Superior 3200/3300 Normally Open & Normally Closed 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.


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.