There are many lawn care to-dos to handle before the winter season begins. Homeowners should aerate their lawn to relieve compressed soil and provide drainage for water, overseed to help their lawn better withstand insects and disease and fertilize to give soil nutrients that stimulate root growth—to name a few items on the checklist.
While these techniques are relevant to lawns of various shapes and sizes, some outdoor spaces require further winterization steps. This applies to homes that include irrigation systems. These systems must be drained before winter so water left inside does not freeze and damage components that influence their performance.
When it comes to the effectiveness of winterizing a sprinkler system, there are several factors that influence the end result. Here are some best practices to guide you in the right direction.
Winterize Sprinkler System: 3 Ways to Take the Right Approach
Know When to Take Action
Time is of the essence in every lawn care technique, and the winterization of a sprinkler system is no exception. These systems need to be drained before the first hard freeze of the season—when outdoor air falls below 30℉—or else run the risk of costly and challenging repairs in the springtime.
For homeowners in the Ohio area, the first freeze typically occurs anywhere between early October and early November. Tuning into local weather reports can help give you a better idea of when exactly to expect the first freeze and thus motivate subsequent actions. Professionals may also have access to historical data records that can further guide when to winterize sprinkler systems.
Leverage Proper Preparation Techniques
Before an irrigation system is drained, a few other steps need to happen. To start, the main valve that supplies water to the system must be shut off before freezing temperatures hit. Installers of a sprinkler system will often provide a diagram of the system that pinpoints the location of this valve, whether it’s outdoors or in the basement, amongst other potential areas. In the case that the valve is exposed, insulation must be added to the system to protect it from harsh winter conditions.
Then, there’s the program controls to consider. It could be the case that an irrigation system has either a digital readout or a manual dial. Digital controllers can be programmed to “rain-mode” to shut off signals to valves, while retaining the current time and programming settings. Manual controllers, on the other hand, must be turned completely to “off”, with reprogramming required in springtime.
Choose the Best Drainage Method
When the time comes to drain the system, there’s another decision to make. Homeowners need to determine which method—the manual drain, auto drain or blowout method—is the optimal choice based on the nature of their system as well as who is handling the job.
Manual draining, for instance, is only recommended for experienced homeowners as water can easily remained trapped in the system otherwise. If the system supports automatic drainage, this process becomes much more streamlined, with water checks needed to confirm effectiveness.
When the nature of the system is less clear to homeowners, the safest route to take (and also the most common) is the blow-out method, which uses compressed air to drain irrigation systems. It’s best to have blow-outs performed by a trained professional as improper techniques can not only introduce safety hazards to homeowners but also damage the system.