Fall has officially arrived and before we know it, winter will be following close behind. There are a few things you should do as a homeowner to ensure your lawn is prepared for winter before the cold weather and harsh conditions arrive. From shutting down your irrigation systems to winterizing your lawn, here are the things we want you to know in regards to irrigation winterization.
In the southern parts of the country there are only three seasons, spring, summer and fall. Here in Kentucky we have what some like to call winter. While winter provides many benefits and joys to those who live here it can also cause inconveniences and problems if not dealt with properly. In terms of your irrigation system, winter can be a serious issue to deal with. Your irrigation system represents an investment of $5,000 on the low end to $10,000 or more for a large complex system. Not protecting your investment properly can lead to devastating results.
During the spring, summer and fall, even when it is not actively spraying, your irrigations system is full of water at all times. When winter arrives, the water trapped in your pipes can freeze when temperatures dip below 32 degrees, causing those pipes to burst. If this happens, not only will you have broken pipes, but if your system is still pressurized water can flow out of the system at a rate of up to 2500 gallons per minute.
So, what does it mean to winterize an irrigation system? This process involves a few basic steps. First, the main water supply needs to be turned off. If you have a separate water meter for your irrigations system, this shut off valve is located under a metal meter cover. You might have two valves under the same cover or you could have a separate cover for both your house meter and irrigation meter. There is also a second valve that is attached to the PVC irrigation pipes themselves. Once this valve is closed there will be two closed valves protecting your pipes from water. Once the water supply is cut off it is time to evacuate your system of water. This is done by connecting a high pressure hose from an air compressor to your system. Ideally, you should have about 100 cubic feet of air per minute between 60 and 75 PSI. Never apply more than 80 PSI to your system. This could rupture the pipes just as freezing water would. The system is run manually through all the irrigation zones for approximately 2 to 3 minutes or until very little water vapor is coming out of the irrigation heads. Just to be safe, run through the entire system a second time. Once all of the water has been evacuated from the system, the relief valves on the backflow preventer must be opened to clear out any remaining water. The air can now be turned off and the manual valves on both sides of the backflow preventer should be set at 45 degree angles.
After you complete the process above, your irrigation system is now ready for winter. Can you do this yourself? Absolutely, but there are very good reasons to hire a landscape professional. Small homeowner compressors rarely have enough cubic feet per minute to meet the needs of the system. Straight pipes have low cubic feet per minute and can get the job done right, while many crooks and turns that your pipes take underground can retain water that can collect over winter and rupture pipes. You can rent a large commercial compressor but the expenses will far exceed the cost of hiring a professional to do it for you. Additionally, for the small fee that a professional charges you, you are passing on the risk to them. If your irrigation professional is a quality company they are going to stand behind their winterization and be responsible for any mistakes that were made. If you do your own winterization, you are your own insurance in the event that a problem arises. Pricing for this service is very simple. We pro-rate for up to 10 zones at $75, then $7.50 for each additional zone.
Don’t forget to winterize your systems this season or schedule an appointment with your local professional to get the job done. Mother nature will not be kind to those that forget. As always, if we can help you with winterizing your irrigation or with any other landscape solutions please contact us here at Four Seasons Landscape Management. We are happy to help!