Come winter, we always get the question of how to winterize irrigation systems. Basically, what people want to know is how to protect the irrigation systems before the freeze. It may seem simple from a casual glance, but it is harder than that. Forunately, TCLS’ lawn care services include winter lawn care services.
Your irrigation/sprinkler system is a high-pressure system meaning there always is water lurking in the lines, even when you have closed the gate valves. Most of the water though is stored in the brass valves.
When it starts freezing, this water will turn to ice, and it will expand, and bust the gate valves. This is why any lawn care company advises the homeowner to insulate their systems for winter. Prevention is better than cure, and certainly more pocket friendly.
Of utmost importance is the pressure vacuum breaker which is a backflow prevention device. It has the very important duty of preventing the non-drinkable water from entering the supply line. You have to insulate the metal parts as well as the pipes connecting to the pressure vacuum breaker. We will look at this in detail later.
But valves are not the only culprits. Pipes may also store water. The same fate could happen to pipes that are above the ground, if they are not prepped for winter. Thankfully, many lawn service companies offer a winterization service for the irrigation systems.
Just as you prepared your lawn and plants for winter, you also need to prepare the irrigation system for the winter season. As a lawn care company, we offer assistance when needed to winterize sprinkler systems. We will ensure that your sprinkler system is amply rigged for winter.
Winter lawn care services for preparing sprinkler system
- Remove the back flow prevention covers
The backflow prevention device only allows water to go one-way and closes up to prevent the water from returning. It is usually installed when you have connected your irrigation system to your drinkable water source.
Irrigation water contains a lot of contaminants, including parasitic worms. That is why it cannot be allowed to come back after it has passed the backflow preventer. Simply put, the backflow prevention device/pressure vacuum breaker prevents non-drinkable water from mixing with your drinkable water.
During winter, you must remove the backflow preventer. You will then need to drain the water out of the sprinkler system. You can do this by following a few steps such as:
- Siphon all the water out
- Drain the valves above the ground and put them in storage
- Pump the water out with a vacuum
After that, commence insulating the pressure vacuum breaker by wrapping it with insulating tape.
- Insulate the pipes above the ground
Any lawn care company will tell you that insulating whatever part of your irrigation system that is above ground is the first step to take in winter lawn care services. You can start with the shut off valve to protect it from freezing.
For insulation, use self-stick insulation tape to wrap the valve and then cover it with a plastic bag. You will find insulation tape in your local hardware store. However, it is always a good idea to ask a team of professionals from landscaping companies to do the winter prep for you. That way, you eliminate all room for error and you are assured that your irrigation system will be intact when winter is over.
- Draining all the water
Before insulating the exposed pipes, you need to drain the water. You can do this by using the compressed air method, which is very effective.
You can also use the automatic drain valve or the manual drain valve. If you are not sure how all of these work, our lawn care company is happy to assist.
It is recommended that you use professional services for winter lawn care services. Should something go wrong in the process, any water left in the pipes would freeze and expand, increasing the risk of the pipes bursting.
- Check the automatic shutoff system
Usually, the automatic shutoff of a sprinkler system is set to be triggered by rain and time. Thus, you will need to shut down the controller and the good thing is that your time settings are not lost at all. Thus, come the warm season, your start time, run time and so on will still be available. Ensure the irrigation controller is set to off.
You may also need to remove the wires that lead to the Master Valve if the sprinkler system is connected to a pump.
As you can see, winterizing your irrigation system can seem complicated especially if it is your first time. It is best to let the landscape maintenance services that offer winter lawn care services do it for you.