Don’t leave it out in the cold. Prep your sprinklers for the big chill.
It was a sizzling, hot summer just about everywhere. According to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor, about 62.3 percent of the contiguous United States was classified as experiencing moderate to exceptional drought at the end of August 2012. If you’re lucky enough to own a built-in lawn sprinkler system, it probably got a good workout this year.
But as colder weather approaches, it’s time to winterize, especially if you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing for any length of time. Draining all the water from your sprinkler system is a must. Otherwise, the water that’s left in system’s pipes may freeze, expand and crack or burst the pipe and fixtures. At best, you’ll have a costly repair bill come spring. At worst, you’ll be dealing with an even more expensive emergency repair.
There are three ways to drain water from your sprinkler system. Here are some basic guidelines—but when in doubt, call a professional. The company that installed the system can do it for you, and it usually won’t cost much.
Manual Drain If your system has manual valves, they’ll be located at the end and low points of the system piping. Shut off the system’s water supply in your basement. Then locate and open all the manual drain valves. If your system has an automatic timer, turn that off. You may also need to pull up on the sprinkler heads to let trapped water escape. Be sure to let water drain out of the backflow preventer too. Once the water has been completely drained, close all the manual drain valves.
Automatic Drain This is the way to go if your system has automatic drain valves at the end and low points of the system piping. These valves open automatically so water can drain from the system whenever the water pressure drops to a low pressure. To drain a system like this on demand, shut off the water-supply valve and turn the system control or timer to the “on” position. This will relieve the system pressure. After the water has drained out of the system pipes, open the boiler drain and let any remaining water drain from between the shut-off valve and backflow preventer. The automatic system will take it from there. Blowout Method This involves flushing out the sprinkler system with compressed air. It’s very effective, but most experts recommend hiring a qualified professional to handle the job to prevent possible damage to the system.
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