How to winterize your sprinkler system for 2023

winterize-sprinkler-system

 

Your home’s sprinkler system is a critical part of keeping your lawn beautiful. People who live in varying climates must winterize their sprinklers to keep them working effectively. Sprinkler systems can suffer damage — even when not in use — if not prepared correctly for the cold season. 

If you live in an area where extreme cold or icy weather is frequent, there are additional steps to help protect your sprinklers’ quality. For example, it’s important to drain the remaining water out of your sprinkler pipes in the fall so the water doesn’t freeze and cause damage when temperatures drop. Let’s walk through what you need to know about winterizing your sprinkler system safely and easily so it’s ready to use come summer.

 

Can I winterize my own sprinkler system?

Sprinkler winterization does not typically require professional assistance. You can winterize most basic sprinkler systems as a simple DIY project. With a bit of knowledge about the winterization process and some good eye protection, most homeowners can knock out this task in a single weekend. 

However, if your home has a larger or more complex sprinkler system, winterization is best completed by trained professionals who can come to your home with special equipment.

Is it really necessary to winterize my sprinkler system?

A sprinkler system is an investment in your landscaping that you likely want to last for years to come. If you live where the frost line is likely to reach your irrigation pipes, you should regard winterization as a mandatory component of responsible lawn care. 

Areas that experience significant temperature changes are also at risk of weather damage. These fluctuations can cause the sprinkler pipes to expand and contract in ways that can weaken their interior and exterior materials. Additionally, leaving water in sprinkler pipes over the winter can cause them to crack and deteriorate. This kind of preventable wear and tear can lead to expensive repairs or hefty replacement costs down the road.

 

How can I winterize my sprinkler system?

You can winterize your sprinkler system as a DIY project in just a few basic steps. The most crucial components of this process involve shutting down the system’s water pressure and knowing how to check valves. 

Let’s review each step to ensure your lawn sprinkler system is ready for winter.

Shut off the water supply and timer

Most sprinkler systems hook up to your home’s main water supply. Your first step in sprinkler winterization is to find the main shut-off valve on your sprinkler system. This valve is usually near your water meter.

Your sprinkler valves are generally wrapped in foam insulation tape and a plastic bag. Any exposed pipes visible above ground should also be covered like this. Many foam-insulating tapes are self-sticking or come in prefabricated tubes you can lay easily across exposed pipes and valves.

If you have an automatic sprinkler system with a timer, you will need to shut it down. Most automatic systems have a “rain mode,” which you should select if available. No programming information will be lost during this step; it simply allows the sprinkler to shut off any signals sent to the valves. 

Your sprinkler clock should continue to run throughout the winter. The only major difference  is the valves will no longer activate to tell the sprinkler to send water to the lawn. A secondary way to complete this step is just to  completely shut off the power to the timer. If you choose this step toward winterization, be prepared to reprogram your timer and other settings in the spring.

If your lawn sprinkler timer also controls a pump, we recommend removing the wires connected to the master valve and any associated terminals. This step can prevent the pump from accidentally turning on and overheating.

Empty the sprinkler: manual drain systems

Emptying water from sprinkler systems with manual drain valves is a simple but sometimes time-consuming process. You’ll need proper eye protection before beginning because the water pressure in the pipes can cause the initial drainage to be high-powered.

Follow these steps to complete the process:

  • Locate the valve. You can usually find manual valves at the ends of your piping or at its lowest points. 
  • Turn the valve to open. This allows the remaining water in the system to flow out. 
  • Close the valve. Once the water has emptied, close the valve so the backflow of water doesn’t get into the pipes.

If your system uses potable water, it might also have a backflow preventer that you’ll need to drain in the same way. Many backflow devices come with two manual valves that you can turn with your hands.

Empty the sprinkler: automatic drain systems

Draining remaining water from an automatic drain valve requires a few key steps: 

  • Activate the system with just one sprinkler head running while the water is off. This will empty the water fairly rapidly, but some water will still be left inside the pipes. 
  • Identify the solenoid on each of your valves. Solenoids are air vents that look like a small cap with wiring visible from its top. 
  • Loosen the solenoids. This will allow the air pressure to increase inside the pipes and force out whatever water is left.
  • Shut off the system. Once all of the water has been forced out, you can shut down the system for the season.

Insulate aboveground components

As a final step to sprinkler winterization, don’t forget to protect your system’s aboveground components. 

Wrap any exposed pipes, the main shut-off valve and the backflow preventer (if present) in insulation tape and a plastic bag. You can also purchase insulating tapes or prefabricated tubes to make this process even more convenient.

If you have a backflow preventer, don’t block any of its drain outlets or air vents while wrapping it.

 

Can you DIY a blow-out drain system?

The blow-out method involves hooking up an air compressor that blows the remaining water out of your sprinkler heads. It is important to note that sprinkler systems need to be specifically designed for this type of water drainage. Even then, it is best handled by a professional.

The blow-out method of sprinkler winterization is not recommended as a DIY project for several reasons:

  • It can easily destroy your lawn sprinkler system if not done correctly. 
  • Home air compressors tend to push about 50 pounds per square inch of pressure because they are intended for clearing things like PVC piping. 
  • Properly executing the blow-out method requires equipment that can push 10 cubic feet per minute of pressure. 
  • Leaving even a tiny bit of water in your sprinkler system can cause problems, which is why the blow-out method is best left to experienced professionals.

 

Consider Cinch to help protect your home systems from costly repairs

Things can get messy quickly when something goes wrong with a home system, especially the plumbing. We rely heavily on our washing machines, toilets and dishwashers to keep our homes clean and comfortable. 

Cinch Home Services is here to help with your home’s plumbing needs. Though it does not specifically cover sprinkler systems, the Cinch Built-in Systems plan covers important aspects of your home plumbing system. Have peace of mind knowing that Cinch can assist you in the event of an otherwise stressful home plumbing breakdown. 

Comparing plans is easy, and you can have professional help at your fingertips when home system emergencies arise. Check out Cinch today and contact us to learn more or for a quote.

 

Protecting your sprinkler system during the winter months is crucial. Find out how to winterize your sprinkler system safely and effectively.