Winterizing Irrigation Systems
the first frost of autumn
arrives, it's time to think about properly winterizing outdoor pipes
and lawn sprinklers. A few precautions now can save a lot of time,
money and headaches later.
Freezing temperatures can cause the water in an exposed pipe to expand.
If the water expands too much, the pipe bursts.
systems, you probably wouldn't know you had any
pipe damage until you turned it on for the first spring watering," said
Kerry Harrison, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension
Most in-ground sprinkler pipes will be okay. Only the top few inches
inches of the ground will freeze in most areas, and pipes
installed well below this level.
Other irrigation components, such as
backflow-prevention valves, are at ground level, though, and could be
If any exposed valves or pipes are around your home, tape them up or
"use a good old sack to wrap them," Harrison said. Home improvement
stores have many tapes, foams and gadgets to keep these pipes warm on
cold, winter nights.
The tips of sprinkler heads can hold water. When frozen, they can
rupture. The whole sprinkler system holds water, too, even when it
isn't being used. Don't forget to drain the system, Harrison said. If
you don't drain it properly in the winter, your sprinkler could be a
geyser when you turn it on next spring.
"Arrangements should have been made in the installation process to have
a way to drain those lines that would hold water through a buried valve
in a pit," he said.
If you bought a home with an installed irrigation system, find this
drain valve. Some systems are equipped with automatic drain valves.
Don't forget about outside water hoses. Just do one of two things:
If you leave
hoses undrained outside in the winter, don't move them or touch them in
freezing weather. Frozen hoses are fragile. You could be the one to
the hoses hanging outside. But disconnect them from faucets.
drain and store hoses someplace with a constant temperature. This will
prolong the life of the hoses.
Private water users and rural residents with wells should check out
their main water pump. Usually a quarter-inch pipe connects to the
pressure switch. If it's metal, it likely won't freeze. But if it's
plastic, it might freeze and burst. This could cause the water pump to
fail or continue to run and cause some major winter repairs.
If all these precautions fail and a pipe bursts anyway, there's still
one thing to remember: "Know where your main water cutoff is," Harrison
Source: The University of
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
and Garden Tools