The Best Sprinkler Valves of 2022

Replacing a worn sprinkler valve isn’t complicated. Find out what different valves do and how to choose one that best suits your sprinkler system.

By Glenda Taylor | Published Feb 27, 2022 8:12 PM

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The Best Sprinkle Valves

Photo: amazon.com

Despite the variety of options available, sprinkler valves serve one very simple purpose: They regulate water flow. Some turn water on and off, while others restrict the amount of water that flows through a sprinkler system. The way they accomplish this—and the size of the system they serve—varies, but they all perform the same primary task.

When putting in a new sprinkler system, valves are installed based on the brand of the system, and the installer will select the types and sizes suitable for different watering zones. Some sprinkler systems require dozens of valves to control water to multiple zones in a yard, while others have only a single on/off valve. Ahead, learn what to consider when selecting the best sprinkler valves for a specific sprinkler system, and find out why the following models are all well suited for use in home systems.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Orbit 57632 3/4 Anti-Siphon Valve
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: DIG 1/2 in. In-Line Shut-Off Valve
  3. BEST INLINE VALVE: Rain Bird 3/4 in. FPT In-Line Valve
  4. BEST VALVE MANIFOLD: Orbit 57253 3-Valve Heavy Duty Manifold
  5. BEST EASY-ACCESS VALVE: Orbit Sprinkler System Jar Top Valve
  6. BEST BALL VALVE: Apollo 3/4 in. Brass PEX Barb Ball Valve with Drain
  7. BEST BATTERY-OPERATED: Orbit Battery Operated Sprinkler Timer with Valve
  8. BEST GLOBE VALVE: Hunter Sprinkler PGV101G Globe Valve
The Best Sprinkler Valves

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Sprinkler Valves

Residential sprinkler systems are straightforward setups that need four main components to operate: a source of water, piping, sprinkler valves, and sprinkler heads. Many systems, but not all, also feature a main control unit with a programmable timer that acts as the system’s brains and communicates with the valves (via an irrigation wire) to disperse water to different areas of the yard. The two main types of sprinkler valves are inline and anti-siphon. Different options are available within those two types, but most valves are inline valves.

  • Inline: Most inline valves are located below ground in a valve box that protects them from dirt and offers a bit of insulation from cold weather. These valves are installed at the same level as the buried sprinkler water lines, hence their “inline” designation. Inline valves do not prevent the flow of water backward, so the sprinkler system will also need a separate backflow preventer to protect the home’s drinking water.
  • Anti-siphon: While inline valves are usually buried, anti-siphon valves, also called backflow preventer valves, are installed above ground. They serve to prevent the sprinkler system’s potentially contaminated water from flowing backward into the home’s drinking water supply. The best anti-siphon irrigation valve is easy to access and made from high-quality materials.

The best type of valve for a specific sprinkler system will depend on local codes. Some communities require anti-siphon valves, which are easy to test because they’re located above ground, while others permit inline valves and separate backflow preventers.

Automatic Control Sprinkler Valves

Unless a sprinkler system or irrigation system is entirely manual—meaning the user turns it on and off by hand—the valves in the system will be automatic, usually via a central control unit. During installation, irrigation wires are run in the same trenches as the pipes: one wire from the control unit to each of the valves. The low level of electricity in the wires (22 to 28 volts) is sufficient to turn the valves on and off.

Alternatively, valves may be battery operated, in which case they often serve as simple timers that can be programmed to run a limited number of watering zones. These are often inline valves that attach to buried lines but are still accessible within a protective box.

Gate Valves

A gate valve is a barrier that prevents or allows water flow. These devices have been around for decades, and the best manual example is the knob on an outdoor faucet, called a sillcock. Turn the knob clockwise and the motion lowers a gate within the faucet that cuts off the water flow. Turn the knob counterclockwise, the internal gate lifts, and the water flows freely. Large gate valves can be found in municipal or agricultural water systems where they serve the same purpose of turning on or off the water flow.

Ball Sprinkler Valves

A ball sprinkler valve is a manual valve used to turn the water on and off to separate parts of an irrigation or sprinkler system. A ball valve is an inline sprinkler control valve with a straight handle that controls a ball within the valve that either permits water flow or blocks it. The handle moves only 90 degrees: when the handle is aligned in the direction of the pipe, the water is on; when the handle is turned 90 degrees perpendicular to the pipe, the water is off.

Check Valves

Check valves are simple inline valves that prevent water backflow. Like anti-siphon valves, they keep contaminated water from the sprinkler system from seeping backward into the home’s water supply. They’re frequently used on pipes that supply water to pumps, pools, and sometimes sprinkler systems. Depending on local codes, however, a simple check valve may not be considered adequate to protect the drinking water in the home. In some communities, a designated anti-siphon valve may also be necessary.

Globe, Angle, and Indexing Valves

Less common types of valves may also be found in some sprinkler systems.

  • Globe valve: Similar to a gate valve, a globe valve has a round knob that regulates water flow. The difference is that a globe valve is better suited to adjusting water pressure, while a gate valve can only stop or start water flow, not regulate it. Globe valves can be manual or run on electricity.
  • Angle valve: Known as an angle valve due to connecting pipes at a 90-degree angle, this type of valve is most commonly found inside a home where water supply lines connect at various angles. It is most often a manual valve.
  • Indexing valve: A component in manual sprinkler systems, indexing valves operate not on electricity but instead on water pressure. As water flows through the valve, an internal wheel (imagine a water wheel) gradually turns, opening the flow to different watering zones while blocking flow to others.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Sprinkler Valve

If you’re shopping for the best sprinkler valve, it will usually be to replace one that’s broken or stopped working effectively. The best course of action is to remove the valve in question and take it to a plumbing supply store to get a suitable replacement. The best sprinkler valves will vary from system to system based on type, the amount of water flow, and pipe size.

Size

Valves are sized to fit specific pipe diameters. When replacing a ¾-inch valve, you’ll need to purchase another ¾-inch valve. The most common size valves in residential sprinkler systems are ¾-inch and 1-inch, and they fit ¾-inch and 1-inch pipes, respectively.

Water Flow

The amount of water that flows through the piping is measured in gallons per minute (GPM) or gallons per hour (GPH), which indicates how much water is available. Water flow depends mainly on pipe diameter. Pipes measuring ¾ inch in diameter will typically support approximately up to 8 GPM of water flow, depending on the quality of the valve. For larger sprinkler systems with flow rates greater than 12 GPM, 1-inch pipes and valves are more common.

Maximum Pressure

Water flow and water pressure are related yet slightly different. The force of the water per square inch (psi) determines the type of sprinklers used. During installation, the installer will determine the optimal amount of water pressure for a specific zone in the yard. Powerful rotor-type sprinklers require more water pressure to operate than do bubblers or drip-type nozzles that are commonly found in flower beds.

Average outdoor water pressures range from 40 to 60 psi, but some homes have less or more pressure. When selecting valves, water flow is more critical than water pressure. When choosing individual sprinklers, water pressure comes into play.

Connection and Compatibility

The main rule when choosing sprinkler valves is to select a valve with the same type of connections as the previous valve. For example, suppose the existing valve had the typical configuration of both a female-threaded inlet and a female-threaded outlet. In that case, choose a new valve with similar threaded connections. If that’s not possible due to a limited selection of valves, adapters are usually available to make the connections fit.

Fortunately, most sprinkler valves are universal, meaning one valve brand will replace another brand, as long as the size and other factors match.

Automatic or Manual

Most installed sprinkler systems feature automatic valves that work with the central control unit. However, manual systems are still in use and are well suited to aboveground misting and drip irrigation systems that the gardener can turn on and off by hand as desired. Manual valves are not suitable for an automatic system and vice versa.

Automatic valves feature a solenoid: a coiled wire component that acts as an electromagnet to turn the valves on and off. Automatic valves must connect to a buried irrigation wire or be battery operated.

Durability

Valves are available in a variety of materials. Copper, galvanized metal, and stainless steel are among the most durable options, but they’re also pricier. An inexpensive plastic shut-off valve will fit the bill for those who want to install a simple drip system. Just be prepared to replace plastic valves every 2 or 3 years.

Our Top Picks

Watering needs vary, and sprinkler systems vary, so it’s only natural that sprinkler valves differ as well. The best sprinkler valve for one watering system may be unsuitable for another. The following sprinkler valves were selected based on how well they fulfill particular water-regulating needs.

Best Overall

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: Orbit 57632 3_4 Anti-Siphon Valve, Green
Photo: amazon.com

For sprinkler systems where a designated backflow preventer is required, consider the Orbit Anti-Siphon Valve that comes in a muted green color to blend in with landscape plants. The valve features a ¾-inch female threaded inlet connection and a ¾-inch outlet connection. The Orbit valve allows water to flow freely from the house to the sprinkler system but prevents water from flowing backward from the system into the house.

The valve installs above the ground and comes with the ability to bleed (drain) the lines for winterizing. Users can adjust the pressure of the valve to suit the type of sprinkler heads being used.

Product Specs

  • Type: Anti-siphon
  • Size: ¾-inch
  • Flow rate: Up to 8 GPM

Pros

  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Prevents backflow
  • Adjustable water pressure
  • Compatible with most systems

Cons

  • Installation may be too complex for DIYer

Get the Orbit Anti-Siphon Valve on Amazon, at Ace Hardware, or at The Home Depot.

Best Bang For The Buck

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: DIG 1:2 in. In-Line Shut-Off Valve
Photo: homedepot.com

Regulating water flow in an aboveground sprinkler or drip-type watering system needn’t cost a lot. The DIG In-Line Shut-Off Valve connects to ½-inch poly tubing. Both ends of the valve feature push-type barbed connections that simply push into the tubing to form a leak-free seal. This inline shut-off valve is designed for aboveground use and features high-quality UV-resistant PVC.

To operate the DIG valve, simply turn the handle 90 degrees. When the handle lines up with the tubing, the water is on; turning the handle perpendicular to the tubing shuts the water off. The DIG valve can also be used to regulate water pressure by turning just a bit between the on and off positions.

Product Specs

  • Type: Inline
  • Size: ½ inch
  • Flow rate: 0 to 2 GPM

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to operate
  • Can regulate water flow

Cons

  • Not suitable for high-pressure systems

Get the DIG In-Line Shut-Off Valve at The Home Depot or Cheap Sprinklers.

Best Inline Valve

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: Rain Bird 3/4 in. FPT In-Line Valve
Photo: homedepot.com

Those looking for a high-quality replacement valve for an inline connection may be quite pleased with the Rain Bird In-Line Valve. It’s made to take the place of an existing buried inline valve that connects to ¾-inch piping.

The Rain Bird valve is a residential and light commercial-grade valve made to install at the same level as underground sprinkler system piping. It’s compatible with all types of system controllers via existing irrigation wiring. The Rain Bird valve may also be adjusted manually to bleed the irrigation lines if desired to winterize the system. The valve features both female inlet and outlet connections, and it comes with a unique reverse-flow feature that closes the valve to prevent flooding in the event of a leak.

Product Specs

  • Type: Inline
  • Size: ¾-inch
  • Flow rate: 0 to 8 GPM

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Universal design (works with all sprinkler systems)
  • Flood-preventive feature

Cons

  • Not for use above ground (not UV resistant)

Get the Rain Bird 3/4-Inch FTP In-Line Valve at The Home Depot, on Amazon, or at Lowe’s.

Best Valve Manifold

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: Orbit 57253 3-Valve Heavy Duty Manifold
Photo: amazon.com

Manifolds are used extensively in water supply situations, such as home water distribution centers, and they can be just as beneficial in routing water to various sprinkler zones. The Orbit 3-Valve Manifold lets users connect three different sprinkling system zones in a single buried sprinkler valve box.

The manifold features female-threaded inlets and outlets and comes with screw-on couplings for either ¾-inch or 1-inch pipes (adapters included). Once the couplings are attached to the existing lines via PVC glue, twisting the screw-on collars to securely attach the pipes is a simple matter. This three-valve Orbit manifold reduces wiring worries, as a single existing irrigation wire is sufficient for controlling all three valves.

Product Specs

  • Type: Inline
  • Size: Adaptable (¾-inch or 1-inch)
  • Flow rate: Up to 8 GPM for ¾-inch option; up to 15 GPM for 1-inch option

Pros

  • Connects three pipes in one valve box
  • High-quality construction
  • Only 1 irrigation wire needed
  • Compatible with most sprinkler systems

Cons

  • Slightly pricey

Get the Orbit 3-Valve Heavy-Duty Manifold on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Lowe’s.

Best Easy-Access Valve

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: Orbit Sprinkler System Jar Top Valve
Photo: amazon.com

Should debris become lodged in a sprinkler valve, flushing out the valve with water will often remedy the problem. With some valves, the user must use a wrench or other tools to disassemble the valve for flushing. Not so with the Orbit Jar Top Sprinkler Valve, which has a top that twists off by hand, making it simple to access the inside of the valve.

The Jar Top valve attaches to 1-inch sprinkler system pipes, connects to an existing irrigation wire, and is compatible with most system controllers. It features heavy-duty construction and stainless steel interior components for durability. The Orbit Jar Top Valve has female threaded connections on both the inlet and the outlet. It also features an optional manual bleeding screw for draining and winterizing the lines.

Product Specs

  • Type: Inline
  • Size: 1-inch
  • Flow rate: Up to 15 GPM

Pros

  • Screw-off jar top for easy access
  • Compatible with most sprinkler systems
  • 1-inch connections

Cons

  • Channel lock pliers may be required to remove the jar lid

Get the Orbit Sprinkler Jar Top Valve on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Ball Valve

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: Rain Bird 3/4 in. FPT In-Line Valve
Photo: homedepot.com

Simple in style and purpose, the Apollo Brass PEX Barb Ball Valve offers a way to turn the water supply off and on manually. This makes it handy to use where there’s no existing irrigation wire, and it’s just as suitable for use on an outdoor spigot as it is on buried sprinkler lines. The Apollo valve also comes with a manual drain screw for bleeding the system’s lines, if desired.

The valve features a handle that aligns with the direction of the connecting pipes when the water flow is on and perpendicular to the pipes when the water is turned off, so users know the status of the water at a glance. By turning the handle just slightly, the valve can be used to increase or reduce water flow. The Apollo valve’s inlet and outlet connections fit ¾-inch PEX tubing (but push-type PEX connectors are not included).

Product Specs

  • Type: Inline
  • Size: ¾-inch
  • Flow rate: Up to 8 GPM

Pros

  • Installs above or below ground
  • Simple manual handle
  • Screw for bleeding lines

Cons

  • Does not connect to a main controller

Get the Apollo 3/4 in. Brass PEX Barb Ball Valve at The Home Depot.

Best Battery-Operated

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: Orbit Battery Operated Sprinkler Timer with Valve
Photo: amazon.com

When there’s no existing irrigation wire to connect a valve to a central control unit, the Orbit Battery Operated Valve steps up. This valve, which operates on three AAA rechargeable batteries (not included), serves as its own control unit, making it well suited to replace manual valves or install a sprinkler system with no access to electricity. It’s designed for inline, underground installation.

This Orbit valve features a digital LED readout and can regulate up to four separate sprinkler zones. Users can choose from eight preset start times, and the valve can be programmed to water at any time for up to 4 hours. Entire watering programs can be preset for up to 30 days. The timer detaches from the housing for easy programming. The valve features two threaded female outlets and is designed for a 1-inch pipe.

Product Specs

  • Type: Inline
  • Size: 1-inch
  • Flow rate: Up to 15 GPM

Pros

  • No irrigation wire needed
  • Regulates up to 4 zones
  • Removable timer for easy programming

Cons

  • Batteries will require recharging

Get the Orbit Battery Operated Sprinkler Timer with Valve on Amazon or at Ace Hardware.

Best Globe Valve

The Best Sprinkler Valves Option: Hunter Sprinkler PGV101G Globe Valve with Flow
Photo: amazon.com

Those who may want to decrease the water flow to a specific zone should consider the Hunter Sprinkler Globe Valve. It’s designed to damper down water flow for lighter-usage sprinkler heads, such as bubblers or misters. This inline sprinkler valve connects to most sprinkler systems via an existing irrigation wire.

The valve is built to last, made from high-grade materials, and it comes with one-screw debris removal that makes it easy to flush. The Hunter valve is designed to connect to buried sprinkler system lines in a sprinkler valve box. It attaches to a 1-inch pipe via two female-threaded connections—both inlet and outlet.

Product Specs

  • Type: Inline
  • Size: 1-inch
  • Flow rate: Up to 15 GPM

Pros

  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Compatible with most sprinkler systems
  • Easy-flush option

Cons

  • Not made for aboveground use

Get the Hunter Globe Valve with Flow Regulator on Amazon, The Home Depot, or at Lowe’s.

Our Verdict

While any of the sprinkler valves in our lineup would be an asset to various sprinkler systems, a couple are standouts. The best overall pick—the Orbit Anti-Siphon Valve—is a quality choice for the vital job of protecting the home’s drinking water by preventing water from the sprinkler system from flowing into the home’s water supply pipes. Those on a budget may opt for the DIG In-Line Shut-Off Valve, which may be just the ticket for manually operating small drip- or mist-type systems.

How We Chose the Best Sprinkler Valves

In selecting the sprinkler valves for this lineup, we extensively researched dozens of valves. We weighed their pros and cons and analyzed what type of sprinkler system they were best suited for.

Brand reputation was also a consideration, with Orbit and Rain Bird among the well-known manufacturers with national distribution. However, we didn’t disregard smaller brands, as quality new manufacturers are always worth a look.

We selected models suitable for a range of uses—both for large sprinkler systems with multiple zones and small, aboveground drip and misting systems to offer the broadest range of valves. We also looked at ease of installation and whether the valves would adapt to existing systems.

FAQs

Sprinkler systems are a boon for helping water the lawn and landscape uniformly, but sprinkler valves don’t last forever. When one goes on the fritz, little or no water may come out of the sprinkler heads, or water may gush from a cracked valve. Some questions are likely for those seeking to replace worn or damaged valves.

Q. How does a sprinkler valve work?

A sprinkler valve regulates the flow of water. Some valves communicate via a buried irrigation wire with a central control unit that turns them on and off according to a program, while others are battery operated. Some are entirely manual, and still others utilize the force of water moving through the valve to control water flow.

Q. What are the symptoms of a bad sprinkler valve?

When a valve goes bad, sprinkler heads may emit weak streams of water—or no water at all. Dampness or sponginess may be noticeable around a sprinkler valve box if the valve is broken and leaking.

Q. How much does it cost to replace a sprinkler valve?

Depending on the type, a single replacement valve costs between about $4 and $65, while the best sprinkler manifold can cost up to $100 or more. While some systems use valves that are fairly simple for a DIYer to install, professional installation will add to the total cost.

Q. How often do sprinkler valves need to be replaced?

In general, the best irrigation valves last 5 to 10 years before needing replacement.

Q. How do you test a sprinkler valve?

If the sprinkler heads are not watering as they should be, open the valve box and look for flooding. If the valve is not leaking and is connected to an irrigation wire, use a voltmeter to test the voltage at both the valve and the central control unit. The solenoid on most sprinkler valves (the component that connects to the irrigation wire) should test between 24 and 28 volts.

Q. Does each sprinkler zone have its own valve?

Yes, each watering zone needs a separate valve.

Q. What causes a sprinkler valve to stay open?

Debris, such as sand or dirt, can get stuck in a valve and keep it from closing.

Q. Do sprinkler valves wear out?

Eventually, yes, but most will last 5 to 10 years, depending on quality.