I was reading the annual list of winterizing suggestions from the Portland Oregonian, reminding those of us that experience sub-freezing temperatures during the winter months. For most of us living in the cooler American climes, winterizing is a simple chore of wrapping pipes exposed to outdoor air or freezing cold in basements, garages, attics, and crawl spaces.
But what about homeowners that have extensive outdoor irrigation systems? How can you protect your gardens, extensive landscaping installations, and greenhouses from the perils of burst pipes and flooding that turns to disastrous ice?
Owners of Heritage Lawn Care in Kansas City recommend that, even if you don't have an extensive irrigation setup, it's imperative to winterize lawn sprinkler systems from burst pipes that can create flood and ice damage, not only to your own yard, but to adjoining properties.
Blowing Out Irrigation Pipes
In freezing parts of the country, farmers have long known about the saving grace of flushing out irrigation pipes before the first freeze. According to Green Touch Irrigation the more commonly used black polyethylene pipe known for flexibility is not immune to flash freezing and bursting. Drain your system by closing the manual water supply valve, while opening all the other valves at the low end of the system to allow the water to drain. For sprinklers with check valves, you'll need pull up the heads and allow them to drain into the soil.
Ask your landscape contractor if there are automatic drain valves located at the low end of the piping system that you can activate simply by decreasing the pipeline pressure to less than 10 PSI. If your system is this complex, you may be better off calling in your landscaping or irrigation contractor to handle the project.
DIY or Using Irrigation Contractors
If the difference between draining your system on your own or calling in a plumbing contractor is $100, then you'll need to decide whether the effort is worthwhile or to call in help. Contractors often blow out all the water in your pipes with a compressed air hose. Either way, you'll need to cut off all the water, empty the pipes, and drain the length all the way between the backflow prevention device and the shutoff valve.
Tending to the outdoor maintenance is as important as preparing your windows for winter. If you want to stay warm, make sure that you've attended to your outdoor plumbing winterization first. There's nothing more frustrating than pulling on thermal underwear, work clothes, boots, and warm gloves to repair a outdoor burst pipe.