How Do Automatic Lawn Sprinklers Work?

The Controller

Having an automatic lawn sprinkler system means that at a certain point in time, an area or areas of your lawn or garden will be watered. It all starts with an electric controller that contains a clock and can be programmed to open and close valves at any certain time. Electricity is used to keep the time and the information you have programmed into the circuit board. When the time is reached that you want to water lawn or garden, the electricity is sent to the valve or valves, allowing them to open. When it's time to stop watering, the electricity is stopped and the valves close. This allows you to control when and for how long you want to water without even being at home. Some controllers are equipped with sensors that detect rain and cancel out the watering at that specific time.


The electricity is fed though a conduit to a plastic box containing the valves located in the yard. The valves are then connected to a piping system that goes throughout your yard. The yard is divided into zones for watering. Some zones may be sloped and in full sun and therefore need more watering than zones that are flat or in the shade. There is a valve for each zone. When the controller sends the electricity to a certain zone, the valve will open much like a faucet and allow water to travel into the piping system. When the electricity stops, the valve closes and the watering ceases. One or all of the valves may be open at one time, and they can close at various times, depending on watering needs.

Piping System and Watering Heads

A series of pipes runs about 1 foot underground throughout the yard. They connect the valves to the watering or sprinkler heads. Normally the pipes are installed using a trench digger and then buried. The sprinkler heads are set so they are at ground level when not in use. This way you can mow your lawn without worrying about damaging your system. Sometimes in shrubby areas or certain gardens, the heads are set higher to allow the water to shoot over some of the higher vegetation. When the water is released into the pipes, the pressure causes these heads to pop up and spray water around its zone. When the valve closes and the water pressure subsides, the head goes back down to its original position until it's pressurized again.

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About this Author

Dale DeVries has been cooking for over 40 years. First teaching her five daughters to cook, she quickly moved on to teaching at a private High School. Dale has catered parties and weddings throughout her life, from gourmet to the simple family type dinners. She says the fun is in creating new recipes that noone has heard of.