Getting ready for winter involves many activities around the house: putting up decorations, giving trees and shrubs a final prune, and shutting off outdoor faucets, so pipes do not freeze. Though many people remember this last step, it is surprising how many still forget that they need to give their sprinkler system the same treatment. Otherwise they risk leaving water in the system, which can break pipes when it freezes and expands. Avoid that fate by fully draining your entire sprinkler system, choosing one of the three methods detailed below, as well as winterizing your system controller, so it does not short out over the long winter months.
Manual Drain Method
To drain your sprinkler system manually, it needs to be equipped with manual drain valves at the lowest point in the system, because when you open them you want all the water to flow out of those valves. If you have such a system, you simply turn off the main line shut-off valve, open a control valve to relieve system pressure, and then open all the manual valves and allow them to drain completely.
Automatic Drain Method
This method requires no work from you because automatic valves will open and drain excess water any time pressure falls below a certain limit, telling the valve that water is not actively flowing through the pipe. However, while automatic drainage can do the job for you when it comes to sprinkler heads and side pipes, this will not work with main lines. You must always manually drain a main line or else risk it bursting during a freeze.
Compressed Air Blowout Method
This is the trickiest method to do yourself, and one for which many people choose to call in a professional. It involves using compressed air to blow through the pipes and valves and completely dry them out. Before starting the process, you must close the mainline sprinkler shut-off valve, relieve pressure to the system and attach the air compressor hose.
Protect Your Controller
Your controller is another expensive piece of equipment you want to find in working condition come spring. You can protect your controller by ensuring it is switched off but with the backup battery still in, which will prevent a short or condensation damage. You should also remove the wires connecting it to the sprinkler system, as a power surge could accidentally activate your sprinklers.