Late fall is the best time of the year to prepare your lawn and sprinklers for the coming winter months. If you want to avoid the damaging effects of frozen sprinkler heads and pipes, you can winterize your sprinkler system yourself. You could also hire a professional to winterize your sprinkler system for you, but in many cases, you can do this yourself.
We’ll give you some basic instructions on how to winterize your sprinkler system.
The extent of the winterizing will vary depending on where in the country you live. In the warmer areas, you may only have to adjust the timer or turn the system to the off position. However, in the cooler areas, you will need to insulate your valves and everything that is above the ground at the very least. The very cold areas of the country will require you to turn off the system and drain it of all the water you can. Colorado Springs’s below-freezing winter temperatures will require you to drain the system to avoid freeze damage.
A Little Bit Of Yard Maintenance First
Of course, before you start winter-proofing your sprinkler system, you will need to complete some fall lawn maintenance. As the leaves on your lawn can smother the grass, you need to rake them up. You should also look at fertilizing your lawn around a month before it generally freezes. This is important because your lawn has been growing and the soil could be lacking nutrients which will be needed for green grass when spring comes.
You will also want to look at cutting your grass short for the winter months. This encourages new grass growth when spring comes. Once you have done your basic fall yard maintenance, you can start to look at preparing your sprinkler system for winter.
2 Popular Ways To Winterize Your Lawn
There are 2 popular methods that are used to winter-proof your sprinkler system. It is important to note that draining most systems will be enough to prevent damage while others require blowing out the system. To start, you need to turn off the water at the source which will usually be a manual valve just before the backflow prevention unit. There are some installers who leave this valve out and have it built into the backflow valve itself.
The Manual Gravity Drain Method
This method is great when the sprinkler heads are located at the low and end points of the system piping, and the supply lines and valves are at the high end, using gravity to empty water from the lines. The first step in the method will be to turn off the water supply to the system which will be located in your home. The valve will come in different configurations, but all you need to do is turn it off. You will then have to open the manual drain valves and allow the water to drain from the line.
Sometimes there will be a way to drain the supply line from inside the house. We’ve seen these line drains both inside and outside the home. The goal here is to make sure any water lines feeding the sprinkler system is drained of water, and that the supply line is off.
You will then should open the test cocks located on the backflow valve. If your system has check valves, you will need to pull up on the actual sprinkler to allow the water to drain out of the body. There may still be water in the backflow, pipes, and sprinklers depending on the location of the drain valve. When all of the water has drained, you should close the manual drain valves.
The valves are usually connected to the water supply with something called a manifold. The manifold us usually just a pipe that feeds all the valves in a valve box. There should be a plug or a valve that you can open to drain the manifold. Make sure all the water leaves the system, and re-install the plug or close the valve.
The Air Compressor Method
To use this method, you will need to get an air compressor that’s properly sized to blow out your sprinkler system. Your local equipment rental store should be able to provide you with the right compressor for the job.
The compressor will then need to be attached with the right connector, such as a quick coupler or hose bib, to the mainline or to the backflow preventer. The right couplers should be provided by the rental company. You should then open the test cocks located on the backflow to allow the water to drain out.
The compressor valve will need to be gradually opened which will provide airflow into the system. The minimum air pressure should be around 50 pounds per square inch. This is a very technical method to use and most homeowners will hire a professional if this method is required. You will need to manually open all electrically-operated valves in the system to allow air to push the water out. You should visually make sure that water is indeed leaving each sprinkler head, followed with air after the line is purged.
If you do use a compressor to blow out your system, please use great caution. Pressurized air can do a lot of damage, to both you and your sprinkler system.
It’s our opinion that if you need compressed air to blow out your sprinkler system, you really should hire a professional. Most good companies charge less than $100 and you are assured your system is safe until next year.
Note: This article is provided as a courtesy to our loyal readers. Four Seasons Landscaping in Colorado Springs does not offer sprinkler system winterizing.