If you live in a climate where the weather regularly falls well below freezing, freezing pipes are a reality that can’t be ignored. Here in Texas, it’s not as common – but it’s still something we have to prepare for. Carelessness or a lack of preparedness can destroy your entire sprinkler system, for instance, so it’s important to prepare before the cold really sets in. There are a few ways to winterize your sprinkler system to prevent cracks or other damage to your pipes.
Manual Drain Method
First is the manual drain method. Use this method when you have manual valves located at the end and low points of all your piping. All you have to do to drain these systems is to shut off the water supply and open all the valves. Once the mainline is drained, drain the water between the main shut off valve and the backflow device. Make sure to check throughout the system to ensure that there’s no water left in the piping, backflow or sprinklers. Close the valves when all the water has drained out.
Automatic Drain Method
Next, we have the automatic drain method. If you have automatic drain valves installed at the end and low points of your irrigation piping, they will automatically open to drain water if the pressure drops below 10psi. To activate them, shut off the water supply and activate a station to relieve the system pressure. The next step is the same as with the manual drain method: drain the water between the irrigation water shut off valve and the backflow device. You may also have a combination of automatic and manual valves set up in your sprinkler system, so make sure you know what needs to be done to clear all the water out.
Sprinkler Blow-Out Method
The last of the three recommended methods for draining your sprinkler system is known as the blow-out method. This method involves running compressed air through your piping system to blast any water out at once using an air compressor with a Cubic Foot per Minute (CFM) rating of 80-100 for mainlines less than two inches. When blowing out your sprinkler system, always wear ANSI-approved safety eye protection, and don’t stand over any of the pipes, sprinklers or valves. It’s important to note that if you have a Pressure Vacuum Breaker (also known as a Reduced Pressure Device) as your backflow device, you should not use compressed air to drain your system, as the heat will cause the device to soften or melt.
If you live in an area that freezes regularly, make sure that your sprinkler system has been installed with polyethylene pipes rather than PVC. Polyethylene pipes are made of a flexible material that won’t crack as easily as PVC, so they’re able to withstand freezes more readily. They’ll still break if you don’t take care of your sprinkler system, so don’t shirk draining your pipes! If you live in a warmer climate, faucet covers for all your exposed faucets can help where the temperature only occasionally dips below freezing.