Do you want a lovely, green lawn in the summer? In the winter, make careful to protect your sprinkler system from the elements!
Having lush green lawns in the summer necessitates a well-functioning sprinkling system. This is why it is critical to safeguard it adequately during the winter and the cold season in general.
Otherwise, if you are not properly prepared for the colds, your sprinklers may malfunction and freeze!
Have you ever wondered when you should turn off your sprinklers to prepare them for winter frosts?
And what should you do if the cold weather arrives earlier than expected? Today, we’ll try to explain in detail how to properly prepare your sprinkler system for freezing, as well as what actions you should take if it does freeze.
Table of Contents
What causes sprinkler pipes to freeze?
If you are a keen gardener anxious to bring your lawn back to life and restore it to its former glory, you may be eager to cultivate it as soon as possible.
However, when the weather is just beginning to warm up, this can be a risky move!
You see, you’ll need your sprinkler system to start cultivating your lawn again. And if you try to turn it on while it is colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside, you risk freezing the irrigation system!
If you attempt to start it when it is that cold outside, it may cause cracks in exposed pipes or pressure buildup in the sprinkler head.
As a result, you’ll have to deal with a slew of problems with your sprinkler system that you don’t want to deal with.
So, if your outdoor thermometer reads 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you should wait a little longer before it warms up in your garden.
What does ‘winterizing’ a sprinkler system mean?
What exactly does “winterize a sprinkler system” mean? In a nutshell, it is the process of draining the entire irrigation system of water before the first deep freeze of the winter or fall months; not only is this process important, but it is critical for avoiding cracked, damaged, and broken pipes (quick science lesson in case you forgot: when water freezes, its’ molecules expand.
Because of this, frozen pipes generally fracture or burst). Not only will you not notice any damage to your irrigation system until spring, but repairing broken or damaged pipes can be quite expensive and complicated.
What temperature should a sprinkler system be winterized?
At what temperature will my sprinkler system freeze?
Because draining or blowing out your sprinkler is so critical, do it before the first hard soil penetrating freeze.
Because each plant reacts differently to cold, the term “hard freeze” is vague.
A freeze is defined as anything 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower in a weather report. A hard freeze usually necessitates a slightly cooler temperature for a sustained period.
Because the pipes are buried in the earth, the soil acts as an insulator. There’s no reason to be concerned about your pipes if the temperature drops below 32 degrees for the first time this year and your system hasn’t been drained.
However, now is a good time to drain your irrigation system because the weather will only grow colder, and the risk of damage increases with each temperature drop below 32 degrees.
So, if you see 32 degrees in the forecast for the first time, drain your sprinkler system as quickly as feasible.
When should you think about winterizing your sprinkler system?
When the weather begins to drop, it’s time to think about winterizing your sprinkler system. A weather station can aid in forecasting and help to improve accuracy.
Before the first hard freeze, your lines must be emptied or blown out with an air compressor.
In general, you should winterize your system at least a week before the first freeze. During that time, your lawn will survive without frequent watering because the plants are already preparing for the dry winter.
Some of the most crucial components of a sprinkler system can be damaged when temperatures fall below freezing. Keep a watch on local weather reports in the newspaper or on television to see when the first freeze of the year is predicted.
Why should you winterize your sprinkler system?
It’s a good idea to hire a local professional landscaping firm or plumber to winterize your system because it’s a low-cost, once-a-year expense for peace of mind. For a residence with one to six sprinkler zones, maintenance costs between $50 and $120.
If freeze damage happens, a professional will be required to repair the sprinkler system, which will cost significantly more than preventative maintenance. Plumbers often charge between $50 and $100 per hour, plus the cost of materials.
Remember Ben Franklin’s well-known proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” It’s ideal for your irrigation system requirements.
You can drain the system yourself for the cost of your time and possibly some insulating supplies, especially if you have a manual or automatic system. However, how you do it will be determined by the type of system you have.
If you’re not fully comfortable dealing with a high-powered air compressor, your blow-out sprinkler system requires the services of a local sprinkler technician with repair and winterization knowledge.
Understanding more about the timing of winterization and the potential consequences of failing to do so on time will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to winterize your sprinkler system.
What happens if my sprinkler system freezes?
Water expands as it freezes, exerting pressure on all of the components of your irrigation system. Elements of the system can burst, break, malfunction, and leak, resulting in issues such as dangerous ice forming on pathways and driveways, as well as puddling around your home, which can damage the foundation.
Frozen pipes’ effects
If you don’t blow out your pipes before the first freeze of the season, the water inside will most likely freeze. Pipes can break or burst in significant parts if there is no room for the frozen water to expand.
Because the pipes are buried underground, frozen pipes are one of the most expensive and complex repairs. The key to avoiding this type of damage is to remove as much water from the lines as possible before they freeze.
Frozen sprinklers’ effects
Water can also freeze within sprinkler heads. The pressure from the ice can cause sprinkler heads to pop off when the frozen water expands.
Another possibility is that the water will expand inside the sprinkler’s plastic body, cracking the sprinkler down the side. Water can also freeze within the little supply line that raises the nozzle above ground.
Any of these issues necessitates the replacement of the complete sprinkler head with a new unit.
Frozen manifolds’ effect
Your sprinkler system’s manifold is its beating heart. This device is made up of the main pipe and various valves that are connected to it.
The valves regulate the flow of water from the manifold mainline to the sprinklers. Allowing water to freeze inside the maid pipe can cause cracking and damage the associated valves.
The most labor-intensive element of any sprinkler repair is replacing a damaged manifold, which should be avoided by draining as much water as possible from inside the manifold. For convenient draining, most manifolds have a drain cap fitted.
How do I handle an early freeze?
Most irrigation systems have a location near the main water source where you can blow out the lines with an air compressor, so if you can get your hands on one before your planned winterization appointment, it’s worth a try to blow out any water you can.
The good news is that one night of freezing temperatures is unlikely to damage your entire irrigation system, but you still want to get as much water as possible out of those pipes.
This entails turning off the water at the source. Allowing the sprinkler to run all night to keep things moving despite the cold is not a good idea.
Blow out any remaining air, and then ensure that the pros and A-Team Irrigation can finish the rest of the winterization process as soon as possible.
A cold snap isn’t the end of the world for a sprinkler system, but you should get it winterized as quickly as possible if the cold weather arrives.
How do I turn off my sprinkler system in the winter?
If frosts arrive well before your winterization service appointment, we strongly advise you to take the following steps to protect your sprinkler system from freezing.
So, to switch off the sprinklers for the winter, carefully follow the directions below:
- Turn off your irrigation system’s water supply.
- Turn off the booster pump.
- To release the pressure, start the system.
- Turn on the outside water supply.
- Open the RPZ valve on the outside.
- Call for irrigation winterization service.
Let us now describe in detail what each of these processes entails.
Turn off your irrigation system’s water supply.
So the first step in turning off your sprinklers for the winter is to turn off the water source.
You should begin by identifying the shut-off valve. It is typically found near the main water meter on a pipe that branches out to the side of the main water line.
It’s a one-inch pipe, and it could be bigger than the main water line. You could also see it moving toward the house outside.
By the way, the orange “spring-green” marking identifies the right valve.
Once you’ve located the valve, crank it a quarter-inch clockwise. It can only go one way; depending on the pipe position, it can go up, down, right, or left.
Also, make sure you haven’t switched off your main water supply by checking a sink.
The booster pump will then be unplugged.
Turn off the booster pump.
Please keep in mind, however, that it may not be installed on all computers! However, if you have a booster pump, look for it on the floor. It will be connected to an outlet or box through a cord.
If it is a standard outlet, simply remove the plug. If you see that it goes to the box, unhook your sprinkler system controller (or timer, depending on what you have) in your garage after you have completed step three, which will be outlined below.
To release the pressure, start the system.
So the next step is to start the system to release the pressure.
Turn on the outside water supply.
Go to the sprinkler controller or timer and activate any zone for two minutes.
Don’t be concerned if no water comes out of the irrigation head; this is normal; you only need to release the pressure in the main line.
Now, open the outer pipe completely by turning the spigot handle (if there is one) attached to this pipe counterclockwise.
Open the RPZ valve on the outside.
Then, if your RPZ valve is outside, look for the small valves that protrude from the RPZ and have a groove for a flat head screwdriver.
To open the microvalves, turn the screw 14 counterclockwise using a flat head screwdriver (See picture below). Water will flow as more of these small valves are opened – this is typical.
Call for irrigation winterization service.
Finally, because all of the actions outlined above are simply temporary measures for turning off sprinklers for the winter, remember to have your irrigation system professionally winterized!
What should you do if your sprinkler system freezes? Simple steps to avoid disaster
Every homeowner is well aware that when colds strike, your pipes can be jeopardized. Outdoor pipes, in particular, might freeze, resulting in burst pipes that will require irrigation repair later on.
Because water expands when it freezes, it puts pressure on all irrigation system components such as pipes, faucets, manifolds, sprinkler heads, etc.
As a result, they can break, burst, malfunction, or leak, resulting in ice on your walkway and driveway, puddles around the house that might damage the foundation, and so on.
This is why we’ve provided you with a few helpful life hacks for preventing your irrigation system from collapsing due to the cold weather.
- Put the hoses away. Remove them from your outside faucets, drain the water, then coil and store them in your garage or shed.
- Cover all of your exterior faucets. To insulate your faucets during the winter, close them tightly and then cover them with a foam cover.
- Keep in mind to insulate above-ground pipes. Simply put, wrap insulation around your irrigation system’s main shut-off valve (insulating tape will be fine).
- Turn off the timers.
These simple actions can assist you in keeping your irrigation system safe and secure during the winter.
What should you do if your sprinklers are damaged?
If you don’t insulate and safeguard your irrigation system in time, you’ll have to deal with damage caused by low temperatures. For example, you might notice that water is leaking.
If you are certain that it is your sprinkler system, do the following procedures immediately and without hesitation:
- Switch off the water supply. Turn off any water supply to exterior pipes.
- Examine it. Examine every visible element of the irrigation system for winter pipe damage.
- Take note of any spots where puddles are accumulating or where sprinkler features appear to be broken. That way, you’ll know exactly where to direct your repair personnel so they can get started on their repairs as soon as possible.
- Make a call for assistance. Contact your landscape contractor as soon as possible to schedule irrigation repair.
There are numerous ways to test your sprinklers if you are unsure where the leak is coming from.
- Manifold. This box is somewhat buried, but you’ll likely find it by its brightly colored lid. Open it and inspect the valves for cracks. If any are broken, they must be replaced.
- Pipes are located above the earth. Run the system and watch for spraying or gushing water along the visible parts of the pipes.
- Pipes that go underground. Run the sprinklers for 30 minutes to check for leaks. Then switch off everything and look for pools of water. The broken pipe will be close by.
- Sprinkler nozzles. Run the system for a few minutes, watching for leaks and gushing water at the base of the heads.
Also, keep in mind that it is preferable not to wait too long before completing all essential repairs!
The last thing you want to do to your irrigation system is to aggravate it by ignoring broken or frozen pipes. If all necessary repairs are completed on time, you will safeguard your home not just from leaks but also from excessive moisture (which can lead to mold growth! ), leaking, and mildew.
So don’t be afraid to enlist the assistance of professionals. Anything involving your home’s water system is usually time-consuming and requires certain skills and knowledge to be repaired appropriately.
So, if you are not an expert plumber or a similar specialist, consult the professionals because your irrigation system may require specialized skills to be repaired.
How to winterize your sprinkler system (Step by step)
Now that we explained what you can do to quickly stop your sprinkler system from freezing, it’s time to think about winterizing.
1. Turn off the main water supply and the sprinkler system’s timer.
Fortunately, the first step is simple: simply turn off the irrigation system’s water supply. It could be close to your water meter.
Turn off any backflow preventers or check valves you have (you should have two in your green irrigation system box). It should be noted that not all systems contain backflow prevention valves.
If you have an automatic system, use the “off” or “rain mode” setting to turn it off. This disconnects the signal from the system while preserving your programmed settings such as the start time, valve run times, and clock.
Simply turn off the rain mode in the spring, and you should be OK. You could just turn off the controller’s power to save a small amount of energy (around a night light’s worth), but you’ll lose the settings you worked so hard to perfect.
Detach the wires attached to “MV” and “common” as an extra precaution if your controller initiates a pump. This eliminates the possibility of the pump accidentally activating, which could result in overheating.
2. Disconnect your irrigation system
Remember that the water in your sprinkler system is pressured, so wear eye protection while draining.
Turning off the main water supply isn’t enough; the trapped water is a disaster waiting to happen. It may take some time, but you must dump as much water as possible from the system to avoid a big mess as the temps rise.
Before you begin the draining process, you must first determine the type of irrigation system you have. You can select three draining methods: manual drain, automatic drain, or compressed air blow-out drain.
For further information, consult the sprinkler system guide you discovered at the bottom of the rubbish drawer.
Most manual drain systems have shut-off valves at the piping’s termination. To release the water, slowly open the valves one at a time.
If you have check valves, drain those as well. Raising your sprinkler heads allows more water to drain. When finished, close all of the valves. That’s all right.
For those who have automatic draining systems, the water drains after the main valve is closed, resulting in a decrease in water pressure. To begin, open one of the sprinkler heads to release pressure and empty the pipes.
The majority of the water will drain, but you will need to empty the water from inside the check valves as well. Each valve has a plastic cover with a wire protruding, known as a solenoid.
Loosen the cover to promote ventilation and allow more water to escape. If your system has one, you’ll also need to empty the water between the backflow device and the shut-off valve.
Professionals strongly advise employing a local sprinkler winterization provider to take care of systems that require blow-out emptying once a year.
An air compressor connected to your system is used to drive the remaining water through the pipes and out of the sprinkler heads.
If not done correctly, DIYers can cause significant harm to their irrigation system and themselves. Consider some of the potential issues you’ll want to avoid.
Not all sprinkler systems can withstand the high air pressure produced by a commercial compressor. Your pipe system will be damaged if it is too strong.
The average homeowner’s air compressor isn’t powerful enough to empty the system. To accomplish the work properly, you’ll need a pressure supply that can deliver 80 to 100 cubic feet per minute (CFM).
Any remaining water has the potential to freeze and damage the system.
Homeowners who have never dealt with this kind of pressure before may sustain significant injuries.
3. Add Insulation to Sprinkler System Above-Ground Parts
During a cold spell, the last thing you’ll want to do is work on your sprinkler system. Before the threat of freezing temperatures arrives, take the time to insulate the irrigation system components that will be exposed to the elements.
This is best tackled after the summer growing season has ended and before the fall season begins in earnest.
Learn your way through the hardware store’s insulating tape and foam cover aisle. Enough to cover the main shut-off, any exposed pipes, and backflow preventers (but not to obstruct air vents or drain outlets).
If it makes sense in your yard, cover the system with pine straw to offer warmth and disguise the exposed elements of the sprinkler system.
We hope we were able to give you all of the information you required on safeguarding your irrigation system and preparing it for winter. Follow our simple guidelines, and your pipes will thank you come spring!
Is it possible for me to winterize my irrigation system myself?
It is possible to prepare it for winterization, but it is preferable to have it done by a professional.
When should I turn off my sprinkler system for the winter?
It will be at least one week before the first freeze.
What is the minimum temperature for a sprinkler system?
Temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower are OK.