As the cold winds of fall move in, along with the changing leaves and falling temperatures, it is once again time to think about winterizing your irrigation system or garden watering system. Here in the Northeast, winter delivers a steady bout of prolonged freezing temperatures that can damage the components of your lawn sprinkler system or drip irrigation system if not properly winterized. Costly repairs at the spring start up next season can be avoided if your irrigation lines are properly shut down, drained, and blown out with a regulated high volume air compressor.
When not performed properly, an incorrect winterization can cause more damage than just leaving the water in the lines. Some of the main procedures are listed below and should only be performed by a certified irrigation technician.
- Shut off the main water supply to the irrigation system. The shutoff valve can be located in the house or outside of the house in a meter pit, or connected to a frost free shutoff outlet against the house. Alternate water sources may be utilized and will need to be disabled.
- Once the main water supply is closed, a large volume air compressor (equipped with a regulator) is attached to the main lawn sprinkler supply line.
- By using the irrigation controller, the technician will cycle through each individual zone as forced air from the compressor blows out the water left in the irrigation lines. A fine mist or fog at the last sprinkler head on each lateral sprinkler line will indicate that the section is free of water.
- Once the water is removed from the irrigation lines, all backflow preventers, regulators, filters, and any other isolation valves should be drained out and left partially open to ensure no chance of freezing.
- All water wells, booster pumps, fertigation systems, or alternate water supplies must be properly drained to evacuate any remaining water left in the components.
- The controller should be set to the “rest” or “off” position until the spring start up.
- It is extremely important that no one opens the main shutoff valve as this will recharge the sprinkler line and cause damage if not addressed. Many times an unsuspecting plumber or homeowner will open the valve by accident and then close it again. This will negate the entire winterizing procedure and the system should be re-winterized immediately.
Most fall lawn sprinkler winterizations performed by a legal and qualified company will charge anywhere from $50 for a very small irrigation system to upwards of $150 for larger systems. This is a general range for residential lawn sprinkler systems, though some larger homes or commercial sites may run into the thousands.
Be prepared for what mother nature will deliver this winter and schedule your lawn sprinkler winterizing today!