by Blake Herzog
Many homeowners have ditched sprinklers for more water conservation-friendly drip irrigation, but they still need to protect these delicate systems from the cold air, dryness and frost of the winter months if they don’t want to redo part or all of it the next spring.
Here are the simple steps you can take to winterize your system, preferably in October or November, to make sure cold weather doesn’t “blow out” your lines.
Shut off the system and remove faucet
Turn off the water supply that feeds into the pressure regulator and filter. Remove the faucet components including the timer, backflow preventer, pressure regulator and filter. Drain any water inside these components and pack them away indoors to prevent corrosion and warping. Remove batteries from the timer for further protection.
Drain or blow out the tubing
Open all the manual valves and take off the end fittings to drain the system completely. A polyethylene mainline typically won’t be damaged by a freeze, but any fittings may crack if any water remains inside. Walk through the whole network and slightly lift any lines where water might be trapped.
If you have a larger watering system or want to speed up the process, you can “blow out” the water with an air compressor, available for rent. Remove any end fittings from emitters before doing this, and never set the compressor higher than 50 psi, the maximum pressure most tubing can withstand. After you’re done, put the fittings back in place but don’t tighten them completely so water that collects over the winter can drain.
Seal the open line
Seal the open end at the beginning of the mainline tubing with a female threaded hose cap, heavy plastic bag or other strong barrier to keep insects, debris or water from worming their way inside and damaging the system.
Water by hand as needed
Your landscape’s water requirements will be lower during the cold season so this shouldn’t be too much of a chore. Come spring, put everything back together, tighten end fittings and you’re ready to go!