For most of my life, I have lived in places that get very cold during the winter.
And as part of that, I have had to consider what to do with my sprinkler system when it gets too cold.
The top 6 tips for winterizing your sprinkler system include: insulate your pipes, turn off your sprinkler timers, turn off the water, drain the pipes, remove outside hoses and turn off faucets
Read on to find out more about how these top 6 tips will help.
Why you should winterize your sprinkler system
Before we get into the tips for winterizing your sprinkler system, let us cover why you should winterize.
First off, in its liquid form, water poses very little threat to you or your sprinkler system.
This is why you can run your sprinklers during other times of the year without having to worry about anything happening.
It is when water turns into ice that you truly need to worry.
You see, when water turns into ice, the ice actually takes up more space than the water did.
For example, if you filled up a water bottle and put it into your freezer, if you took the water bottle out the next day, you will notice that the water bottle is bulkier than when you put it in.
This is because the water expanded as it turned into ice.
The same thing happens in your pipes, hoses, and sprinklers when the water freezes.
Even worse, if you have pipes within your home that are not winterized, this could lead to burst pipes and water leaks in your house.
According to Web.Simsol.com:
When there is a broken pipe on your property, how much water is actually flooding in? Well, that depends on two factors: the size of the pipe and the length of time it flows. If you are lucky enough to witness the break and turn off the water, a mop and bucket should do, but left unattended, not only will you have serious damages, but your water bill will be sky high!
Here are the average water flow rates based on typical municipal water lines:
½-inch pipe: 50 gallons per minute
¾-inch pipe: 110 gallons per minute
1-inch pipe: 210 gallons per minute
2-inch pipe: 850 gallons per minute
3-inch pipe: 1,900 gallons per minute
4-inch pipe: 3,400 gallons per minuteAmazing Water Flow Rate from a Broken Pipe | Simsol Software
In a short period of time, your pipes could leak out quite a bit of water.
So it is important that you winterize your sprinkler system so you do not have burst pipes, leading to a huge water leak in or outside your house.
Insulate your pipes
As you probably know, cold water turns into ice.
And as discussed previously, ice expands and can hurt your pipes.
One tip for addressing this issue is to insulate your pipes.
Insulating means covering your pipes up with something that will keep the pipe from getting cold during the winter season.
And if your pipe is staying warm, then so is the water too.
Pipe insulation can most likely be picked up at your local hardware store, but you can also purchase it at Amazon.
Some good options can be found here.
Once you have purchased the pipe insulation, simply cover the pipes with the insulation.
You might need to have a box cutter handy to cut the insulation at the joints, but otherwise, covering the pipes should be pretty easy to do.
Make sure this is done for any above-ground piping, as those elements will be the ones most exposed to the harsh conditions of the winter.
Turn off your sprinkler timers
Most sprinkler systems will have some type of automatic timers set to go off at certain times.
Once you know the cold season is coming, it would be good to either turn off the timers or remove the timers completely.
At one house of ours, the timer was on the side of the house, covered with a box to keep it safe during the winter or rainy weather.
If this is the case, then turn the timers off, or put them in “rain-mode”.
“Rain-mode” on your sprinkler timer will still keep the time and the scheduler will be kept in the timer’s memory.
So when the cold season is over, all you have to do is turn off “rain-mode” and the sprinklers will go right back to the timing they had before.
At another house of ours, we had multiple timers and they were out in the open, exposed to the elements.
For these timers, we have two options.
The first option is to put the sprinkler in “rain-mode” and cover it with something that will protect it from the elements.
This could include a plastic or zip lock bag.
The other option is to take the timer off and put it somewhere safe for the season.
If you timer is exposed to the elements, you may want to bring the timer inside instead of leaving it out, exposed to the elements.
In the case of these timers, you probably have above-ground hoses connected to them, so it would be good to take the hoses and timers in at the same time.
And you can still leave them on, to keep the different zone timing, but make sure it is in “rain-mode” and put away.
Turn off the water
With all the many steps you will take to winterize your sprinklers, it will all be null and void if someone comes along and turns the water back on.
We have had instances where our kids had turned water on outside just for fun, even though it was around wintertime.
So make sure you are turning off all water to your outside sprinkler systems, not just turning the timers off.
In some cases, your city will be turning off the access to their water for you.
If that is the case, there is nothing for you to do.
In other cases where the city does not turn the water off, you will need to do it on your portion of the piping.
According to ThisOldHouse.com:
It will come as no surprise that the first step is turning off the water to the system with a main valve that’s usually found near your water meter. If your system has valves to prevent backflow, shut these off, too. There are usually two of these valves that lead into the backflow device; be sure to shut them both off. If your system doesn’t use potable water, it might not have a backflow preventer.https://www.thisoldhouse.com/lawns/21512565/how-to-winterize-a-sprinkler-system
Unfortunately, it is outside the scope of this article to help you find your main valve.
Hopefully, it is enough to say that it is going to be somewhere near your water meter and probably in a green box buried underground.
If you are not able to find it, call a professional over to your house and they should be able to help you identify where it is and how to shut it off.
Drain the pipes
Once you have all the pipes insulated and the water is turned off, it is time to drain the pipes.
Draining the pipes is an important step since any water remaining in the pipes during the winter is going to freeze and leaves the possibility of your pipes bursting due to expanding water/ice.
So, you need to get all the water out of your pipes.
There are three methods for draining the pipes and which method you choose depends on your sprinkler system
Some sprinkler systems will allow you to drain the water manually since the shut-off valves will be found at low points within your system.
Make sure to wear eye protection before starting.
Then slowly open one valve at a time until all the water has drained out.
Close all the valves when finished.
Some systems will automatically drain the water when the water pressure gets too low.
This can sometimes be activated by opening one sprinkler while the water pressure is off.
Some sprinkler systems allow you to connect a compressor to it and blow out any remaining water.
This is an effective but dangerous option if you are unfamiliar with how to do it or do it incorrectly.
You can end up hurting yourself or damaging your sprinkler system.
Before doing this option, call a professional to come over and look at your system.
A professional should be able to tell you if your system can take having a compressor blow the air out and if so, what PSI should be used.
I would recommend having a professional do it the first year and then if you feel comfortable and know how it should be done for your particular sprinkler system, you can do it the next year.
Remove outside hoses and turn off faucets
The last tip is to remove the outside hoses and turn off the faucets.
Like how the piping can get ruined from expanding ice, your hoses, and faucets and get ruined as well.
Drain your hoses of any water (lay them on an incline or let the water drain out while you are wrapping them up) and store them away in your garage for the winter.
Turn off your outside faucets and turn off any water access to those faucets.
The winter could potentially cause some damage around your house if you do not take care of it ahead of time.
As you insulate and drain your pipes, turn off timers, turn off your water, and put away your hoses, you will do much towards protecting your yard and your house from the coming winter.
Make sure to take care of your sprinkler system so it can be just as good for you the next year.