When the leaves start falling and temperatures drop, it is time to shut down the sprinkler system.
Winterizing your sprinkler system will help avoid damage caused by freezing temperatures. The steps necessary for protecting your irrigation system now, will help your avoid potential costly repairs in the spring.
There are some claims of irrigation systems being self-draining. This might be true, but should you gamble on it?
Drains can get clogged or forgotten to be opened, water can be trapped in low spots; the list goes on and on. For the added safety and fairly low cost of winterizing with an air compressor, it’s not worth the gamble. Blowing out our irrigation system with an air compressor has been proven to be the best method being used today.
The video below shows step in blowing out a sprinkler system!
No matter which method you employ (Blow Out is the most thorough) there are 4 steps you need to take to make sure your system is ready for winter.
- 1. Insulate your assets
- 2. Stay in control
- 3. Drain the pipes – Blowing out sprinkler system
- 4. Protect valves and backflow preventers.
1. Insulate your assets
The water supply to the irrigation system needs to be shut off, and the main valve needs protection from freezing – consider insulation. Also, any above ground piping needs to be insulated.
2. Stay in control
If you have an automatic system then you will need to “shut down” the controller (timer). Most controllers have a “rain-mode” which simply shuts off the signals to the valves. The controller continues to keep time, the programming information isn’t lost (start times, valve run times, etc.) and the clock continues to run throughout the winter.
Just in case: Make sure to write down the stations, start times and run times so you can easily reprogram it.
3. Drain the pipes
Remove any water from the pipes and sprinklers so that it won’t freeze/expand and break the pipe. There are several ways to drain your pipes: a manual drain valve, an automatic drain valve or the compressed air blow-out method. Check with your local irrigation specialist, many offer sprinkler winterization services this time of the year.
When using compressed air to blow out an irrigation system, take extreme care. Compressed air can cause serious eye injury as well as other injury from flying debris. For safety eye protection, always wear ANSI approved eyewear, and during the blowing out period, and do not stand over any irrigation pipes, sprinklers, valves or other irrigation components. SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY MAY RESULT IF YOU DO NOT PROCEED AS RECOMMENDED!
- Do not let the air pressure exceed 80 PSI for PVC piping sprinkler systems and 50 PSI for systems using polyethylene piping.
- Never stand over irrigation component parts when the system is pressurized with air.
- Never leave an air compressor unattended.
- Do not blow out the system through a pump or backflow. Blow out the system first, then drain the pump or backflow.
- Do not leave any manual drain valves in the open position after blowing them out.
4. Protect valves and backflow preventers
Insulate backflow preventers and valves if they are above ground. You can also use insulation tape for this. Be sure not to block the air vents and drain outlets on backflow preventers.
Following these 4 Steps will help you get your sprinkler system ready for winter and be on stand by for spring.
Rainbird has produced a detailed Winterize irrigation system guide PDF – You can download here