Winterizing Your Inground Irrigation System Before It's Too Late!

Winterizing Your Inground Irrigation System Before It's Too Late!

Living in Southern Ontario we know that our winters can be volatile with temperatures ranging from mild to bitterly cold. Water can bring life and destruction! If we don't properly drain our inground irrigation system, the frozen water will burst the pipes. Yikes! Expensive!!

If the pipes are buried above the frost level (which is typically about four feet), they are vulnerable to winter problems.

Three Most Common Winter-Caused Irrigation Issues

Like anything else, your Burlington inground irrigation system is vulnerable to damage in the winter. If your system hasn't been properly winterized your system may have experienced severe freezing. And that's bad - and often expensive!

  • Damaged sprinkler heads
  • Cracked pipelines
  • Clogged sprinkler heads

Some signs to watch for are:

  • Hissing or other noises emanating from your system
  • Evident damage to sprinkler heads
  • Heads that aren't working properly
  • This can be either heads that have low pressure, or that aren't popping up when the system starts.
  • Cracked or leaking valves
  • If water is running right off your lawn, or coming to the surface

Turning Off The Water Isn't Enough To Winterize Your Irrigation System Properly

Draining the water from your inground irrigation pipes may not be enough to prevent water damage in the spring. PVC pipes are particularly susceptible because they are made from rigid plastic. The water will freeze, expand, and crack the pipes, especially around the fittings from pipe to pipe.

Many companies will use a more durable and flexible option - black, polyethylene pipe - for areas which get very cold in winter, but freezing, expansion and cracking is still possible. Beside pipes, your backflow assembly could also be damaged internally or the housing crack.

Depending on your type of irrigation system, there are 3 different ways to remove the water before winter:

Automatic Drain

If your system is fitted with automatic drains, they will open and drain if the pressure in the pipes falls below 10 PSI. To do this, turn off the water supply to the inground irrigation system and then activate a station to reduce the pressure in the system, which will open the drains on the mainline.

There should be another valve between the backflow device and the main water shutoff. Open this to drain the remaining water, opening the test cocks on the backflow device as well. If your sprinkler heads have check valves, pull up on the sprinklers to allow any remaining water to drain out of the sprinkler body.

Manual Drain

If your sprinkler system is a bit more basic, you will have manual drains instead of automatic. The procedure is essentially the same as with automatic drains, except you will have to open the drains yourself.

Even with both of these types of drains, there is still a chance that water will be left in the pipes, especially if pipes have settled.

Blow-Out Method

The blow-out method is the only way to ensure all water is removed from your sprinkler system, but it can be dangerous and it's recommended to be done by a professional because it uses compressed air to blow through the pipes at a maximum of 80 PSI.

Call our expert team if you are interested in this draining method.

How Manually Drain Your Inground Irrigation System

Follow the steps below to get your system ready for winter.

Step One: Shut off the water

When winterizing your inground sprinkler system, the first thing you'll need to do is turn off the water running to your system. To do this, shut the water off at the main valve.

Step Two: Turn off the controller

After you've turned the water off, the next step is to shut off the controller. Some controllers will have a setting called "rain mode" and if yours does you'll want to simply put your system in this mode. Rain mode will shut off the signals that normally go to your valves. In this mode, the signals will stop but the controller will continue to keep time and retain programming information such as start and run times. This will be important when re-starting your system again in the spring.

If your system does not have a rain mode setting, you'll need to disconnect from the power source to shut off the controller. If possible, write down your setting information and keep it handy for when you reprogram your irrigation system again in the spring.

Step Three: Remove backflow preventer

Find the backflow preventer that helps prevent backflow into your system. This device will need to be removed and properly stored throughout the winter.

Step Four: Drain the water

Method 1: Siphon or vacuum

You can try draining the water from your system using a siphon. If siphoning the water does not work, a shop vacuum designed for wet and dry use can be effective in sucking the water out of your system.

Method 2: Blow out pipes

If the siphon or vacuum method becomes to time consuming, or is not doing the job effectively, try blowing out your pipes. This is the easier and most popular choice for homeowners who winterize their own systems. With this method you will need a large compressor with a 50 cubic feet per minute rating. Once you have a compressor you will need to follow these steps:

  • Connect the compressor to the backflow-prevention riser
  • Use the automatic controls to turn on your valves one at a time
  • Gradually increase the pressure to slowly blow the water out. If the pressure is too strong, you can modify it by attached a hose length
  • Move around your yard one valve at a time, repeating the process until your entire system is successfully drained
  • Remember to blow out the system's main line if it has one

Step Five: Finish up

Complete the winterization process by replacing all caps, storing your backflow preventer in an appropriate spot and putting your equipment back in place.

Don't Forget To Winterize These Components.

Rain Sensor

If your inground irrigation sprinkler system has a bowl-type rain catcher to sense rain, drain the water and then cover with plastic for the winter. If your rain sensor uses discs, it's best to remove and store them so they don't freeze.

Don't Stop Watering Until the Winter Freeze

The fall season is a very important time for your lawn. From September to December, your lawn will be busy absorbing the nutrients and moisture it needs to survive the winter. Because of this, it's crucial that you continue watering your lawn throughout the fall season.

More specifically, it's important to keep watering your lawn right up until the first winter freeze. As a rule of thumb, your lawn should receive 2.5 cm of moisture and/or precipitation each week, up until the ground freezes, to ensure it remains healthy and resilient throughout the winter.

Don't Wait Too Long To Winterize

Some homeowners abandon their lawn maintenance routines too early when the cooler weather hits, others sometimes wait too long to winterize. Just as abandoning your lawn too early can leave it susceptible to drought, disease and death, continuing to water your lawn after the winter freeze can cause significant damage to both your grass and your inground irrigation system.

In many cases, waiting too long to winterize your system can cause water to freeze in your pipes, which can lead to unnecessary damage and repair costs.

Hire a Professional Company To Winterize Your System

While it's possible to winterize your inground irrigation system yourself, we suggest contacting a professional company that can perform these tasks in a quick and efficient manner, and have the right equipment available to handle the job.

If you're looking for a professional irrigation company to winterize your system this fall, our team of experienced irrigation professionals can come out to your property to shut off your system, drain your irrigation lines and perform a routine maintenance check to look for broken sprinkler heads, rotors or other plumbing issues that may need to be fixed or addressed.

Let us take care of your system today.Contact Us now!