Preparing Your Sprinklers for Winter
There is no one way to winterize a sprinkler system. Since these systems vary in as many way's as there are installers each way must be
The main idea of winterizing a system is to remove as much water from the system as possible to prevent damage from freezing. Once your
individual system needs are understood it is a fairly straight forward process. It begins with knowing where your water source for your system is, as
well as knowing what type of backflow prevention device you have.
The two most common backflow prevention assemblies are a double check backflow assembly, usually found below ground or indoors and the pressure vacuum
breaker assembly found standing a foot above ground. Some older systems have been designed with atmospheric vacuum breakers on the station lines
with no provision for winterizing the system. In my experience these are almost always manual systems.
To winterize your system it helps to know something of how your system is designed. Is there a shutoff valve before the backflow assembly, are there
drain valves installed or does your system have a fitting to connect a compressors air line. These are all things that will help design the best winterization
plan for your individual system.
In most cases draining the system will be enough to prevent damage, in others blowing out the system with air will be the best choice.
To begin the process turn the water off at the source which will be a manual valve before the backflow prevention assembly, although some installers
leave this valve out in favor of the valves built into the backflow itself.
At this point you will have your first indication of how your system is designed. A lot of systems have a 1/2" drain valve installed just after the backflow
device. If this is the case with your system check the other valve boxes for possibly more of them.
If you do have drain valves installed, opening all the valves is usually enough to prevent damage to the system. If you don't have drains installed and
the backflow is the low point of the system, opening all the test cock's of the backflow should do the job. When blowing out a system if you cannot
find a dedicated fitting for the compressors air line you can connect to the first test cock downstream of the shutoff and cycle through all the zones
to remove most of the water.
I must say at this point that some people don't recommend blowing air through the backflow assembly because this can damage the seals. I can say that in
twenty-five years of doing it this way I have never found it to be a problem.
While these practices will not guaranty that your system will never suffer any damage, in the long run they will minimize the chances of having to deal with
extensive repairs every year.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michale Holmes has been designing and repairing both residential and commercial sprinkler systems for over twenty-five years.
As well as having extensive experience in all fields of landscaping from construction to maintenance he is also the author of
The Homeowners Guide to Sprinkler Systems which can be found at http://mrhirrigation.com/