Tips: Preparing Sprinkler Systems For Winter

Home irrigation and sprinkler systems need to be protected from cold weather. As the weather cools, it is important to prepare sprinkler systems for the onset of freezing temperatures. The irrigation experts at Rain Bird ( have provided the following tips to get sprinklers ready for Jack Frost's deep freeze and ensure that systems are operating in the most water-efficient manner come springtime.

  • Shutting down the controller, or automatic timer, is a key part of preparing a sprinkler system for winter. Most sprinkler systems have a "rain" or "off" mode that shuts off the signals to the valves. In this manner, the sprinklers will not turn on; however, they will retain all programming information, such as start times. Turning off the power to the controller is also an option, but this generally erases any programming that may be stored in the system.
  • Shut off the water supply to the sprinkler system. Make sure to protect the shutoff valve by wrapping it with foam insulation tape and a plastic bag.
  • Insulate any aboveground pipes. Most home supply stores sell self-sticking, foam-insulating tape and foam insulating tubes for this task.
  • If weather forecasts predict a sudden cold snap, it is essential to remove any water from the pipes and sprinklers so that the water doesn't freeze and cause pipes to burst. Manual drain valves, automatic drain valves and the compressed air blowout method are the three most common ways to drain pipes. An irrigation specialist can help you get the job done while protecting you and your lawn against potential safety risks.
  • Backflow prevention devices and valves also need insulation if they are above ground. The insulation tape used for the main shutoff valve can be used on this equipment as well, but be careful not to block the air vents or drain outlets.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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