Being a homeowner has plenty of challenges and chief among them is remembering everything that has to be done on an annual basis. And while you might remember to change the batteries in your smoke detector or replace the filter in your furnace, you might forget about the outside of your house. As soon as fall comes to an end, it’s important to winterize your irrigation system so that it doesn’t become damaged.
How to winterize irrigation system: Any water that remains in an irrigation system will freeze in cold winter. And, as this water expands, it can cause the piping to rupture. You will need to replace the piping in the spring and clean up any damage. To prevent this extra work, winterize your irrigation system. You can pay a company to blow out any leftover water, or use a manual or automatic method for your system.
What is winterization when it comes to the irrigation system?
Your irrigation system brings water from your outside tap to your garden or lawn. If you live in a cold climate, you will understand that water will freeze and as it does, it expands.
If there is any water left in your irrigation system when it freezes it may expand so much that it actually bursts the piping. As a result, you can have major leaks and major repairs come spring.
Winterization for your irrigation system merely means removing that water. There are a few methods you can use to accomplish this task that requires different amounts of time and money.
Do I need to winterize my irrigation system?
Winterizing your irrigation system can seem like an exhausting task and some methods require you to spend money on professionals. As a result, it may leave you wondering if this is a task that has to be done.
The first step is to think about your winter. Does it get cold enough to snow or does the temperature consistently drop below freezing?
Basically, if you expect your winter to have more than just a day or two of freezing temperatures, then you should winterize your irrigation system. Always look back to see what your climate’s history is so that you can make an informed decision.
You should also remember that weather can be unpredictable. Even if temperatures normally just hover around freezing, you might want to winterize your irrigation system, just in case.
Steps on How to Winterize Irrigation System
Blow Out Method
If you are new to an area that experiences cold winters, you may be shocked when, in late fall, there are suddenly sprinklers going off everywhere. This is not because fields and lawns need watering but because organizations and households are winterizing their irrigation systems through a process called a blowout.
While you can perform a water blowout on your own, you will need an air compressor. As many people don’t own one, there are many local companies that specialize in this method. Either you or the company will complete the following steps:
- Turn off the water supply so there is no water running
- Connect the air compressor directly to the irrigation system by using a coupler Turn the sprinkler station on that is the farthest from the compressor
- Close off any backflow vales
- With the valve on the compressor, slowly open it
- Add more air pressure in a gradual manner to keep it safe
- Maintain the air pressure and water should come through the sprinklers
- When the water finishes coming through, shut off the sprinkler head
- Repeat for any remaining sprinkler heads
- Disconnect the air compressor and close off all the valves
Manual Drain Method
You may get lucky and either has an irrigation system that has a manual drain option or when you put it in your system, added this option to it. Either, way, it is quite simple to perform.
- Turn off all the water to your irrigation system
- Find the manual valves on the piping, which should be at the end points
- Open the valves and allow the water to drain
- Finally, drain the backflow device
Automatic Drain Method
Another easy option for winterizing your irrigation system is if you have an automatic drain ability. This system is triggered based on the water pressure in your setup.
- Turn off all the water to your irrigation system
- Run one of the sprinkler heads so activate the water pressure
- The system will naturally pick up on the lack of water pressure and will automatically drain the pipes
How Cold Weather Affect Irrigation System
Even though your irrigation system is buried underground, it is not very deep and as the soil begins to freeze, real damage can occur. As a result, any remaining water in your irrigation system can freeze and expand, which can cause serious damage.
As most winters ebb and flow with the cold, you might find a small leak in the middle of winter. However, most homeowners are not aware of any damage until they turn their system on again in the spring. Then, they are left with a lot of damage and a lot of cleanups.
Irrigation systems can burst at one part of the tubing or multiple parts. You will have to then dig up and replace the tubing.
Slow leaks are even worse because you might not be aware of small fractures in the pipe. In this case, the water slowly leaks out and if you have your irrigation system set to run for a long period of time, the constant water can weaken the soil and you may develop a small sinkhole in your yard.
If you don’t winterize your irrigation system, run the sprinklers in the spring and pay close attention to any soft spots in your yard. Walk the perimeter where your irrigation pipes are buried and look for any potential damage so that you can repair it right away.
While irrigation systems mean a lot less hassle with yard work, you do need to properly maintain them. Winterize your system so that there is no water leftover that can freeze and potentially burst your piping.