The Proper Way to Winterize A Sprinkler System

Dallis Crowe on Oct 10, 2017 6:03:00 AM

Before temperatures drop to freezing, the irrigation system on your commercial property should be put to bed for the season. Sprinkler winterization protects the system from freeze-thaw patterns, which can cause irrigation system pipes to burst if there’s leftover water in the pipes. Not to mention, most irrigation system pipes are buried no more than 12 inches below the ground, making them highly susceptible to the fluctuating temperatures we experience in Central Kentucky during winter. (We’ve even seen sprinkler system pipes buried just 6 inches below the surface!)Proper way to winterize sprinkler system

Irrigation winterization protects the investment in your sprinkler system. If you skip it, you’ll end up making costly repairs when the time comes to turn on your system, including digging up and replacing significant portions of the irrigation infrastructure. Who wants to go there?

Our advice: Hire a professional to winterize your sprinkler system so you can be sure the job is done properly while avoiding added repair costs.

Why DIY Sprinkler Winterization Is Risky Business

Essentially, sprinkler winterization is an annual landscape maintenance practice, which includes blowing out the system using a powerful air compressor. This removes excess water from the pipes and irrigation components. You might be thinking, “I can ask my grounds crew to do that.” Or, “Why can’t my facilities manager winterize the sprinkler system?” Of course, this is your choice. But there’s good reason to hire an irrigation professional at a reputable landscape company to winterize your irrigation system.

  1. You Need The Right Equipment. We use a powerful diesel air compressor to blow out irrigation systems—but there’s more to it than hooking up a compressor and letting the water run out. The machines we use are costly to rent (you could actually pay less for sprinkler winterization service than renting the equipment). And, the proper air volume and speed must be used to do the job effectively without causing damage.

  2. You Need Time. How large is your irrigation system? A multi-zone system, which is common on commercial properties, can take hours to winterize. So aside from the cost and expertise required to use the equipment needed for winterization, you need to dedicate labor hours from your own staff to perform the task correctly.

  3. You Need Experience. Sprinkler winterization is a basic process, but it requires expertise in terms of understanding the irrigation system components, controller and the proper method for ensuring water is removed from the system. We’ve seen poor irrigation winterization jobs where some water is left in the system—or the blow-out process damages infrastructure including breaking pipes, valves and damaging expensive backflow preventers. For a rather economical annual service, is it really worth the risk of potential damage if you or an inexperienced vendor performs the job incorrectly?

Sprinkler System Winterization: The Proper Way To Put Your System To Bed

We addressed the potential costs and liabilities associated with performing sprinkler winterization yourself. Now, you might be wondering: What’s the correct way to put the irrigation system to bed for winter? (We’re glad you asked.) Let’s walk through the process so you can understand what to expect when a professional performs the job correctly.

  • Shut Off The Irrigation System. The irrigation specialist will shut off the sprinkler system to prepare it for winterization.

  • Remove Existing Water. A high-powered diesel air compressor is used to blow out, or remove, all existing water from the system. This compressor is attached to the blow-out valve, which is generally located between the main and backflow preventer. Using the controller, irrigation zones are turned on one at a time while the air compressor blows out all water. When one zone runs dry, it is turned off and the next zone is activated. This process continues until every zone in the system has been effectively blown out and no water remains in the system.

  • backflow preventionReview The System. After blowing all water out from the system, the irrigation technician will review the sprinkler system and note any existing damage, such as faulty sprinkler heads or components. (Repairs do not need to be addressed until the system is reactivated in spring—but these potential materials expenses are good to know about for budget planning purposes.)

  • Secure The Backflow Preventer. Some property managers ask us to secure or remove the backflow preventer to protect against irrigation backflow theft. This equipment can be stolen and turned in as metal scrap and replacing a backflow preventer is expensive.  

Prepare Your Sprinkler System For Winter

Don’t wait until temperatures drop below freezing to winterize your irrigation system. Taking care of this important annual landscape maintenance task now will protect the sprinkler system from damage. Let’s get it done properly. Contact us in Lexington at 859-254-0762 and Louisville at 502-264-0127. Or, fill out this simple contact form to request a proposal.

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Tags: Irrigation

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