It’s hard to consider that in just a short time we’ll be bundling up for another winter but it’s on its way and there’s one fall maintenance chore that should never be neglected: Winterizing outdoor irrigation systems and faucets. The time to do so is upon us, so if this is your first autumn in your new home, we’ll walk you through the process.
Start with the faucets
- The hose and splitters can trap water and cause the faucet to freeze and break. This is why it’s important to disconnect the hose and the splitters early – in case we have an early freeze. Drain the water from the hoses and store them in a dry place so that they don’t become brittle. A large plastic garbage bag makes a handy and appropriate winter storage container.
- Next, check the faucets for leaks around the spout and the handle. If the leak is happening at the handle, try tightening the packing nut first. If that doesn’t work, you may need to replace the washer behind it. You’ll find a video walk-through of the process at TodaysHomeowner.com.
- Shut off the water to the faucets and then turn on the faucet. This will drain whatever water is left, again helping to avoid a broken pipe. If you can’t isolate the water line to the faucet, use additional insulation, which we’ll discuss in the next step.
- Even if you’ve drained the faucet, install a cover to further protect it from freezing. These are available at large hardware and home improvement stores.
Let’s move on to protecting the irrigation lines
PVC pipes have a tendency to crack and break when they freeze so it’s important to blow out your irrigation lines before the first freeze. It’s not hard to do but you’ll need some tools, a 100 psi air compressor and eye protection. Don’t neglect the latter – using compressed air can be dangerous.
Blow out the irrigation lines before the first freeze. Now, this isn’t a challenging project but it does require some equipment you may not have on hand, such as a 100 psi air compressor. Should you decide to tackle the job on your own, here’s a walk-through:
- Shut off the water to the irrigation system. If you can’t isolate the line, contact a plumber.
- Use a screwdriver to open the release valve, allowing air into the system. If you have flow sensors, remove them.
- Choose the release valve furthest from you and use the compressor to force air into it. It should only take a few minutes to blow all of the water out. Close the valve and continue on with each subsequent valve, closing each one when it’s finished.
- If your backflow system has ball valves, allow them to remain about half-open so that any leftover water to get out in a freeze.
- Open the release valves at the lower end of the lines to release any water that may still be trapped.
Keep safety in mind
The experts at Hunter Industries provide homeowners with the following warnings:
- Wear appropriate eye protection. Hunter suggests that ANSI (American National Standards Institute)-approved eye protection is best.
- Don’t allow the air pressure to exceed 80 psi for PVC pipes and 50 psi for polyethylene pipes.
- Stand away from irrigation system parts while you’re pressurizing the system with air.
- Don’t use the backflow or pump to blow out the system. First do the blow-out then drain the pump or backflow.
- Don’t forget to close the manual drain valves when you’re finished.
If you don’t feel you can handle the job on your own, call a local lawn care company and let the professionals handle it.