Protecting your irrigation system in winter

A residential or commercial irrigation system can be advantageous for a number of reasons. Thanks to programmable timers and control systems, they can be set to water a lawn at specific intervals for a specific time or based on water used. They’re designed to cover a large area, and conserve water while providing maximum benefit to lawns, flowers, shrubs, and other landscaping elements.

But because Canadian winters are extremely harsh with violent freeze and thaw cycles, we always recommend an irrigation system be maintained and prepped in advance of freezing temperatures. In any area where temperatures dip below freezing for more than a few hours a night, a sprinkler system needs to be drained of excess water. If water remains in the lines or control valves, it will expand upon freezing and damage the system, rendering it inoperative and perhaps resulting in a costly water line break.

At Pyramid Contracting, we provide a wide range of landscaping services, including sod replacement, installing walkways, and designing, installing, and servicing an irrigation system for customers throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Preparing a sprinkler system for long winter months isn’t as difficult as it seems if you follow these steps:

  1. Close the main system shut-off valve, which is normally located where the main feed for the system “Tees” off the main water line into the residence or place of business. For systems with an electronic control, set it to “rain” so it won’t need to be re-programmed in the fall; if the system is manual, turn off the rotating clock control mechanism.
  2. Turn the ball or gate valves on the sides of the backflow device if one is installed. To drain a manual system, open the valves where they’re installed at the lowest place per line. Once the water pressure falls, automatic drains will open and as the lines completely drain will close again.
  3. Next, open the backflow drain, typically located on a vertical pipe between the shutoff valve and main line or even a stopcock on the side of a backflow device. Then, allow any backflow to drain completely by opening the valve between the main line that goes out to the sprinklers and the backflow device.
  4. The fifth step is to attach an air compressor to the blow-out adapter, which could be located on the backflow device or on a standpipe on the main line. Hint: If using an air compressor, there’s no need to exceed air pressure greater than 50 psi. Blowing air through the line will result in the sprinkler tops to pop up and blow out what appears to be steam. Caution: Don’t run an air compressor for more than a few minutes at a time, but if you notice water in the backflow device or backflow pipe, the process should be repeated.
  5. When preparing your irrigation system for the winter, follow all manufacturer’s instructions for drying off and caring for the sprinkler heads. Each company — Orbit, Rain Bird, Toro, Hunter, Nelson, or any other – has their own recommended process.

If you are still not sure how to protect and prepare your irrigation system for winter then give Pyramid contracting a call, we have been installing, repairing and protecting irrigation systems for many years and we would love to help you with yours. Call us today.