Sprinkler systems are great and relatively easy to maintain. However, if they are not prepared for freezing weather, pipes and heads can freeze and break resulting in costly repairs.
Here’s how to prepare your sprinklers for winter
Tools you’ll need:
- Air compressor (with extension cord)
- Air hose quick coupler with ½” male threads
- Air hose
- Short-handled flat-head screwdriver
- To begin, you’ll need to locate your backflow prevention device. It’s typically located somewhere in the front yard in a valve box underground and looks something like this:
- First, turn off the water to the backflow prevention device. This will shut off all water to the sprinkler system. Typically, there will be a special valve (red arrow) for shutting off the sprinkler system located in a smaller valve box on the street side of the backflow prevention device. It may also be located in the same valve box as the backflow prevention device. If no extra shutoff valve is present, then you can use the upstream, blue handled valve on the backflow itself.
- Some sprinkler systems have low point drains. Open these now.
- In the image above you can see four round, black caps (yellow arrow pointing to one of them). These are connected to test cocks. Figure out which test cock is located furthest upstream. Remove the test cock cap. On the side of the test cock there is a screw head slot (see image below). Slowly turn it ¼” turn. Watch out, because as you open this test cock, water may come shooting out, but will eventually stop. Leave this open for now.
- Here’s the tricky part: connect your air hose coupler fitting (finding a fitting with the right thread size is the most difficult part of winterizing your sprinkler system – it may require a few trips to the hardware store to get the right one).
- Turn on your air compressor and set the pressure to run at no more than 60 psi. Connect your air hose from the air compressor to the backflow coupler.
- Go to the programming controller and manually run each individual zone. Continue to run each zone individually
until only air is blowing out of the sprinkler heads and drip emitters. This usually takes about 4-6 minutes per zone depending on how large the zone is.
Disconnect the air hose from the backflow. Remove the air hose coupler and reinstall the test cock cap. Turn the test cock screw back ¼” turn to its’ original position
Close all low-point drain valves.
Turn the programming controller to the off position. Congratulations, you’re done!
Turning on your system
In the spring, when freezing temperatures are no longer a threat, here’s how to turn your system back on:
- Close all low-point drain valves.
- Turn on the system main valve to allow water to enter the pipes. IMPORTANT: When turning on the main valve, you’ll want the water to slowly “bleed” into the system for about a minute or pipes can break from the force of fast-moving water entering the system.
- Use the controller to run and inspect each zone. Ensure proper coverage of the lawn and bed areas. Sometimes minor adjusting of rotor or spray nozzles and heads may be needed. If plant foliage is blocking the flow of water to areas of the yard that need it, prune back as needed. Look for any broken pipes and repair them. Dig around any buried heads and raise them up as needed (sprinkler heads are typically connected to a flexible hose, which means you can lift the head without breaking it after digging to expose it).
- If it’s still cool and/or rainy outside, make sure the controller is left in the off position. Check the programming to make sure it’s set correctly for spring time conditions. Your system is now ready for spring!
Lastly, most municipalities require your backflow prevention device to be annually tested. This is a service you’ll need to hire a professional for.
Sprinkler systems can last for years and years if properly maintained. If you have any questions about proper care, contact a licensed landscape contractor for assistance. Many contractors offer sprinkler winterization as a service.
Blessing Landscapes offers comprehensive sprinkler services, from installation to adjustments to winterization. Contact us to find out how we can serve your irrigation needs.
This is some really good information about sprinkler systems. It is good to know that you should adjust the sprinkler heads. Also, it might be smart to get a professional to set that up.
I love that you mentioned how sprinklers can have a long lifespan as long as they are correctly cared for. My brother recently noticed that the corners of his lawn have started to turn yellow, and he is worried that the cold weather may be compromising the water pressure of his sprinkler system. I think he should look for an expert that can fix the problem before it becomes more serious.
Thank you for mentioning how you can turn your sprinkler back on once cold temperatures are no longer causing issues. My wife and I accidentally turned on our sprinkler system during a snowstorm last month and have noticed that the water pressure has started to become weak as a result, and we’d like to fix the problem so that we can keep our grass green this summer. We’ll find someone that can help us out.
Yes, thank you for sharing. Winterizing your sprinkler system is very important if you’re in a cold climate. And I’ve seen it done in different ways but this way makes sense. Great post!
Agreed! I’m glad you found our post useful and informative. Thank you so much for your kind words!