The days are getting short. Fall leaves are swirling, and most mornings dawn with a nip in the air. Winter is just around the corner. And your lawn sprinkler system – that served you so well during the long and hot summer – has fallen into disuse.
But just because you’re not using it much doesn’t mean that you should ignore it. In fact, now is the time to provide your sprinkler system with a little TLC by prepping it for winter. Doing so will help to assure that your sprinkler will be ready to go when the long, hot days of summer roll around again.
You can use this 4-step process to make sure your sprinkler system survives winter’s ravages unscathed:
#1: Shut Off the Water
This first step is obvious enough. You’ll need to turn off the water input to your sprinkler system. The main valve that feeds your system should be located in a place that will prevent freezing. If your sprinkler system is newly installed, make sure that your valve was located in a place that will not freeze.
#2: Turn Off the Controller
It’s likely that your controller is set to start the sprinkler system at pre-determined intervals. So you’ll want to turn off the controller for the season. How you do that, though, depends upon the type of controller you have.
For some controllers, the best approach is to just disconnect the power for the winter. But for other controllers, you can set the system to “rain mode.” That preserves all of your programmed settings. When you start the system up in the spring, you won’t have to re-enter all of your programming.
The best move is to consult the user’s manual of your controller to determine the best approach for the wintertime shutdown.
#3: Remove Backflow Preventer
Every sprinkler system should be equipped with a backflow preventer. It’s wise to remove the backflow preventer from your system, drain it, and store it in a safe place during the winter season.
Depending upon how the backflow preventer was installed, this may not be an easy task. If your backflow preventer was installed with union fittings, you’ll be able to remove it just by unscrewing the fittings.
But if the backflow preventer was installed using standard PVC couplings, you’ll have to use a saw to cut it out. When spring rolls around, you can reinstall the backflow preventer using union fittings.
#4: Drain Water
You want to be certain that your system is completely clear of water. Even just occasional pockets of water pooling in low areas can cause freeze damage that will require extensive repairs come springtime.
Opening all of the drain valves in the system might drain enough water to prevent freeze damage; but it might not. The only way to be certain is to use compressed air to blow all the water out of the system.
This process involves connecting a compressor to the riser that connects to the backflow preventer. You’ll want to open each valve in the system sequentially, one-by-one, until all the valves have been cleared.
Be careful never to have all valves closed while feeding pressurized air into the system; that could result in extensive damage. And be sure not to let the air pressure exceed 50 psi.
After all the water has been cleared from the system, be sure to cap all openings to the system, including the opening created by the removal of the backflow preventer.
An Alternative Approach
Though some homeowners perform their own sprinkler system wintertime prep, it’s preferable to let a professional handle the task. Though the process is not overly complicated, it must be performed correctly to assure the avoidance of wintertime damage.
And using compressed air to clear the system of water can be a difficult task. It can also do significant damage to your system if performed incorrectly. So an alternative approach to winterizing your sprinkler system is to just give us a call. We’ll be glad to handle it for you; it’s what we’re here for.
But whether we do it or you do it, don’t skip the process of winterizing your system. Because doing so would be a mistake that you’d likely very much regret next spring.
TLC can be reached at 410-721-2342