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How To Winterize Your Sprinkler System

how to winterize your sprinkler system

When colder temperatures are on the way, homeowners can take simple steps to make sure that outdoor spaces are ready to weather any extreme temperatures. What can you do to avoid costly repairs in the spring when temperatures begin to climb? One place to start is your sprinkler system.

How to Winterize Your Sprinkler System

Wondering how to winterize your sprinkler system yourself? Here’s our first tip: Don’t wait for winter’s first freeze! Sprinkler systems should be clear of water before frigid temperatures set in, to avoid burst pipes, broken valves, and the cost and hassle of repair.

Here’s the good news: With an air compressor and a little homeowner know-how, you can avoid the cost of hiring a professional by winterizing your sprinkler system yourself. Most systems are equipped with built-in drain valves to release water from the system, but these may not be sufficient for eliminating water that has pooled in lower portions of the pipes. Thus, it’s important to protect your pipes by using compressed air to completely clear the system. Fortunately, air compressors are quite inexpensive to rent.

And if the job proves to be more than you can (or want to) handle, don’t worry. At ABC, we’re experts in sprinkler installation and repair. If you need professional assistance or your sprinkler system needs servicing, call on us and we’ll be there.

When should I winterize my sprinkler system?

The best time to winterize your sprinkler system is in the fall, before the first freeze hits your area. That said, you can still take steps to get your sprinklers ready for cold temperatures anytime during the colder months.

There are advantages of taking care of your sprinkler system before winter begins. If you wait until after the first freeze, damage could already be done to your sprinkler system’s pipes, valves and seals. Repairing this type of damage can be a big job, involving not only the repairs themselves, but also digging up your yard to access the underground system and then rebuilding your landscaping once the job is complete.

What tools and supplies will I need to winterize my sprinkler system?

You’ll need an air compressor, which can be rented from your local hardware store or tool rental center, usually for less than $50. Your rented air compressor should come complete with hoses and quick-connect fittings. Make sure your compressor is powerful enough for the job but not so powerful that it will damage your sprinkler system; a 10-cfm (cubic feet per minute) compressor should be sufficient.

You’ll also need a quick-connect hose adapter, if your air compressor doesn’t have one included.

What steps should I follow to winterize my system?

Here are the basic steps to winterizing your sprinkler system:

  1. Turn off the water supply to your sprinkler system. Most systems have both a manual drain valve and a backflow valve. (If your system runs from privately owned water, it may not have a backflow device.) To shut off the water supply to the system, first close the backflow valve, and then open your sprinkler’s manual drain valve to let any water in the system flow out. Then close the manual drain valve. Finally, shut off the water supply at the system’s main shut-off point. This might be located in your home’s basement or a crawl space, or it might be in a valve box underground. In the case of an underground valve box, you may need a long key to turn the valve to its “off” position.
  2. Set up your air compressor. There should be a blow-out port on your sprinkler system near the drain and backflow valves; remove its plug, screw in your quick-connect hose adapter and attach the hose. Connect the other end of the hose to the air compressor, and then adjust the compressor’s psi setting. For standard PVC sprinkler systems, set your compressor to a maximum of 80 psi; if your system is made of flexible polyethylene pipe, set your compressor to a max of 50 psi.
  3. Blow out your sprinkler system one zone at a time. Turn on one zone of your sprinkler system at the irrigation controller and start up your air compressor. It’s best to use two short compressed-air cycles to thoroughly blow out each zone, as any more than this will introduce too much heat into the system. When you see a sprinkler head pop up and water come out, release the air pressure from the compressor. Otherwise, you’ll risk damaging the sprinkler head.
  4. Does your sprinkler system have a pump? If so, disconnect it, drain it and store it for the winter. If it isn’t removable, use insulated blanketing to wrap it for the winter. (This can be purchased from your local hardware store.)
  5. Finish the job. Once you’ve blown out all zones of your sprinkler system, turn your backflow valves to a half-open position. They should stay in this position for the rest of the winter, until you’re ready to close them again in the spring and begin using your sprinklers once again. It’s also a good idea to leave your irrigation controller plugged in for the winter, and set it to run once weekly at a minimum cycle. This helps prevent condensation from building up and keeps all parts of the controller in movable, working order.

Not Much of a Do-It-Yourselfer?

That’s okay! Call on ABC for assistance with winterizing your sprinkler system or tackling any repairs that may be needed. We’re experts in sprinkler system installation and repair, and we’re here to help.

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