Superior 3000/3100 Normally Open & Normally Closed 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.


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.