Back in December, and just like every year, I started to receive calls from people asking how to winterize their irrigation systems. It is a very important step in protecting an irrigation system from broken pipes and costly repairs. Unlike most liquids water expands by 10% when it freezes. And since most irrigation systems are installed with PVC, when the battle happens between the PVC and the freezing water – the ice always wins. The chances of this possible damage can be avoided with some very simple steps. It is very important that you complete this checklist when the temperature is still above freezing.
- Turn off the supply to the irrigation system. Do not confuse the irrigation supply with the supply to your house. If you are not sure which one this is, turn on a spigot on the front of your house. Then turn the supply valve to the off position. This may vary depending on what type of valve is in your system. If you have a gate valve turn the handle clock wise until you can’t turn it anymore. If have a ball valve the handle should be perpendicular to the line when closed. The water should still be running out of the spigot on the front of your house when you close this valve. This step will relieve the pressure in the system.
- Now, go to your electrical irrigation controller. This step will vary depending on the brand of controller you have. Turn every zone on manually for a small amount of time. One minute should do it. Remember, no water will come out of the heads because you already turned the water off. This step further ensures that there is no pressure in the system. If your system does not have a controller you will need to complete this step manually at each valve. I hope you know where they all are located!
- While you are still at your controller unplug it from the wall. You can leave it plugged in and save your programming but why waste electricity. If you do decide to leave it plugged in, remember to turn the dial to “OFF”. You do not want the systems to come on with no water running through the valves. Possible damage could result. You will need to reprogram your controller in the spring if you disconnect the power in this step.
- If you have a drain on your system now is the time to open it.
- Your system is in great shape at this point but you could go
further for more security if you choose. If so, open each valve
box and fill the hole with newspaper or insulation. These will
need to be removed in the spring. You can also remove each irrigation head and drain the water. This final step is not really necessary in the South.
You Did It!
Your money and your irrigation system should be in great shape for the winter. Now go inside and enjoy the hot fire and a cup of hot chocolate!