When to Winterize
Every November we receive several calls for sprinkler winterization unfortunately many of these calls come after several hard freezes have already occurred. Once freezing temps begin it may be too late to winterize. Once the ground has frozen 3 days in a row it’s too late to winterize.
Understanding the timing of winterization, and the disastrous effects of not doing, so on time will help you make an informed decision about when it's time to winterize your sprinkler system.
Watch the Weather
Seeing how we are a sprinkler company we always have our eye on the weather especially in the Spring, and Autumn. Obviously our advice to our customers is to winterize early we begin winterizing on the 1st of October, but winterization could take place as early as mid September. Temperatures begin dropping, and rain storms are coming in this time of year.
During the Summer months lawns require roughly 1 ½ inches of water a week to survive. Once temperatures drop less water is required.
Your sprinklers must be winterized before the first hard freeze. A hard freeze is when the outdoor air dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Utah State University climate reports the average freeze date is Oct. 13 the late freeze date is Nov. 9th. Sprinkler Repair Guy removed a backflow for a customer on Oct. 15 due to the inlet pipe and backflow being frozen. You should always check for expected freeze dates to determine when to winterize. If you’re a customer; we send out emails and text messages to all our customers once winterization season begins. These dates are also posted on our Facebook and our website https://www.sprinklerrepairguy.net/
http://waterwiseutah.org/ is a great resource to know when to start, and stop watering. Plants, and lawns go dormant in preparation for winter. Before that happens natural events such as rains occur to aid plants through this dormancy period. Once the rains begin turn off your system, and call a sprinkler professional to winterize your system.
Note: I said sprinkler professional. Many people will rent air compressors for a week or a month to make some extra Christmas money. Many of these people do not understand the effects of heat, friction, PSI, CFM, and ice on your sprinkler system. They are looking to make some quick cash and more times than not sprinkler professionals are called out in the spring for valves that won’t function properly, pipe fittings, and sprinklers that have been blown apart.
Effects of Frozen Backflow Preventer
The Backflow is the most expensive single piece in your sprinkler system, It is also the most beneficial, and the first part to freeze. Backflow preventers are required by current codes to be above ground. This leaves them completely exposed to the elements. If you have ever stuck your tongue to a flagpole you will know just how cold brass and galvanized steel can become. This being the case they can, and usually will freeze the first time temps get 32 degrees or lower. They may not crack on the first freeze, but more than likely they will by the third.
If your system is not equipped with drains, or a blowout the backflow will be used to winterize your system. If your backflow is frozen it becomes more complicated to winterize your system.
Effects of Frozen Sprinklers
The second most likely part of your system to freeze is the sprinkler heads.As the ground begins to
freeze,frozen water expands inside the heads. The pressure from the ice can crack the side of the sprinkler or body, and oftenly the top of the head will pop off. Water will also freeze inside the funny pipe. This is the tubing that connects your heads to the underground pipes. All of these issues will require you to replace at a minimum the sprinkler head. Depending on the head's used the cost can range from $3 to $60+
Effects of Frozen Manifolds/Valves
The manifold is the heart of you sprinkler system. This manifold connects your mainline to the valves.The valves control the water from the main line to the rest of the sprinklers. If water freezes the manifold, and valves it can get costly quick. Many manifolds that are installed these days have threaded attachments which make replacement simpler, but on older systems the whole piece will need to be cut out, and replaced. This can take the better part of your day to replace.
Effects of Frozen Pipes
If you fail to winterize your system before the first 3 consecutive freezes, it's likely that the water inside will freeze. Pipe is typically installed between 8-12 inches so it is the last part of the system to freeze.With no room for the freezing water to expand, PVC pipes can shatter. Poly pipe is more forgiving, but it still can bulge and crack. Frozen pipes are the most difficult repair to make.
With all that said Sprinkler Repair Guy will stop winterizing after we begin seeing a couple frozen backflows, and this is our reasoning : if ice has already began to form in your system hooking an air compressor up to your system will shoot ice chunks at high speed through your entire system. This can cause just as much damage to your system as the freezing process. Pipe fittings can get blown apart, valve diaphragms can warp, and sprinkler heads have been know to shoot right out of the ground.
We find it’s better to let the other guys ruin your system.