With winter approaching, it’s time to prepare your sprinkler system for the months away. Whether you have an underground or overhead sprinkling system, there are important steps that need to be taken in order for your lawn to survive the winter months. This is a guide on how to properly turn off and drain your sprinkler system before the first freeze of fall.
Before we get into that though, let us consider why this step is needed at all: The water supply feeding into your sprinklers should be turned off and drained (not always necessary with overhead systems) because as temperatures drop and frost begins to form, any remaining water will freeze and expand, causing damage and potential leaks throughout the system.
As you begin preparing your sprinkler system for winter, keep the following things in mind:
- If you have an underground sprinkler system, it is important that all valves and lines are weatherproof. To ensure this, blow compressed air into the lines and make sure there aren’t any leaks. It is also a good idea to wrap exposed pipes with heat tape (available at most hardware stores) and insulation (this can be anything from cardboard or Styrofoam to old straw or leaves – basically anything to reduce heat loss). Also take care not to kink or pinch your supply lines as they will freeze more easily if damaged. Special note: Be careful not to bury heater elements too deep as damage can occur when spring rolls around and grass begins growing again.
- If you have an overhead sprinkling system, the best step is to take your sprinkler heads off and store them in a cool location (a shed works well) during the winter months. This will keep them from freezing all together and causing damage when you go to use them again in spring. If however, there is no easy way of doing this, at least raise your sprinklers above ground level on something like 2x4s (refer to the tips for underground systems below).
- When turning off your water supply , turn it off at both outdoor faucets (if you only shut one valve then water can be forced through into lines that are still open; possibly causing damage).
- Also important: Never drain or blow compressed air into a gas line or tank .
Now that we have that out of the way, here’s how to go about shutting off and draining your sprinkler system:
Steps to winterize lawn sprinkler system
Step 1: Shut Off the Water Supply
As mentioned above, turn off both faucet valves to ensure no water can run through. This will vary depending on whether you have an underground or overhead sprinkling system, so follow the steps below according to your type of installation:
Locate a nearby faucet at a lower level than where your system is installed (you may need help from a friend). Place one end of your garden hose in this faucet and run it up to where your underground lines are located.
Attach your garden hose to the nearest irrigation valve and turn this faucet on very slightly: just enough for water to run out of the end of the hose.
Watch as water runs out from open lines into the garden hose and then into the lower-level faucet where you are collecting it.
Take off all sprinkler heads until only one is left (this will be at ground level). Turn this sprinkler ‘on’ by rotating it clockwise until tight. Snip off any remaining heads with scissors or pruners.
Bring your last removed sprinkler head(s) inside with you so that they may be preserved during the winter.
Step 2: Turn Off the Timer
You will need to manually stop the timer that comes with most lawn sprinkler systems . If you have an irrigation controller, you will need to turn it off. If you have a timer that is not attached to your irrigation controller, then the valve that was previously mentioned should stop the water from flowing through it. You can still use this timer for other outdoor electrical equipment during winter months – such as holiday lights (just remember to keep them away from snow and ice).
Step 3: Drain the Water
At this point you will have turned off your water source and removed any sprinkler heads that may have been exposed to freezing temperatures. Now it’s time to get rid of any remaining water so that it does not freeze inside lines. To do this, attach a hose to your lower-level faucet (as with step 2 above) and place the other end far away from where you are working. Again, turn on very slightly if using an underground system; just enough for water to trickle out of the end of the hose.
If at all possible please keep in mind that when draining water into an open drain or ditch, try not to pour too much at once as this is detrimental to the environment. Also, try not to direct water at any roots or soil as this can make it harder for grasses and other plants (including weeds) to grow in these areas when moisture levels are low during summer months.
- Please follow all above steps with extra care if you have a well with your sprinkler system . If you do not feel comfortable doing this then please call someone who does (such as a plumber or irrigation specialist).
- If there is no easy way of draining the water (i.e. where you are working is far away from an outside faucet), then operate your last removed sprinkler head(s) intermittently during drainage so that they don’t freeze up entirely. Leaving them on for a few minutes, turning them off, then starting again, will prevent this.
- Do not leave your hoses running all winter long! Doing so is wasteful and can lead to freezing inside lines or even water damage. Once you have turned off the faucet valves at both ends of your system, drain the remaining water out of hoses by rolling them up onto their respective spindles (if they are automatic). If you did not remove any sprinkler heads then turn these spindles below ground level.
Step 4: Maintaining Your Sprinkler System
At least once a month during spring and summer months, turn on your sprinklers and let them run for about 15 minutes . This will help prevent soil compaction which could lead to reduced water absorption rates and plant damage. If you have an controller, set it so that your sprinklers turn on at their regular schedule – this will keep your system from being damaged by water that is too cold or too hot.
Every two weeks, there should be a slow drip coming out of each sprinkler head . If you notice that the pressure isn’t very high, it could mean that there is a blockage somewhere in your irrigation lines. You’ll need to find the zone in question and disconnect any nearby sprinkler heads . After doing so, use a screwdriver or another small tool to unblock the head. Make sure not to damage anything while unblocking it!
Once every three months (during spring through fall), clean out the debris in your irrigation controller’s filter screens. You’ll be able to tell when they’re dirty if your system is running slowly, not producing enough pressure, or simply doesn’t work at all. Remove the filter screens and clean them by hand with a wet rag.
People often wonder how best to winterize a sprinkler system once the summer is over. Winterizing a sprinkler system basically means getting it ready for cold weather and protecting it from freezing, which could cause damage. Don’t want that to happen!
When you turn the system off in autumn, make sure that all zones are functional before leaving your home. Look at each zone and verify that water is coming out of the heads, because this will save you time in spring when you’re trying to get your lawn green again (since repairing broken pipes due to frozen water isn’t very productive). If there’s an underground pipe with no pressure or little pressure, look for leaks in the pipe by shining a flashlight along the length of it. Remember where the leak is; you can fix it when the ground thaws in springtime. If there are none, your system should be fine until next year.
Close off each zone by turning the shutoff valves to a trickle or a closed position for each sprinkler head that gets activated from a timer system. For irrigation systems run by self-fertilizing drip tubing, just let all of the water drain out of it and pull up any remaining tubing so the dirt isn’t sitting on top of it over winter. This helps prevent damage to the system from freezing soil expanding against it. Additionally, turn off individual valves to allow water from specific zones to pool at their bases instead of being forced through pipes which have frozen due to cold weather. This helps reduce the chances of frozen pipes.
Protect from freezing the system
To protect your system from freezing, make sure to wrap exposed parts of sprinkler risers with insulation and then wrap that insulation with a garden hose – this will help prevent it from getting damaged by cold weather. You can also bring all the nozzles and heads inside and store them in a safe area (and maybe empty out any water left in them). Also, remember to cover any exposed pipes. Remember to do these steps before it starts getting really cold, because shutting off all lines may not be enough protection for extremely low temperatures. Exposing them again once they are already frozen could cause damage that you won’t be able to fix until springtime comes around again!
how to drain water in sprinkler system
You don’t want to drain all the water out of your sprinkler system at once because if there is any residual water in your pipes when they freeze, they could burst. For this reason, you have to drain the water out in stages. Continue shutting off valves until there is no more water coming through any of them. If your sprinkler system is located in an area that could freeze (most people’s are), then it is best to run the risers every couple of days or cover them with insulation to keep them from freezing during the winter months.
Now that all the valves are turned off and there’s no more water coming through your pipes, uncover your zones one-by-one and open up each individual valve box (this should be done while you’re still able to get some water). Make sure you open up each one wide enough for air to pass freely through it; if not, you’ll have to open up each one more than once during the winter (which will be a massive inconvenience).
Drain Using air compressor
After you’ve opened up all your valves, it’s time to drain them. The easiest way is by using an air compressor, adding the needle attachment to your air compressor’s intake and sticking it into each of your valve boxes. Now that there is no water in any of the lines throughout your sprinkler system, there isn’t anything holding back the pressure inside of them, so they’ll spray water pretty easily with the help of an air compressor. Make sure you don’t allow dirt or debris into your valves while draining them; this will reduce their lifespan significantly.