Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Superior Model 3200 & 3300 Automatic Master Valves

The Superior model 3200 & 3300 series master valves are solid-brass, electric 3-way solenoid, MASTER VALVES.   These valves are designed to be extremely sturdy and to open and close reliably under extreme conditions.  The 3-way solenoid design allows these valves to open and close with zero flow through the valve.  While designed for the demanding task of being a master valve, these valves are often used for other purposes where a high quality, reliable valve is needed, especially in unique situations.  These master valves are available as normally-closed (3200 series) and normally-open (3300 series) configurations.

Superior 3200 Series Brass Master Valve
Superior 3200 Series Brass Master Valve

Basic Background on Master Valves:

What is a Master Valve?  Master valves (aka: main valve, primary valve) are utilized on irrigation systems to turn on/off the entire water supply to the irrigation system.  They are often used as an automated emergency shut-off valve working in conjunction with a controller unit that utilizes flow and/or pressure sensors to detect problems in the irrigation system.  When a problem is detected by the control unit the master valve is closed, shutting off the water supply to the entire irrigation system.  This reduces any further damage and/or water waste until the problem can be fixed.  For larger irrigation systems the irrigation maybe divided into multiple sections with a separate master valve for each section.    A master valve is typically installed as close as possible to the irrigation water source.

In addition to being used as an emergency shut-off, master valves are being increasingly use as a secondary fail-safe, shut off valve,  to prevent wasted water if one of the zone valves should leak.  When used as a fail-safe the master valve is closed any time the irrigation system is off, thus shutting off and depressurizing the entire irrigation system.

Why not use a normal solenoid valve as a master valve?  While any automatic valve could be used as a master valve, in most situations where master valves are used a higher level of quality, as well as special features that help the valve to operate more  reliably, are desirable.

This is a rather brief description of master valves.  For more details and a list of the pros and cons of master valve use, see the article on Master Valves.

Normally-Closed valves open when the solenoid is energized.   Most automatic irrigation valves are normally-closed, like the 3200 series.   When power is applied to the solenoid, a normally closed valve will open.   The valve closes when the power to it’s solenoid is cut off.  Normally-closed is the industry standard, so if a valve description doesn’t say which type it is, it is usually safe to assume it is the normally-closed type.  An advantage of normally-closed valves used as master valves is that they close when there is no power, ie: a power failure, or if the wires to the valve are cut or broken.  The normally-closed valve will shut-off the water supply in any of those situations.

Normally open valves close when the solenoid is energized.  If there is no power applied to the solenoid a normally open valve will open and remain open until power is applied.  Sometimes you need a  valve that closes when power is supplied to it.  A normally-open valve fills that niche need.

3-Way Solenoid or “No Minimum Flow” feature.  The 3-way solenoid on this valve allows it to vent the water in the diaphragm chamber to the atmosphere.  In laymen’s language that means that each time the valve opens or closes it spits a few tablespoons or so of water out of the back of the valve onto the ground.   Without getting technical, what this does is to allow the valve to open and close at a very wide range of flow, thus the “No Minimum Flow” claim.  For example Superior makes two more or less identical normally-closed master valves.  The 3000 series without the 3-way solenoid has a flow range of 5-320 GPM.  The 3200 with the 3-way solenoid has a flow range of 0-360 GPM.   This wider flow range, especially the No Minimum Flow, is an important feature for a master valve that is going to be used as an emergency shut off.  For example, let’s say we have an irrigation system, all the valves are off, but one of the pipes has sprung a leak and is dripping one gallon of water an hour.  A normal solenoid valve would not be able to close and stop the leak, because normal valves can’t close if there is less than 5 GPM of flow.   However a master valve with a 3-way solenoid will be able to close, and will stop the leak.

Drainage needed.  With a 3-way valve the designer needs to make a provision for the small amount of water that will spit from the valve each time it opens or closes.   In most cases the  valve is installed over a small pit with a few inches of gravel in it to absorb the discharged water.  If installed over a non-absorbent surface like concrete,  a drain needs to be provided for the water.

Superior 3200 Spitting Water From 3-Way Solenoid Outlet
Superior 3200 Spitting Water From Outlet Below 3-Way Solenoid

Not just for use as a master valves.  These valves are suitable for use in almost any situation where a high reliability valve is needed.  While it is called a “master valve” the usage does not need  to be limited to master valves, they could be used as zone valves for a sprinkler system for example.  A common use for normally-open valves like the 3300 is in automating the flush cycle of filters where they are used to redirect the water flow into the flush channel during the flush cycle.

RW Option:

The 3200 & 3300 series valves also are available with a “RW” option for use on recycled water systems.  The RW option adds a purple cross handle on top of the valves to indicate the use of recycled water.

Features of the Superior 3200 & 3300:

  • ¾”,  1″,  1½”,  2″,  2½”, and 3″ sizes
  • The 3200 series is a normally-closed design. This means the valve opens when power is supplied to the solenoid.
  • The 3300 series is a normally-open design.  This means the valve closes when power is supplied to the solenoid.
  • No Minimum Flow allows operation at no flow (3-way solenoid.)
  • Flow rates 0-360 GPM depending on valve size (see charts on the Superior website.*)
  • Rated for 20 – 150 PSI operating pressure.
  • Solid Brass body and cap.  (Plastic plate for the No Minimum Flow feature located between body and cap.)
  • Solenoid can be removed from the valve without cutting the wires.  (Makes maintenance easier.)  However you do need to disconnect the copper tube from the top of the solenoid to remove it on these models.
  • Slow closing.
  • Flow control with a brass cross-style handle.
  • EPDM rubber for long life.
  • Various solenoid voltages and wattages available, as well as latching solenoids.
  • Optional with British Standard Pipe Threads on inlet/outlet.
  • Separate rubber valve seat washer and diaphragm.
  • Optional purple recycled water handle.

* While this valve will work at close to no flow, like all solenoid valves it should be the proper size based on the normal flow expected through the valve.  Always base the valve size on the expected flow.  Do not select valves based on the pipe size!  It is very common for the valve to need to be a different  size than the pipe.

Review:

The Superior Valve is one of those products that years of use has shown to be a reliable, rock solid product.  For this review the test valve was a 1″ size sample of the Superior 3200 normally-closed master valve.  The normally open 3300 version of the same valve was not tested however it would be expected to perform similar.  The 3200 was installed on the test stand and operated at both 30 PSI and 110 PSI inlet pressures, as well as various flow rates.  The valve was tested with the manual flow control stem fully open and then tested again with it throttled to a partially closed position.

Results:  The 3200 normally-closed master valve opened smoothly and quickly at all tested flows and pressures when the solenoid was energized.  It also opened smoothly when using the manual bleed screw.  Note that when opened and closed manually using the bleed screw the 3-way solenoid is bypassed.

When the solenoid was de-energized (power turned off) the valve closed as it should at all tested pressures and flow rates.

To test the no minimum flow feature the valve was tested while operating a single 1 gallon per hour drip emitter at 30 & 100 PSI with the flow control in the full open position.   It took the valve a couple of minutes but it did completely close when the power to the solenoid was turned off.   While use of the manual bleed screw bypasses the “no minimum flow” feature, out of curiosity this same test was repeated using the manual bleed and the valve still closed at the 1 GPH flow!

Summary: These test results are about as close to perfect as is possible for any valve.

While not tested, the 3300 series normally-open valve would be expected to perform similar to the 3200.

The Superior 3200 & 3300 valves have a separate rubber seat washer that is not part of the valve diaphragm.  With most valve brands the seat washer and diaphragm are a single rubber piece, thus if the seat becomes worn you must replace the entire diaphragm/seat assembly.  The concentrated flow of water over the seat washer in a solenoid valve creates a lot of wear on the seat washer and the seat washers typically fail long before the diaphragm does.  This valve’s separate seat and diaphragm design means if the seat washer becomes pitted you can simply replace the separate rubber seat washer without the need to also replace the diaphragm.  In fact, the seat washer is reversible, so unless it is really pitted  badly you can just flip it over and reuse it without replacing it at all!

One last note on Superior valves… they have really great fully illustrated repair and  troubleshooting guides available on the Superior Valve Website.  That is the kind of “after the sale care” that explains why many professional groundskeepers are loyal customers.

Superior 3200 on the test stand.
Superior 3200 on the test stand.

About Superior Controls

Superior Controls is one of the original automated irrigation companies, and one of the first manufacturers of electronic solenoid valves for irrigation use.  They have been producing high quality brass solenoid valves for many, many years.  They also manufacture Irrigation Controllers for operating the valves.  Superior Controls merged with Buckner Company (another of the pioneer sprinkler manufacturing companies that specializes in brass products) in 2000 and both were acquired by Storm Manufacturing Group in 2006.

Review: Superior Model 1000 Automatic Globe Valve

The Superior model 1000 series are solid brass electric solenoid valves, designed for turning on/off water, and primarily used for operation control of irrigation sprinkler zones.  These are extreme quality valves and are especially useful for high pressure situations due to their 200 PSI pressure rating (that is very high!)

Superior 1000 Series Irrigation Valve for Recycled Water
Superior 1000 Series Irrigation Valve for Recycled Water

The Superior 1000 series  is designed for use with recycled water.  and features an internal dirty water filter screen, manual on/off lever (because a bleed screw is not a good idea with recycled water) and chemical resistant components to withstand the aggressive chemicals used in the treatment of some recycled water.

Features:

  • 3/4″,  1″,  1 1/4″,  1 1/2″,  2″,  2 1/2″, and 3″ sizes
  • Flow range 5-320 GPM depending on valve size (see charts on Superior website.*)
  • Rated for 20 – 200 PSI
  • Solid Brass Cap and Body
  • Internal self-flushing filter to protect the tiny solenoid passages (ports) from clogging.
  • Manual on/off lever with internal bleed (no water drains from the valve to the ground during manual operation.)
  • No bleed screw (bleed screws are not permitted on most recycled water systems.)
  • Purple flow control handle to identify recycled water usage.
  • Solenoid can be removed from the valve without cutting the wires.  (Makes maintenance easier.)
  • Chemical resistant diaphragm for recycled water.
  • Slow closing.
  • Flow control.
  • Various solenoid voltages and wattages available, as well as latching solenoids.
  • Optional with British Standard Pipe Threads on inlet/outlet.
  • Separate rubber valve seat washer and diaphragm.

* All solenoid valves must be the proper size for the flow through the valve.  Always base the valve size on the expected flow.  Do not select valves based on the pipe size!  It is very common for the proper valve to need to be a different  size than the pipe.

Review:

This is a valve designed for use with recycled or reclaimed water systems.  The Superior 1000 series is built on the same basic valve parts used in the industry standard 950 valves, however the 1000 series has upgrades of materials and function to meet the needs of recycled water systems.  The basic 950 valve on which the Superior 1000 series is based has been reliably running irrigation systems for over 30 years.  Superior valves are reliable, rock solid products, and the 1000 series valve on the test stand performed beyond expectations.

Test Summary:  Excellent performance, the Superior 1000 valve performed well even when pushed far beyond the limits of the manufacturer’s specifications.

Test Results:  A 1″ size sample valve was operated on the test stand at 30 and 100 PSI incoming pressure and flows ranging from as low as 0.25 GPM.  Those are pressure/flow combinations that will cause most valves this size to fail to close.  The Superior 1000 valve shut off quickly at that extremely low flow, which is way below the valve’s rated minimum flow of 5 GPM.  In fact it performed better than the original workhorse 950 series valve that we also tested.   When the pressure and flow were increased to more typical levels the valve performed similarly well.  In other words the valve’s performance far exceeded the manufacturer’s own claims.

The manual on/off lever worked smoothly and easily without the use of tools or even much effort.  There is no external water bleed screw on this valve as that would violate regulations in many locations regarding the use of recycled water.  The purple handle on this valve is the universal color used to warn of recycled water being used.

A quick note on the “dirty water filter.”  Dirty water is a relative term, if there is visibly dirt in the water a separate filter should be used to remove it prior to reaching the valve.  Most dirty water valves are designed to handle a level of dirt greater than found in a typical drinking water supply, but not at the level that might be found in water pumped from a ditch or pond.  Organics in the water, like algae, are particularly hard on solenoid valves and should be filtered out using a filter designed for removing organics, such as a disc/disk type filter element.  See the filtration tutorial.

This valve has a separate rubber seat washer that is not part of the valve diaphragm.  With most valves the diaphragm and seat are a single rubber piece, thus if the seat becomes worn you must replace the entire diaphragm and they are not inexpensive.  The concentrated flow of water over the seat washer in valves creates a lot of wear on the seat washer and they typically fail long before the diaphragm does.  This valve’s separate seat/diaphragm design means if the seat washer becomes pitted you can simply replace just the rubber washer without the need to also replace the diaphragm.  In fact the seat washer is reversible, so unless it is really pitted  badly you can just flip it over and reuse it without replacing it at all!

One last note on Superior valves… they have really great fully illustrated repair and  troubleshooting guides on the Superior Valve Website.  That is the kind of after the sale care that is why so many professional groundskeepers are loyal customers.

Superior 1000 Valve on the Test Stand
Superior 1000 Valve on the Test Stand

About Superior Controls

Superior Controls is one of the original automated irrigation companies, and one of the first manufacturers of electronic solenoid valves for irrigation use.  They have been producing high quality brass solenoid valves for many, many years.  They also manufacture Irrigation Controllers for operating the valves.  Superior Controls merged with Buckner Company (another of the pioneer sprinkler manufacturing companies that specializes in brass products) in 2000 and both were acquired by Storm Manufacturing Group in 2006.

Review: Superior Model 3000 & 3100 Automatic Master Valves

The Superior model 3000 & 3100 series master valves are solid-brass, electric solenoid, MASTER VALVES.   These valves are designed to be extremely sturdy and to open and close reliably under extreme conditions.  While designed for the demanding task of being a master valve, these valves are often used for other purposes where a high quality, reliable valve is needed, especially in unique situations.  These master valves are available as normally-open (3100 series) or normally-closed (3000 series) configurations.

Superior 3100 Brass Master Valve - 1" size
Superior 3100 Brass Master Valve – 1″ size

Looking for a Master Valve?

It’s rather strange to start a review off by redirecting you to a different product, however if you are looking for a Superior brand master valve then the Superior 3200 or 3300 series should really be your first choice.  The reason why is that the 3200 & 3300 master valves open/close reliably at ANY flow.  It’s important for master valves to be able to shut down the system at any flow, no matter how high or low the flow may be.  However, the 3200 & 3300 also spit water out of the valve each time they open/close which is a problem in some situations.  In those situations the 3000 and 3100 valves reviewed here serve as the next best option.

Basic Background on Master Valves:

What is a Master Valve?  Master valves (aka: main valve, primary valve) are utilized on irrigation systems to turn on/off the entire water supply to the irrigation system.  They are often used as an automated emergency shut-off valve working in conjunction with a controller unit, and utilizing a flow and/or pressure sensors to detect problems.  When a problem is detected by the control unit the master valve is closed, shutting off the water to the entire irrigation system.  For larger irrigation systems the irrigation maybe divided into multiple sections with a separate master valve for each section.    A master valve is typically installed as close as possible to the irrigation water source.

In addition to being used as an emergency shut-off, master valves are being increasingly use as a secondary fail-safe, shut off valve,  to prevent wasted water if one of the zone valves should leak.  When used as a fail-safe the master valve is closed any time the irrigation system is off, thus shutting off and depressurizing the entire irrigation system.

Why not use a normal solenoid valve as a master valve?  While any automatic valve could be used as a master valve, in most situations where master valves are used a higher level of quality, as well as special features that help the valve to operate more  reliably, are desirable.

This is a rather brief description of master valves.  For more details and a list of the pros and cons of master valve use, see the article on Master Valves.

Normally-Closed valves open when the solenoid is energized.   Most automatic irrigation valves are normally-closed, like the 3000 series.   When power is applied to the solenoid, a normally closed valve will open.   The valve closes when the power to it’s solenoid is cut off.  Normally-closed is the industry standard, so if a valve description doesn’t say which type it is, it is usually safe to assume it is the normally-closed type.  An advantage of normally-closed valves used as master valves is that they close when there is no power, ie: a power failure, or if the wires to the valve are cut or broken.  The normally-closed valve will shut-off the water supply in any of those situations.

Normally open valves close when the solenoid is energized.  If there is no power applied to the solenoid a normally open valve will open and remain open until power is applied.  Sometimes you need a  valve that closes when power is supplied to it.  A normally-open valve fills that niche need.

Not just for use as a master valves.  These valves are suitable for use in almost any situation where a high reliability valve is needed.  While it is called a “master valve” the usage does not need  to be limited to master valves, they could be used as zone valves for a sprinkler system for example.  A common use for normally-open valves like the 3100 is in automating the flush cycle of filters where they are used to redirect the water flow into the flush channel during the flush cycle.

RW Option:

The 3000 & 3100 series valves also are available with a “RW” option for use on recycled water systems.  The RW option adds a purple cross handle on top of the valves to indicate the use of recycled water.

PRS Option:

The 3100 series valves are available with a optional “PRS” Pressure Regulating System (PRS.)  This add-on option turns the valves into pressure regulating valves that can reduce and maintain the downstream pressure at a set level.

A couple of warnings for those not familiar with how pressure regulating valves work:

  • A pressure regulator can’t increase the pressure above what is already present.  No pressure regulator can increase water pressure, you need a pump to do that.
  • As with all hydraulic-powered pressure regulators, the outlet pressure setting needs to be about 15 PSI lower than the input pressure in order for the regulating feature to work accurately.  If the pressure drop through the valve is less, then the downstream outlet pressure may vary up and down over a range of several PSI rather than stay steady at the set pressure.  Example: if the valve inlet pressure is 80 PSI then the valve outlet pressure has to be set to 65 PSI or less (80 – 15 = 65).

Features of the Superior 3000 & 3100:

  • 3/4″, 1″, 1 1/4″, 1 1/2″, 2″, 2 1/2″, and 3″ sizes
  • The 3000 series is a normally-closed design. This means the valve opens when power is supplied to the solenoid.
  • The 3100 series is a normally-open design.  This means the valve closes when power is supplied to the solenoid.
  • Flow rates 5-320 GPM depending on valve size (see charts on the Superior website.*)
  • Rated for 20 – 200 PSI operating pressure.
  • Solid Brass body and cap.
  • Solenoid can be removed from the valve without cutting the wires.  (Makes maintenance easier.)  However you do need to disconnect the copper tube from the top of the solenoid to remove it on these models.
  • Slow closing.
  • Flow control with a brass cross-style handle.
  • EPDM rubber for long life.
  • Various solenoid voltages and wattages available, as well as latching solenoids.
  • Optional with British Standard Pipe Threads on inlet/outlet.
  • Separate rubber valve seat washer and diaphragm.
  • Optional purple recycled water handle.
  • Optional Pressure regulation module (available on 3100 series only).

* All solenoid valves must be the proper size for the flow through the valve.  Always base the valve size on the expected flow.  Do not select valves based on the pipe size!  It is very common for the valve to need to be a different  size than the pipe.

Review:

The Superior Valve is one of those products that years of use has shown to be a reliable, rock solid product.  For this review the test valve was a 1″ size sample of the Superior 3100 normally-open valve.  The normally closed 3000 was not tested however it would be expected to perform similar.  The 3100 was installed on the test stand and operated at both 30 PSI and 110 PSI inlet pressures, as well as various flow rates.  The valve was tested with the manual flow control stem fully open and then tested again with it throttled to a partially closed position.

Test Summary: The Superior 3100 performed excellent in all tests.

Test Results:  The normally-open Superior valve opened as it should when the power to the solenoid was shut off (ie: this is a normally OPEN valve, it closes when power is applied to the solenoid.)  It opened quickly after the power was shut-off at all of the flow rates and pressures tested.

When the solenoid was energized the test valve closed as it should.  The manufacturer rates the minimum flow for this valve as 5 GPM, and the 1″ test valve closed at both 30 and 110 PSI with no need to throttle the flow control.  To see what would happen if the valve was pushed beyond it’s normal limits the valve was tested again at a flow of 1 GPM, far below the manufacturer’s recommended minimum flow.  The valve did not close at this low flow when the flow control was fully open, however with only a small amount of throttling of the flow control it did close.  This shows that the flow control feature on the 3100  allows this valve to be very adaptable to unexpected conditions where it is pushed beyond the norm.

The tested 3100 series valve is normally open so it does not have a bleed screw for manual operation (a bleed screw won’t work with a normal solenoid valve.)  To manually close the valve you simply turn the flow control handle on top of the valve until the flow is shut off, just like you would with a standard manual garden valve.

While not tested, the 3000 series normally-closed valve would be expected to perform similar to the 3100.  The 3000 series does have a manual bleed screw on it.  The optional RW and PRS features were not tested for this review.

The Superior 3000 & 3100 valves have a separate rubber seat washer that is not part of the valve diaphragm.  With most valve brands the seat washer and diaphragm are a single rubber piece, thus if the seat becomes worn you must replace the entire diaphragm/seat assembly.  The concentrated flow of water over the seat washer in a solenoid valve creates a lot of wear on the seat washer and the seat washers typically fail long before the diaphragm does.  This valve’s separate seat and diaphragm design means if the seat washer becomes pitted you can simply replace the separate rubber seat washer without the need to also replace the diaphragm.  In fact, the seat washer is reversible, so unless it is really pitted  badly you can just flip it over and reuse it without replacing it at all!

One last note on Superior valves… they have really great fully illustrated repair and  troubleshooting guides available on the Superior Valve Website.  That is the kind of “after the sale care” that explains why many professional groundskeepers are loyal customers.

Superior 3100 Valve on the Test Stand
Superior 3100 Valve on the Test Stand

About Superior Controls

Superior Controls is one of the original automated irrigation companies, and one of the first manufacturers of electronic solenoid valves for irrigation use.  They have been producing high quality brass solenoid valves for many, many years.  They also manufacture Irrigation Controllers for operating the valves.  Superior Controls merged with Buckner Company (another of the pioneer sprinkler manufacturing companies that specializes in brass products) in 2000 and both were acquired by Storm Manufacturing Group in 2006.

Review: Superior Model 950 & 950DW Automatic Globe Valves

The Superior model 950 series are solid brass electric solenoid valves, designed for turning on/off water, and primarily used for operation control of sprinkler or drip irrigation zones.  These are extremely high quality valves and are especially useful for high pressure situations due to their 200 PSI pressure rating (that is very high!)

 

Superior 950 Series Valve
Superior 950 Series Brass Valve

The valve also is available with a “DW” option that allows operation in dirty water situations.  (Dirty water is a relative term, if there is visibly dirt in the water a separate filter should be used to remove it.  Most dirty water valves are designed to handle a level of dirt greater than found in a typical drinking water supply, but not at the level that might be found in water pumped from a ditch or pond.  Organics in the water, like algae, are particularly hard on solenoid valves and should be filtered out using a filter designed for removing organics.  See the filtration tutorial.)

Superior 950-DW Series Brass Valve for Dirty Water
Superior 950-DW Series Brass Valve for Dirty Water

Features:

  • 3/4″, 1″, 1 1/4″, 1 1/2″, and 2″ sizes
  • Flow rates 5-140 GPM depending on valve size (see charts on Superior website.*)
  • Rated for 20 – 200 PSI
  • Solid Brass
  • Solenoid can be removed from the valve without cutting the wires.  (Makes maintenance easier.)
  • Slow closing.
  • Flow control.
  • Various solenoid voltages and wattages available, as well as latching solenoids.
  • Optional with British Standard Pipe Threads on inlet/outlet.
  • Separate rubber valve seat washer and diaphragm.

* All solenoid valves must be the proper size for the flow through the valve.  Always base the valve size on the expected flow.  Do not select valves based on the pipe size!  It is very common for the valve to need to be a different  size than the pipe.

950DW Dirty Water Model Adds:

  • Internal self-flushing filter to protect the tiny solenoid passages (ports) from clogging.

 

Review:

Some products are just going to be exactly what you expect.  The Superior Valve is one of those,  years of use has shown a reliable, rock solid product, and the valve on the test stand performed as expected.

Test Summary: The Superior 950 & 950DW performed excellent in all tests and performance far exceeded the manufacturer’s specifications.

Test Results:  A 1″ size sample 950 valve was operated on the test stand at 30 PSI incoming pressure and 1GPM flow with the flow control fully open.  A 950-DW valve was also tested at the same flow and pressure.  That is a pressure and flow combination that will cause most valves to fail to close.  The Superior valves both shut off at that extremely low flow, which is way below the rated minimum flow of 5 GPM listed by the manufacturer.   At that extreme low flow they took about twice as long as normal to close, which is to be expected.  When the pressure and flow were increased to more typical levels the valve closed at a speed typical of other valves.  In other words the valve’s performance far exceeded the manufacturer’s claims.

The only downside of this valve is that the manual on/off operation is activated by partially unscrewing an external bleed screw.  In the 100 PSI test the manual bleed screw jammed due to the high pressure on it and could not  be turned with fingers only.  However it easily turned when a screwdriver was used.  While the manual bleed screw works well, it does spit out water when it is opened (which is normal, it is how the manual on/off on all valves worked back in the early days of automatic irrigation systems.)   In most cases the spitting water is not at all a problem, it just falls harmlessly onto the ground.  However in some situations this water spitting may be annoying or a nuisance, for example a valve installed in a building or some other place where the water can’t just spit harmlessly onto the ground.   Note that the water only spits when the valve is manually operated, when used the normal way in automatic mode it does not spit water.  (If you want a very similar Superior valve that doesn’t spit water see the model 1000.)

This valve has a separate rubber seat washer that is not part of the valve diaphragm.  With most valves the diaphragm and seat are a single rubber piece, thus if the seat becomes worn you must replace the entire diaphragm and they are not inexpensive.  The concentrated flow of water over the seat washer in valves creates a lot of wear on the seat washer and they typically fail long before the diaphragm does.  This valve’s separate seat/diaphragm design means if the seat washer becomes pitted you can simply replace just the rubber washer without the need to also replace the diaphragm.  In fact the seat washer is reversible, so unless it is really pitted  badly you can just flip it over and reuse it without replacing it at all!

One last note on Superior valves… they have really great fully illustrated repair and  troubleshooting guides on the Superior Valve Website.  That is the kind of after the sale care that is why so many professional groundskeepers are loyal customers.

Superior 950 Series Valve on the Test Stand
Superior 950 Series Valve on the Test Stand

About Superior Controls

Superior Controls is one of the original automated irrigation companies, and one of the first manufacturers of electronic solenoid valves for irrigation use.  They have been producing high quality brass solenoid valves for many, many years.  They also manufacture Irrigation Controllers for operating the valves.  Superior Controls merged with Buckner Company (another of the pioneer sprinkler manufacturing companies that specializes in brass products) in 2000 and both were acquired by Storm Manufacturing Group in 2006.

 

Sprinkler Buddy Sprinkler Head Indicator Review

Sprinkler Buddy retail packaging.

The Sprinkler Buddy is a cone shaped plastic collar that fits around a sprinkler head to prevent grass from growing up next to it.  It serves two purposes, the first purpose is to keep grass from growing over the sprinkler head, thus make the sprinkler location obvious in the lawn.  When using heavy power mowers this allows you to mow over it while avoiding hitting and breaking the sprinkler heads.   The old standard method of keeping sprinklers visible is to trim around them each week with a line trimmer to remove the grass around them.  Obviously this is a lot of work that is not needed when the Sprinkler Buddy is installed around the sprinkler.   A second use for the Sprinkler Buddy is as a sprinkler head stabilization device.  According to the manufacturer, the wide cone shape helps keep sprinklers in an upright position.  Another advantage of the Sprinkler Buddy that isn’t heavily promoted by the company is that it keeps tall grass away from sprinklers with low pop-up heights, again reducing the need for frequent grass trimming around the sprinkler head.  The Sprinkler Buddy is made to fit on all pop-up sprinklers, both the smaller body spray types and the larger residential rotors (up to 2.5″ diameter, and maybe a bit larger.)  It is a product of RyRo, Inc. of Florida, USA.

 

Newly installed sprinkler buddy around a sprinkler head.

Installation:

The Sprinkler Buddy is made of a semi-rigid, UV protected, plastic material that is soft enough to cut with a pair of scissors, but rigid enough to maintain it’s shape.  To install you start by cutting away the grass from around the sprinkler in an area just large enough to fit the Sprinkler Buddy into.  Next, the sprinkler head is unscrewed from the pipe (the proper name for this pipe is a “riser”) to remove it.  Using scissors, simply cut slits in the Sprinkler Buddy base that are large enough to allow your sprinkler to slide into the bottom of the Sprinkler Buddy.  In a few situations you may also need to trim the edges of the Sprinkler Buddy to custom fit it to unique situations, for example if the sprinkler is very close to a sidewalk or wall.   Finally the Sprinkler Buddy is pushed onto the sprinkler head, and the head is screwed back onto the pipe.  A set of complete installation instructions are on the Sprinkler Buddy Website.

Test Results:

I installed two Sprinkler Buddies into a professionally maintained  condominium complex in Portland, Oregon during the summer of 2011.  The Sprinkler Buddies were installed per instructions over existing brass sprinklers, one was a flush mounted no-pop-up spray head, the other was a low pop-up with gravity piston retraction.  (I need to insert a disclaimer and warning here.  Both these sprinklers are older types, they were state of the art in the ’50s and ’60s, but are still found on a lot of older sprinkler systems.  While still available for sale in stores, these heads are an antiquated design that are high maintenance and water wasters.  As a professional my first recommendation for these sprinklers would have to be that they be replaced with new plastic-body pop-up type sprinklers with at least a 4″ rise height.  See my recommendations and reviews of sprinkler heads.)

The Sprinkler Buddies immediately performed as expected, they held back the grass that had previously interfered with the sprinkler’s spray patterns, allowing for better water coverage.  The maintenance caretaker  also reported that he no longer had need to trim the grass  back around those heads as he does with all the other heads on the property.  He did note that periodically some bermuda grass would grow up between the sprinkler body and the sprinkler buddy.  This appeared to be an infrequent issue that might require a check of the sprinkler once or twice a year in order to remove any grass growing inside the Sprinkler Buddy.

Sprinkler Buddy after sitting through winter, before removing collected debris and mowing lawn.

The Sprinkler Buddies were left in place for the winter and rechecked in the spring and again in the summer of 2012.  Upon examination in spring we found that the Sprinkler Buddies had each filled with leaves and pine needles over the winter.  The leaves and needles were easily swept out using an old broom, and an examination showed no damage from frost or snow to the Sprinkler Buddies.  Further, no grass was growing inside either of them and no grass trimming was needed around them before restarting the sprinklers.  By way of contrast, we could not even locate the other sprinklers in the lawn that did not have the Sprinkler Buddies.  Despite having the grass trimmed well away from them in the fall, these sprinklers were now completely covered with grass that had grown during late fall and early spring while the sprinklers were shut down for the rainy season.  We had to turn on the sprinkler system to locate the other sprinklers and then mark their locations so the grass could be trimmed away from them.

Conclusion:

The Sprinkler Buddy worked as promised.  It clearly marked the sprinkler locations making them very visible, and it looked attractive if you are into that edged sprinkler look.  While not my thing, I have met a lot of people who love the look of a clean cut edge around their sprinkler heads, and for them the Sprinkler Buddy will be something they love.  It will create a near perfect edge of uniform size around each sprinkler head.   In my tests the Sprinkler Buddy was also very effective at reducing maintenance at the sprinklers where we installed it, saving about a minute a week in grass trimming effort for each sprinkler.  It was also a huge labor saver at the spring season sprinkler system start-up, saving about 10 minutes of time per sprinkler (for sprinklers without the Sprinkler Buddies the caretaker had to turn on each valve circuit, located and flag the sprinklers, then return later with the string trimmer to trim away grass from them.)  The caretaker was able to mow over the Sprinkler Buddies with his rotary mower without damaging them.

On the minus side the Sprinkler Buddies were a bit harder to install than I expected, mostly because I needed to remove the sprinkler heads and they were rusted in place.  Some people have stated that they successfully have installed the Sprinkler Buddies without removing the sprinklers.  I did try this and I was not successful at installing the Sprinkler Buddy to my rather high quality standards (ie; I was able to get it on but I didn’t like the way it looked when finished and it wasn’t nearly as stable.)

Sprinkler Buddy post winter, after removing debris and mowing lawn.

 Caveat:

The Sprinkler Buddy is made to cure a problem that you really shouldn’t have.  (Unless you are one of those people I mentioned who like the look of a neat cut-out area around each sprinkler head, or you just want to be able to see all your sprinklers all the time.)  A properly designed sprinkler system should be able to take a direct strike on a sprinkler head by a heavy mower without any damage.  Properly selected sprinkler heads should also utilize pop-up risers that allow the nozzle to rise well above the grass level so that grass does not interfere with the water spray pattern.  Almost all sprinkler bodies now are constructed of high-impact plastic, engineered in a way that, when properly installed, can take the shock of being hit by a large rider mower wheel without damage.  However for this to occur the sprinkler must be installed on the proper type of riser that allows them to both absorb the shock and stay in an upright position.   This website has suggestions for identifying both quality sprinkler heads and the proper risers to use.  Unfortunately switching over a older sprinkler system to utilize new sprinkler heads and risers can be time consuming and expensive.  The Sprinkler Buddy is a good temporary fix for these older systems that will reduce maintenance time and costs until such time as a proper repair may be made.  A wise approach would be to use the maintenance cost savings created by the Sprinkler Buddy,  and save back that money to fund a future replacement of the sprinkler heads and risers.

Link to the Sprinkler Buddy Website