Irrigation systems are easily damaged once temperatures plummet below zero. Icy temperatures cause the water left in pipes and sprinkler heads to freeze and expand, wreaking havoc with the irrigation system in your Pleasant Valley, NY yard. Freezing soil and the crushing weight of snow are also out to get your irrigation pipes and fittings. Fortunately this can be easily remedied with some simple preparation. Proper care can limit damage and ensure no leaks and costly repairs come spring time.
Terminate the water supply
The first simple step is to have the water supply to your irrigation system shut down before freezing temperatures kick in, ensuring that water does not enter the pipes or components during winter where it might freeze and cause the pipes to burst.
Automatic sprinkler systems should be deactivated, ensuring no timed irrigation programs are running. Switching the system off or to ‘rain mode’ deactivates the valves while the timer continues to run. Therefore, additional precautions should be made in the event that your timer activates a pump as well, as the working pump may cause overheating. This is accomplished by removing the wires connected to the ‘Master Valve’ (MV) and ‘common’ terminals. While simply shutting off the timer’s power source will ensure that your irrigation system is kept off as well, the time and settings will require reprogramming in the spring.
Homeowners should have any water remaining in the pipes drained. Pipes can be drained using the manual drain valve method in which drain valves are installed at specific points on the system and opened manually. As an alternative, an automatic system can be installed. The automatic drain valve method involves valves that open automatically when the pressure in the pipe drops. These should also be accompanied by manual valves in the event of a malfunction, however. Both valve systems can be installed at any time of the year in preparation for winter.
Another alternative is a compressed air blow-out method. This can be potentially disastrous if not executed by a professional, however, since it involves the use of a large air compressor to blow all the water out of the pipes. Note that all three of the abovementioned processes are accompanied by potential safety hazards and should be executed by an irrigation specialist.
All valves and backflow preventers above ground should be insulated as they are extremely delicate and can be damaged by tiny amounts of moisture remaining trapped and freezing. The air vents and drain outlets on backflow preventers should not be covered as air should be allowed to enter in order for any remaining water to run out. Rotor sprinklers installed above ground should also be drained to prevent bursting. Can be done by either having a drain valve in the supply pipe installed or by removing the rotors and storing them for the winter.
Call in a pro
To ensure your irrigation system remains safe this winter, call in a pro to help you winterize your irrigation and service your system. Damage to irrigation systems is often undetectable so annual pre-season maintenance is recommended for early spring.