How to Winterize Your Sprinkler System: Our Best Tips

The first frost has come and gone and the last of the leaves are raked. If you live in a freezing climate, you’re probably wondering how to winterize your sprinkler system. Here’s what you need to know to do the job right.

Be Sure You Know Your Sprinkler System

If you’re not familiar with your sprinkler system, stop right there. The main purpose of winterizing your sprinkler is to remove any water so that nothing remains in the pipes. Water leftover in the system can expand when temperatures reach freezing, causing burst pipes, cracked seals and broken valves. Systems vary significantly, and missing a minor detail could mean a costly repair or even necessitate a replacement. That’s why it’s important to locate your manual and get acquainted with your sprinkler before you begin.

Shut off the Water Supply Before You Winterize Your Sprinkler

First things first: no matter what type of sprinkler system you own, you’ll need to make sure to shut off its water supply before you begin the winterization process. The main shut-off point for most underground systems is located in a basement or crawlspace. It may also be buried underground in a valve box with a green or black top. Valve boxes often require keys to open them. If you don’t have the key, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer or installer for assistance.
Make sure the valve is turned to the “off” position. It should turn easily. If the system operates with a pump, drain it and store it indoors for the winter.

If Your Sprinkler Has Manual Valves:

A manual drainage feature lets you empty the leftover water in your sprinkler system by opening valves located at the low points of the piping. If you system has check valves, water can only flow one way. Raising the sprinkler heads lets the water drain out. Once the water stops flowing, you can simply close all the valves and be ready for winter.

If Your Sprinkler Has Automatic Valves:

Some sprinklers have automatic valves, or valves that automatically drain water out of pipes if pressure falls below a certain number. You can activate automatic valves by first making sure the water supply is off, then running one of the sprinkler heads to relieve any pressure. Check valves will need to be emptied separately, and you may still need to drain water between the shut-off point and backflow device.

Do Not Attempt the Blowout Method

The blowout method for winterizing sprinklers involves using an air compressor to force air through the system so that any remaining water is pushed out the heads. This method is potentially dangerous: you could easily get injured or ruin your irrigation system beyond repair. If you suspect that the blowout method is your only option, call an irrigation specialist for help.

Make sure your home is ready for winter with a complete property inspection. Visit npiweb.com to find a licensed home inspector in your state. Have a question about winterizing your sprinkler? Let us know in the comments below.

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