As winter approaches, most homeowners will need to do a little lawn and yard maintenance to prepare for the coming cold. One good place to begin is by winterizing your irrigation or sprinkler system. This involves 3 steps you can often do on your own to save money. Here's how winterizing your sprinklers works.
Turn Off the Water
The sprinkler system will have had a main shut-off valve installed when it was first put in place. This valve should be in a protected location that is not subject to freezing. Turn off the water at this main valve before proceeding with anything else. If the shut-off valve is in danger of freezing, you may need to cover it with insulated coverings available at most home improvement stores.
Shut Down the Controller
You'll need to consult the manual provided by your irrigation company to determine how to shut off your controller for the winter. The controller is the timer box that was installed to let you control when and where would be watered at any given time. The easiest way to prevent it from watering the lawn over the winter without losing all your settings is to turn it to "rain mode" and leave it alone. If this doesn't work, you may also simply unplug it from the power source. If you have doubts about how to shut down the timer/controller, contact an irrigation company, such as Irrigation Tech for help.
Blow Out the Pipes
Removing the water from the pipes is the most vital steps to prevent damage. If water is left inside the PVC piping when the weather drops below freezing temperature, that water can freeze, expand and crack the pipes. The easiest method to drain the remaining water from the pipes is to "blow out" the water using an air compressor.
First, rent an air compressor that can reach 50 cubic feet per minute volume. Then, remove the backflow preventer that is located on your irrigation system just after the shut-off valve. Connect the compressor to the backflow preventer riser just downstream of the valve. Open the valves one-by-one in the system using your controller or manually, beginning with the last (or highest elevation) valve. After each valve is open, turn on the compressor and blow out the water from that valve. Once the water has been removed, turn off the compressor and close that valve. Move on the next closest valve and repeat until all your valves have been cleared of water.
If you need to remove water from the main line between the shut-off valve and the backflow preventer, connect the compressor to the blow-out fitting near the shut-off valve and clear the last bit of water from this section. Then, cover or cap any places that may be open to allow pests to infiltrate your irrigation system while it's not in use.
Preparing your sprinkler system for winter is key to keeping it well-maintained and saving money over the long term. If you're concerned about being able to complete the blow-out process, it may be best to hire a professional landscaping service to do it for you. As you gain confidence in maintaining your system, you may be able to do the job yourself eventually. But whether you do it yourself or hire some help, be sure to beat Mother Nature to the punch as winter arrives.