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Are Hose Timers Safe?

We’re going to invest in a hose timer to water different zones of our garden, but how do they work and are they safe?

Hose timers are safe to use for lawn and garden irrigation, provided you install a water hammer arrestor if you hear a hammering sound once the hose timer is fitted. Most hose timers are guaranteed for two years, so if they’re attached correctly you should get a few seasons of safe use from them.

Let’s dive down into the subject of hose timers in more detail, and discover how to use them safely, how to set them up, and what type of hoses you can use them with…

How Does a Hose Water Timer Work?

A hose water timer is a pretty simple gadget. You attach it between the hose pipe and the faucet, and it then controls the flow from the mains to the hose. Switch the faucet on, then set the dial on the timer, which will then release the water by means of a simple valve for the desired time and duration. 

There are two main types of hose water timers: mechanical and automatic. The mechanical has a simple dial that allows you to set (with varying degrees of accuracy) the time and duration of watering. This is a cheap and easy approach, and these timers usually run on batteries.

Digital or electronic ones are more sophisticated, and once programmed, will simply water your yard for you at the same time every day. However, you do need a safe power source or reliable WiFi or Bluetooth to run an automatic timer, and there’s a lot to be said for a good old-fashioned mechanical model. 

Look out for newer solar options; however, you need to be guaranteed a certain amount of solar energy each day for it to work reliably: a dry but overcast day can cause problems for your plants. Make sure that the solar panel is in a good, sunny spot.

Do Hose Timers Leak?

Anything that’s attached to a faucet can leak if the seal isn’t working properly (we’ve all experienced this with hose pipe attachments). If your timer is leaking, start by switching off the faucet then checking that the timer is attached securely and not cross-threaded.

If this seems OK but when you turn the faucet back on there’s still a leak, check the screen washer on the timer. This could be dirty or damaged and in need of cleaning or even replacing, which is inevitable with older devices.

Aside from incorrect threading or general wear and tear, there are two main causes of leaky hose timers. One is damage caused by freezing temperatures. Take the timer in before the first freeze of the season.

The second is water pressure. The water pressure needs to be between 5 and 100 psi for a hose timer to work. Drip systems that use a very low psi often run into difficulties. If your water pressure is over 100 psi, the system simply won’t cope, and damage can occur to the timer.

How Long Does a Water Timer Last?

Provided you care for it, a reasonable quality timer should last for a few seasons. A decent one has a two-year guarantee if that gives you an idea of expected lifespan. However, because they’re water resistant rather than waterproof, they can easily become damaged. 

Making sure that you keep it clean and bring it indoors over the winter can help prolong the timer’s life.

How Does a Hose Water Timer Work?
How Does a Hose Water Timer Work?

Can You Use a Water Timer With a Hose Splitter?

You can use a water time with a hose splitter, but of course, it will work on one side only. The other side, kept switched off, can be used for manual watering. 

This is quite handy if you want to set up a permanent watering schedule but still need an outdoor faucet for car washing, paddling pool filling and so on.

Can You Put a Timer on a Sprinkler?

Yes, you can get dedicated timers for a sprinkler system, and it’s a great way of taking care of your yard if you’re not always around during a hot spell. 

The sprinkler water timer works in a similar way to a water timer hose, using a timed valve that you program to switch on for a certain duration. However because you’re dealing with multiple sprinkler heads and zones, it can take a bit more thought to set up.

Sounds expensive? Not necessarily. Here’s how to set up your own DIY garden water sprinkler system. It’s worth a bit of initial installation effort, as it makes life so much easier once it’s in place.

Do Water Timers Reduce Water Pressure?

While some models claim not to reduce water pressure, sending water through any system is going to have an effect. So yes, your water pressure will be reduced by passing through the water timer.

But hey, what’s the rush? If your yard is being watered automatically through the hose water timer, you can afford for it to take a little longer. If you have a task that needs a fuller flow, take off the timer for a while. This is where having a splitter can be useful: two outlets, two different pressures.

Do I Need to Use a Water Hammer Arrestor With My Hose Timer?

Sometimes, any water system runs into difficulties with “water hammer”, and you may need to install a water hammer arrestor. The “water hammering” noise can be caused by valves inside the system, pockets of air, or the water pressure changing. It can cause damage to the pipes if ignored, so it’s always worth investigating, even if it’s “just” the outside water supply.

If you’re using a hose timer, check out the valve before you do anything else. It could be that this isn’t releasing the water properly, which can lead to hammering.

If this is OK, try switching the faucet off and draining the whole watering system. Still hammering? Speak to a professional about water hammer arrestors. These are small, air-filled pipes that are attached to the pipes. They have a built-in piston that compresses the air, which reduces the shockwaves in the pipes and stops the hammering.

If you haven’t done much in the way of plumbing, it’s best to get a pro in to help with jobs like this. However, if you want to know more about water hammer and how it affects a watering system, take a look at this short film from He shows you how to install a water hammer arrestor on an irrigation system.

Final Words: How Do I Reset My Hose Timer?

Want a new watering schedule? There are plenty of different ways to reset your hose timer, depending on what sort of timer you have.

If you have a simple mechanical model, just take the batteries out. With a more sophisticated, automatic timer, there is often a reset button, which allows you to change the time and duration of the watering cycle very easily. Simply press reset, then go on to set a new schedule, just the way you did before.

It’s important not to simply let the timer run the same way all year round, as your lawn, your flowers, and your vegetable patches will have different watering needs depending on the season. Some of the more upscale models may even have rain sensors, so they know not to come on if there’s been sufficient rainfall.

Every winter (unless you live in Zone 11 for plant hardiness of course and don’t see frosts) you’ll need to bring your hose timer indoors. Hose timers don’t survive freezing conditions, so uninstalling yours should be part of your yard’s winterizing routine. 

Store the timer indoors until the freezing weather has passed, then reset it in the spring. You won’t need a watering hose timer over the winter months anyway. 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >