Travis Irrigation Plans and Supply


Valves and Valve Box FAQs

If you've benefited from the help we've provided on our site but you choose not to purchase your parts from us, we hope you will consider making a small donation to help offset the cost of maintaining this site. To make a donation, you can click on a button below and follow the on-screen instructions.
The staff at

We sincerely hope you will find helpful information in these pages. Be sure to check our indexed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Answers pages first to see if your questions have already been answered. If you can't find the answer you are looking for, submit your question to and we will consider including your question in our FAQs pages. Unfortunately, due to the volume of questions we receive, we can't answer them all personally, but we'll let you know if we decide to include your question and answer on our site.

Which is the "hot" wire, and which is ground?
Almost all valves are AC solenoid operated, which means it doesn't matter which wire you connect to ground and which connects to the "hot" (red) wire. If you have DC valves, check the instructions that come with the valve before installing them. A diagram for wiring Rain Bird valves is available in our product instruction section.
How do I find a valve in the yard if I don't know where it is located?
If you have underground valves, you should make careful notes of their exact location measured from two different directions and to two different hard objects in your landscape (such as the corner of your house, or from the end of an expansion joint in a drive or walkway.) If you have not done this and do not have an as-built plan, you can always rent a valve finder from a tool rental company. Before you do that, try a few of these ideas:
  • Using the suggestions below to choose a likely location for the valve, take a large screwdriver and jab at the ground at 4 inch intervals in all directions and listen for a hollow sound when the tool strikes the plastic valve box lid.
  • Locate your water meter or backflow preventer, and imagine how an irrigator might have run the mail line around your house. The main normally runs near the middle of each station in a simple path through the yard and around the house. Normally the main does not go under the drive unless the yard is very large or there is no irrigation along one side of the house and so no trenches were cut around that side of the house. Look for valve boxes to be located next to the main line.
  • Valves are often located near the middle of the station itself. If the valves are in a straight line, for instance, look for the valve in the location where half the water goes in one direction and half in the other direction. Depending on the nozzle sizes and arcs, this is not necessarily the location with half of the sprinklers on each side- it's where half of the water flow is on each side.
  • Get an assistant to tap the valve wire onto the test post once every 5-10 seconds, and listen for a faint click from the solenoid or the rushing sound as water begins to flow through the valve. It is best to do this in the middle of the night or very early in the morning to have the least background noise.
  • If all else fails, rent a pipe finder or valve finder. Use the instructions provided with the tool to feed a signal into the wire and trace it across the yard with the finding device.
What size valve wire should I use?
We recommend 14 gauge solid copper wire (although it's often larger than you need electrically) for most residential valve wiring, since anything smaller is easily damaged during installation or subsequent yard maintenance. For longer runs, see our wire size table for Rain Bird valves. Most residential valves have a similar VA rating to the Rain Bird valves, so this table can serve as a good guide for the wire size for long wires. A typical 1" automatic irrigation control valve has a 24 VAC 50/60 cycle solenoid power requirement with 0.30 A (7.2 VA) inrush current and a 0.19 A (4.6 VA) holding current. More information on the Rain Bird DV series valves is found on the Rain Bird DV description page in our catalog.
Does it matter which direction water flows through the valve?
Only if you want the valves to work properly! Install them so the water flows through them in the direction of the arrow on the valve. Most automatic irrigation control valves offer no resistance to flow in the reverse direction, even when they are "off"!
Should I get a threaded or "slip" valve?
Many people have a strong preference for a threaded valve because of the mistaken belief that they can be replaced without cutting pipe. You have to cut pipe to replace both solvent weld (slip) or threaded valves. If you install solvent weld valves you will save the cost of two male adapters for each valve. Be sure to install at least several inches of pipe on each side of the solvent weld valves to allow room to re-glue a fitting if you ever replace the valve. If you don't leave enough pipe sticking out, or the pipe breaks right at the valve, it's tough to re-use a solvent weld valve. It is also important to exercise care when gluing solvent weld valves to make sure you don't plug the solenoid port. We have a preference for slip valves because they are quicker and cheaper to install.
Are your valves designed for underground or above ground installation?
All of the electric remote control valves listed in our catalog are designed for underground installation in a 6" diameter or larger valve box.
What size valve should I use?
We stick with 1" valves in almost all installations, since you can rarely run enough water to require 1 1/2" valves on most residential jobs. There are 3/4" valves available, but for the minimal cost savings it isn't worth having two different valves installed (3/4" and 1") because you can't always swap parts between valves for troubleshooting purposes later. If you ever have to replace a valve, you will have spare parts for all of your stations if you stick to one size valve.
Which brand of valve should I buy?
We have a slight preference for the Hunter valves for most residential installations, although all of the brands we sell are excellent quality valves. Look around at the sprinkler systems in your area. Pop the lids on the small circular valve boxes and see what the pros in your area are using. If you see it used a lot, it's probably a good valve.
What is a "flow control" and is it an important feature?
A flow control is important if the supply pressure is significantly higher than required to operate your particular sprinklers. Too much pressure kills watering uniformity and is hard on pipes and valves. A flow control at each valve allows you to reduce downstream pressure by reducing the flow through the valve. It's an important feature in all installations except those with very low supply pressure.
What's the difference between an internal and external bleed valve?
An external bleed opens the valve by spraying water into the valve box, while internal bleed valves pass bleed water to the downstream side of the valve. Internal bleed valves don't make the valve box muddy when you operate them. External bleed valves allow you to see if the main line has pressure, though. If the external bleed does not cause water to spray into the valve box when operated, it means you have no pressure in the main line. They sometimes make troubleshooting easier. The best valves have both internal and external bleeds.
The valve box is too short or too tall for my pipe, what do I do?
If the valve box is too short, stack them together to make a taller box. Just save the extra lid in case the lawnmower eats up a lid later. You can also use some ells to bring the pipe up to a shallower depth more suitable for the valve. If the pipe is too shallow (the box is too deep) just take a small saw to cut the slots in the bottom of the box to allow the shallow pipe to pass through.


back to FAQ subjects

   Search this site