a Rainbird controller and valve. The installer didn't use waterproof wirenuts and the solenoid, over the years got water inside and developed some corrosion. When it was cool, during the first part of the cycle, it ran fine. As it heated up a bit it would get an open and the meter would show high ohms on that zone. Traded it out and it was fine. Glad it wasn't a wire problem.
Best of luck.

12-22-2004, 01:45 AM
First off, run the controller from a different outlet on a different circuit in the home.This will test the wiring idea. The controller draws so little voltage that it is not an issue with not enough juice ( generaly 24v/15v 250mA ). You have 110v at the outlet. If the controller fails while running off a different circuit in the home, try replacing the entire valve. Does it fail on a new valve? What is the outcome of running the zone 6 valve on zone 1? If you put zone 1 on zone 6 does it blip out? Answear these questions, and I will tell you how to fix your problem. If you troubleshoot the system correctly the answear will be there. All of the answears you replied to everyone elses questions were ramblings, so just answear the specific questions. You can email me direct at cvnl@cvnl.com and I will give you my Phone # if would like to go over it that way.

12-22-2004, 02:10 AM
The problem is the GFI circuit. Try wiring the controller to another plug that is not on the GFI circuit. Use an extension cord and test the system for a few days. I'd bet you a buck that it will not trip. And don't use the socket for the garage door opener either. That causes controllers to do weird stuff also.


12-22-2004, 10:48 AM
I agree that the problem would have to be the GFI. Try a different outlet to plug the controller into. If that's not applicable, have the homeowner put in a new GFI outlet. If problem persists, subcontract an electrian to check out the problem. He might be able to find something in the wires that is causing the GFI to trip.

12-22-2004, 02:49 PM
I'm with the previous 3 posts...problem with the GFI...try an extension cord plugged into another outlet. Keep us posted on the oucome.

12-23-2004, 10:16 AM
do you have any spare wires? I would take the zone 6 wire and make it the common. make the common # 6 shouldnt be a prob if all valves are in same box. What type of valves?, what type of controller?

12-23-2004, 03:53 PM
[QUOTE=i_plant_art]dbielawski- this is kinda odd but when it trips the lady resets the outlet in the garage by pushing the reset button on the GFI in the upstairs bathroom. .... odd huh somehow it is wired through that ... thats what is leading me to believe that it is her home wiring that is faulty not the irrigation system. its like after running for so long it just cant handle the constant current anylonger so it gives up and trips.... idunno im lost .....

GFI Circuit is getting wet when zone 6 is on. I had the exact problem when I was in WA. All the outside outlets were wired with the garage and the garage had the reset switch. The Timer was pluged in under the carport where it saw no weather. every time my zone 3 came on it hit one of the outside plugs and caused it to trip.
Solution for me was to replace the outside plug cover with a new one and that quit letting in water and all was well. Took me 3 weeks to figure that one out. I thought it was the freezer in the garage that was tripping it untill it cost us a brand new freezer and it still did it.
Check all of the outside outlets and see if it is causing the garage to trip when it gets wet.

Critical Care
12-24-2004, 04:08 PM
You tried another controller and the same thing happens - so lets doubt a faulty controller.

You tried another unburied cable - problem remains, so let's assume the cable is okay.

No problem with solenoid connected right at the controller, so perhaps environmental problems at the valve... Could cause a GFI to act up.

I too would be interested in knowing what happens when you switch the zone 1 and 6 wires on the controller. Will zone 1 cause the GFI to flip, and then no problem with zone 6? If that happens, I'd suspect that a problem is happening at the valve in the ground. Then, you'd probably want to try a temp hookup of a new valve at the valve box. You are using watertight connections? And the valve box is dry?

Also, most freezers and/or refrigerators should not be on GFIs. You may want to run an extension cord to one of these outlets as a test.

That buried wire that you talked about could be a locating wire. They typically are blue, and run parallel with the main line.

01-22-2005, 09:42 AM
garages are commonly wired in with the bathroom circut.

transformer loads can trip a gfi in a heartbeat.

also to the guy that wires in the roygbiv order........ I thought i was the only one to do that.. in the order ov the visible light spectrum...LOL

02-03-2005, 10:30 PM
I have seen a lot of garages and the outdoor lamps(in front and in back lawns of houses) wired to GFIs. As soon as moisture contacts the lamp the breaker trips, safety thing so a blow dryer in bath tub doesn't fry you, the breaker trips intsantly. Rain doesn't do it because it pretty much falls straight down but irrigation tends to get up under the lamp. Use a different circuit. GFIs are a pita. Does 6 spray in the area of outdoor electric?