Frequently Asked Questions about Wire Tracing in Irrigation Systems

As an owner of a small farm, orchard, nursery, garden centre, commercial landscape, or golf course, you understand the importance of efficient irrigation systems in your industry. To help you optimize your irrigation system and troubleshoot any issues, wire tracing technology has emerged as a valuable tool. Let's explore some common questions about wire tracing and how it can benefit your specific irrigation needs.


Below are 18 common questions customers frequently ask our team about wire tracing.

1. What does sprinkler wire do? Sprinkler wire plays a crucial role in your irrigation system by connecting the controllers to the valves. It ensures that each valve opens at the right time. This wire is designed to be buried underground, offering superior protection and durability. It is important to use the right wire for your irrigation system, even if the gauge is similar to other types of wire.

2. Does sprinkler wire have to be buried? It doesn't necessarily HAVE to be.  There would be no harm to the wire not being buried, but there is a greater chance of damage when not buried.  If exposed to UV from the sun, the jacket on the outside of the wire can become brittle and hard to work with.  In greenhouses and some garden centres it can be common to not bury wire and instead, just have it secured to the pipe.

3. How does sprinkler wire get damaged? While burying the wiring minimizes the risk of damage, there are still factors that can cause wire damage over time. Digging near the wires during maintenance or landscaping projects poses a potential risk. Harsh winter conditions can also impact irrigation systems. Tree roots growing nearby can sometimes cause harm to the wire. Additionally, the age of the wiring itself can lead to brittleness or exposure, ultimately leading to system failures.

4. What is wire tracing in irrigation systems? Wire tracing is a revolutionary technology that enables you to detect buried wires in your irrigation system. It helps you locate missing valves or breaks in the wire without the need for extensive digging or guesswork. By utilizing an electronic tool, typically a handheld device, wire tracing provides audio tones and a visual display to guide you along the path of the wire. 

5. How can you include wire tracing in the regular maintenance of your irrigation system? Wire tracing offers valuable insights into the condition of your irrigation system during routine maintenance. By employing this technology, you can ensure that your wires are well-connected, properly routed, and functioning optimally. It also helps identify any early signs of wire failure through resistance measurements. Including wire tracing in your annual maintenance checklist is highly recommended for a well-maintained and efficient irrigation system.

6. How do you choose the right wire-tracing device for your needs? Investing in a wire tracing device is a smart decision for any business dealing with an irrigation system. These devices are affordable and come in professional-grade options with additional features and durable storage cases. Look for a device that actively traces wires, charging specific lines with electricity for easy detection. Ensure that the device is capable of operating underground and consider the range that suits your needs. The experts at Vanden Bussche Irrigation can assist you in finding the perfect unit for your requirements.

7. Why is wire tracing important in modern agriculture? For owners of small farms, nurseries, and golf courses, wire tracing is an invaluable troubleshooting tool. It helps identify problems in an existing irrigation system that isn't functioning correctly. With wire tracing, you can minimize downtime, reduce maintenance costs, and avoid potential damage caused by blind digging or guesswork. While wire tracing may not be as commonly used on larger farms or larger nurseries, it offers significant benefits for smaller-scale operations.

8. How does wire tracing contribute to irrigation system optimization? Wire tracing may not directly improve an irrigation system, but it becomes invaluable when issues arise. By accurately locating problem areas, wire tracing allows for targeted repairs and reduces the time spent on maintenance. This efficiency translates into cost savings and minimizes system downtime, ensuring optimal irrigation system performance.

9. Can wire tracing help reduce maintenance and repair costs? Absolutely! Wire tracing significantly reduces the time spent troubleshooting an ineffective irrigation system. Instead of digging random holes and potentially damaging the wiring, wire tracing allows you to work smarter, not harder. By pinpointing the exact location of issues, you can address them promptly and efficiently, thereby reducing overall maintenance and repair costs.

10. How deep are irrigation pipes buried? Typically, lines 2 inches or smaller are buried between 8-12".  Pipes large than 2" can be buried anywhere from 12"-48" below the surface.  The deeper you go, the more protection from damage caused by equipment as well as damage from freezing temperatures if water is in the pipe.  There are actually some models of wire tracers that not only show you the wire path but also tell you how deep the wire is buried as well.  It's a great feature on commercial-grade tracers!

11. Can wire tracing help find ground faults? Wire tracing can definitely detect where a ground fault is.  It can be hard to find if the wire only has a small nick in it.  But if the wire has been cut somehow, it is easy to identify where that fault is. To effectively manage your system and interpret the readings provided by the devices, it is recommended to consult professional irrigation technicians who can assist you in understanding the nuances of ground faults and making informed decisions.

12. Do you need wire tracing if you have a blueprint for your irrigation system? While having a blueprint of your irrigation system is helpful for general reference, it may not pinpoint specific problems. Over time, your system may shift within the ground, rendering the blueprint less accurate. This is where wire locator devices shine. Advanced wire locators enable you to find faulty solenoids without the need to dig up the entire system. Professional irrigation technicians can assist you in mapping out your system accurately and swiftly to identify and resolve issues.

13. Do you have to lay specific wire for wire tracing? Unlike utility companies that utilize specific wires laid alongside pipes for easy identification through wire tracing, irrigation systems utilize existing wires. Wire tracing devices for irrigation systems operate using electronic signals to detect buried wires accurately. No specific wiring is required.

14. What are the most common problems with irrigation systems? Irrigation systems can encounter various issues due to their complex nature.
Here are two common problems:

  • Bad wire splices: This is one of the most common problems where the wire is connected to valves or other devices in the ground.  Many times, the wire connection (splice) might have worked at the time of installation.  Unfortunately, if it is not installed correctly, years down the road the connection will corrode until it just stops working completely.  Anywhere the wire has a connection or splice is worth looking at when troubleshooting. About 90% of wiring issues stem from having a less-than-ideal connection. 
  • Cut wires: Damage to the common wire affects multiple valves along its path, while damage to dedicated wires can impact specific areas. Testing the wires with a multimeter can help determine if they are receiving proper electrical resistance and whether the issue lies with the wiring or the valve.

15. Does irrigation wiring impact the environment? Sprinkler wiring itself does not have a direct impact on the environment, as it doesn't leak toxic metals into the soil. Wire tracing technology, on the other hand, is environmentally friendly as it eliminates the need for random wire digging, minimizing disturbances to the ecosystem. However, poorly designed, or malfunctioning irrigation systems can have negative environmental impacts. At Vanden Bussche Irrigation, we prioritize minimizing environmental impact through water-saving designs and efficient resource usage. Regularly checking each zone and implementing smart controls can further reduce your environmental footprint.

16. When should you consider replacing your irrigation system instead of making repairs? If you find yourself frequently repairing your irrigation system or spending significant time and effort on wire tracing and maintenance, it may be time to evaluate the effectiveness of your current system. A well-designed irrigation system with good maintenance should last around 20 years. As irrigation technology continually evolves to meet landscaping and agricultural challenges, upgrading to a modern system that suits your specific needs, climate, and water resources might be a more efficient and cost-effective choice. Our experts can guide you in selecting the right system for your landscape and provide valuable insights on maximizing its benefits.

17. How can you learn more about modern technology in irrigation? At Vanden Bussche Irrigation, we offer a comprehensive learning centre dedicated to irrigation methods and technology. Our team organizes demos and events showcasing best practices in irrigation for landscaping and agriculture. Through our learning centre, we extensively test new technologies to gain familiarity before offering them to our clients. Contact us to explore our learning resources and stay updated on the latest advancements in irrigation. You can also learn more on our Online Training Portal about electrical and wire tracing. 

18. Why hire a professional irrigation technician to assist with wire tracing equipment? While wire tracing may sound simple in theory, it can be a complex practice, especially when dealing with intricate irrigation wiring. Even with a blueprint, following the wiring path accurately can be challenging. Our certified professionals at Vanden Bussche Irrigation possess years of experience and expertise in wire tracing. We bring our dedication and knowledge to every customer interaction. By hiring our technicians, you can access their guidance in purchasing the right equipment for year-round irrigation system maintenance. We are always here to answer your questions and provide reliable support.

At Vanden Bussche Irrigation, we take immense pride in our domain expertise and extensive experience in irrigation, acquired since 1954. Our commitment to excellence enables us to serve owners of small farms, orchards, nurseries, garden centres, residential contractors, commercial landscapes, and golf courses. Contact us today to learn more about our applications and products tailored to suit the unique needs of your enterprise in the fields of golf course landscaping, commercial landscaping, and farming and agriculture.