Preparing Irrigation Systems for Winter
Not preparing for winter when you own an irrigation system could be extremely costly. Freezing temperatures cause water to turn to ice and can make a fairly inexpensive process extremely difficult and expensive.
Find the main shut off valve for your system and shut the water supply off to the arrogation system. Use foam insulation tape in a plastic bag to wrap it up. If you don’t have a main shut off valve consider installing one as a preventative investment. Any above ground piping should be insulated by using self sticking foam insulating tape or foam insulating tubes typically found at home supply stores.
Find the controller to your automatic system and switch it to rain mode, which will shut off the signals to the valve. Don’t worry, the controller will continue to keep time and all the programming information will still be saved (start times valve run times etc.).
If the controller is responsible for activating a pump you should remove the wires that are connected to the master valve in common terminals.
This is to make sure the pump won’t accidentally be activated and cause damage from overheating. If you’re not comfortable putting it into rain mode simply shut the power off to the controller. If you do you’ll need to reprogram the time And potentially all other settings as well in the spring.
3. Draining the Pipes
The next step is to remove all the water from the pipes and sprinklers so that when the water freezes and expands it won’t break the pipe. There are a couple of different methods to draining the pipes, a manual drain valve, and automatic drain valve or the compressed air blowout method.
Since there could be potential safety risks we recommend contacting an irrigation specialist.
We offer this service at the beginning of each fall season on October 1st.
Manual Drain Approach
Use this method when the valves are at the end point of the irrigation piping system. Shut off the irrigation water supply and open all the manual drain valves.
On the stop and waste valve, open the boiler drain valve (drain cap) once the water has drained out. Drain the remaining water between back flow device and the irrigation water shut off.
For sprinklers with check valves, make sure you pull them up and allow the water to drain out of the bottom. In some circumstances there might be water in the back flow device, sprinklers, or lateral piping. Close all manual drain valves when you finish.
DO NOT ATTEMPT WITHOUT SAFETY EQUIPMENT AND A STRONG UNDERSTANDING OF THE PROCESS AND DANGERS.
Blow compressed air to blow out irrigation systems is a common method amongst professionals, however, it comes with some risks.
Check your equipments requirements first.
Using an air compressor with a 80-100 cubic feet per minute or CFM for mainlines less than 2 inches. Using a rental compressor is almost certainly not powerful enough, if you do this without a licensed professional, make sure your equipment meets requirements.
Attach the compressor with a coupler or hose rib located after the back flow device. DO NOT blow air through the back flow device.
When you’re ready to begin, shut-off the irrigation water supply. With the compressor valve in the position, attach the air compressor hose to the fitting.
Activate the controller that’s responsible for the zone at the highest and furthest distance from the compressor. Close the back flow isolation valves then open the valve on the compressor very slowly. Gradually introduce air into the irrigation system then make sure the blow pressure remains below the maximum operating pressure specs of the lowest pressure rated component in that zone. Don’t push the system past your weakest link!
Slowly move from the furthest zone to the closest zone to the compressor. Do this until there isn’t any water flowing out of the sprinkler heads. Compressed air can cause damage to pipes, so it’s better to break the blow-out process into the closely timed separate sessions. Each about a minute or two, and a minute apart.
DO NOT run the compressor without at least one valve or a catastrophe will occur.
4. Protect Valves and Backflow Preventers
Insulate backflow preventer‘s in valves if they are above ground, which you can also use insulation tape for this. Be sure not to block air vents and drain outlets on black flow preventer‘s.