Depending on where you are in the country—and how cold it gets—damage to an irrigation system from not winterizing can range in results from minor inconveniences to a full-blown disaster.
If you’re considering skipping the irrigation winterization step this fall or if someone else missed this step before you, here’s what could happen and how to handle it.
Cracked Pipes and Fittings
If an irrigation system isn’t properly winterized, water will be left in the pipes all winter. When temperatures get below freezing, the water will freeze and expand in the pipes, which could cause cracks in the pipe or on the fittings.
Broken Sprinkler Heads
When water freezes in sprinkler heads, they can easily break under the pressure. A broken sprinkler head come springtime is nobody’s favorite way to start the season.
Busted Valves and Backflow Devices
Similarly to the sprinkler heads and pipes, valves, anti-siphon devices and even backflows can be severely damaged by ice and could be irreparable and might need to be replaced altogether.
Not winterizing an irrigation system won’t always result in cracked, broken or busted parts, but it could, and even if something doesn’t break right away, it could be damaged, causing leaks or breaks down the line, resulting in unhappy clients.
How to Prevent Damage
The best method for avoiding an issue like this is prevention. If you haven’t started winterizing your systems yet, now is the time to start or to start thinking about it, depending on the region you live in. You should winterize a system before temperatures regularly hit 32 degrees Fahrenheit at night. This will help prevent any ice from forming.
Here are four quick tips for winterizing:
- Turn off power and water to the irrigation system.
- Disconnect any monitoring devices.
- Remove water from the pipes and pumps with the blowout method or drain valves if installed.
- Close the drain valves for the winter.
Tip: Wrap backflow devices in a backflow blanket for the winter or year-round. Even in places with mild winters like southern California or Florida, backflow blankets are becoming a common way to prevent freeze damage.
Check out the following blogs and videos for more on how to winterize an irrigation system.
- Video: How to Winterize a Sprinkler System – Blowout Method
- Blog: 5 Steps to Winterizing Your Irrigation System
- Blog: Add Winterization to Your Service Offering
What to Do If You Didn’t Winterize in Time
If a site didn’t get winterized before the temperatures dropped, you can try to minimize any damage by releasing the system pressure. First, shut off the water and then loosen the cap on the backflow to avoid a crack if there is water in it.
Once the weather warms up in spring, do a more thorough inspection of any systems that weren’t blown out in fall to make sure there’s no breaks or damage.
You can find backflow blankets, marking stakes, ice melt and other winter landscaping supplies at your local Ewing store.