How to Winterize Your Sprinkler System

how to winterize sprinkler system

If you have a big lawn that you take care of, it is only natural you want it to look as good as possible. That being said, taking care of a lawn is no easy task. There is a lot of work you will have to do. Keeping a lawn fresh and green requires that you water it frequently, especially in hot weather. Watering a whole lawn by yourself can take a lot of time. This is where a sprinkler system comes in. With it, you can maintain a beautiful lush yard with no effort at all. However, the sprinkler system only works when the weather is hot enough. You cannot forget about it. You will have to do regular maintenance. When the fall comes, shutting down the sprinkler system is essential. If you do not do that, you could face some serious issues when you turn it on.

If you live in an area where the temperature drops a lot, you will have to prepare in advance. When the temperatures drop below zero, your sprinkler system will be damaged if you did not drain it. With that being said, we will go over everything you need to know about how to prepare sprinkler system for winter step by step. So without any more delay, let us begin.

How Do You Winterize a Sprinkler System?

You probably have a lot of questions such as; How to drain sprinkler system for winter? How to turn off sprinkler system for winter? How to shut down the irrigation system for winter? Here we will go over what you need to do in order to prepare your sprinkler system for winter. Keep in mind that you can do this by yourself if you have the equipment, but for some aspects, you will have to seek professional help.

Stop the Water Supply

First things first, you will have to turn off the water supply. You can do this with the main valve which is probably somewhere close to your water meter. Additionally, check if the system you have has valves that prevent backflow as you will have to turn them off too. Keep in mind that there are probably two separate valves that go into the backflow device, so do not forget to turn both of them off. However, if the system you have does not function with potable water, there might not be a backflow preventer at all.

Before Winterizing Irrigation System Check the Timer

A lot of sprinkler systems have some kind of automatic timer. If yours has one too, turning it off is essential. However, if you do not wish to turn it completely off, check if there is a rain mode implemented into it. What this does is it basically powers down the system timer, but this way you will not lose your preset instruction or settings. This way, you can leave your sprinkler system running during the winter. Keep in mind that this is usually safe, there is a possibility of a problem occurring. When the

spring comes, you can simply turn this mode off and the system timer should start working again.

Rember to Drain Sprinkler System for Winter

Stopping the water from going into the system is not enough. The hardest step is draining the water that is already in the system. Skipping this step will only result in more problems down the line. Depending on what type of sprinkler system you have, there are three draining methods you can choose. Here is how to drain a sprinkler system for winter.

Automatic Draining

Draining can prove to be quite a troublesome step. However, some sprinkler systems have components that will, when the main valve is shut off; drain the water when the pressure drops. Activating this is not that difficult. Simply turn on one of the sprinkler heads after the valve is shut off and no more water can get into the system. This will drain the system completely. That being said, do not forget about the valves. There might be some water stuck in them. You will have to loosen a solenoid on every valve so the air can go in and push the water out.

Manual Draining

Manual draining is possible if you have a system that can allow it. Well, how can you tell if you do not know beforehand? Simply check if there are shut-off valves on the piping, usually at low points or at the end of the pipe. This can be dangerous as the water inside is under pressure. Make sure to protect your eyes before you do this. All you have to do is open the valves. Do not open them all at the same time. Do them one by one. Wait for the water to run out before you close them.

Blow-Out Draining

Last but not least, there are some sprinkler systems that you can drain with an air compressor. It is quite simple; you just hook it up to the pipe and drain the rest of the water with compressed air. This might sound like the best solution, but do not do this alone if you do not know how. Some systems are simply not drainable with this method. If you mess up, it can be quite destructive. Additionally, a simple air compressor can create up to 50 PSI which is not enough to clear the system of water. For that, you will need about 10 CFM so that the water is quickly blown out of the system.

As we said, if you do not know how and you do not have the right equipment, do not attempt to do this on your own. Even if you manage to somewhat clear the system without any damage, even a little bit of water that remains in the system can cause you big problems. Hiring a landscaper can be off-putting as it will cost you, but for a once-a-year cost, it is much cheaper than any damages that might happen if you mess up.

Insulation Is Key to Be Able to Know How to Turn Off Sprinkler System for Winter

Now that we have covered the underground parts of the sprinkler system, here is what you need to do for the above-ground. Any parts of the sprinkler system that is above ground, will have to be insulated from the weather properly. What you need to insulate are any exposed piping, the backflow preventers that we mentioned above, and lastly the main shut-off valve. You will have to insulate them with either foam covers or insulation tape. Although, be careful with the backflow preventers so as to not block the drain outlets or the air vents.

Check Before you Begin

If this is your first time winterizing your sprinkler system, it is a good idea to check the instructions in the manual. What we have covered are the basic steps that can work with the majority of the systems. However, the manual will provide you with the necessary information about your system which will help you in the process. However, if you are not certain you can do it on your own, do not worry. You can always call a professional to do the job for you. Paying a professional is not that expensive and it only happens once per year.

Potential Problems with sprinkler system winterization

If you have a sprinkler system, there are certain problems that might arise if you are not careful. Do not worry, as we will cover what these problems can do.

Broken Sprinkler Heads

During the winter, the sprinkler heads can suffer some serious damage if not maintained properly. They can break either from serious cold weather or even some animals. Winterizing your sprinkler head properly before it is too late is essential, but sometimes no matter how well you prepare there might be a problem. Finding out in the spring that your sprinkler head is broken is not fun. This is serious as they can even cause flooding.

Broken Piping

As we mentioned before, it is crucial that you drain your sprinkler system completely. Any water left in the system will severely damage it. When the temperature drops, the water that is left in the piping will freeze and therefore expand resulting in the bursting of the pipe. It goes without saying that if this happens you are looking at some high repair costs when the spring arrives.

Check the Valves

Checking if the valves are broken is really important, both before and during winter. There are several reasons why a valve can break, age, elements, or even overuse. No matter the cause, replacing it is crucial. If you have a broken valve, the amount of water that is supplied to the system will not be the same. Additionally, if you do not winterize the valve, the cold air can damage the system quite a bit by entering through to the sprinkler line causing the damage.

Winterizing Sprinkler System Conclusion

Winterizing your sprinkler system correctly is essential. If you want to turn on sprinkler system after winter and find it working as before, do not forget what we talked about above. You can do it yourself if you have the necessary knowledge and equipment or you can simply hire a professional to do it for you. No matter what, taking care of your sprinkler system will save you from a lot of trouble and unnecessary costs down the line.