Don’t wait until it's too late: Winterize your Irrigation System

How and When to Get Your Irrigation System Ready for Winter

Fall is unpredictable. One day you’re in shorts and the next you’re pulling out your fleece jacket. For us at Earth Elements, the shifting weather is a signal to get into action and begin closing irrigation systems down for the season.

Predicting our Canadian weather is nearly impossible.  This is why we carry several responsive systems that will temporarily turn off your irrigation system during those colder days.

Technology to the Rescue: Proactive Approach to Canada’s Unpredictable Weather Patterns  

The Hunter Mini Weather Station responds to the changing temperature and precipitation level. We love this station in the springtime for its RainClik feature, saving our customers money and water.  However; it’s the Freeze Clik feature that will truly protect your investment when the weather begins to drop. This feature tracks the temperature. When it drops near to freezing (3 degrees to be precise), it stops the water from flowing.  

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive controller, Earth Elements highly recommends Hunter Pro HC with Hyrdawise.  This smart system allows the user to set the parameters, including temperature or rainfall, to stop the system from watering. The controller regularly monitors information from the closest weather station to help determine when to irrigate.

Start Preparing for the Freeze Ahead

However; winterizing your irrigation system is much more than turning off water. To fully protect your investment, it’s critical that all of the resting water has been removed.  Failing to do so, could result in damaged parts, frozen pipes, and in the worst-case scenario, burst pipes and irreparable damage.

Effective Winterizing Involves:

·       Time

·       Attention to Detail (all water needs to be out of the system)

·       Knowledge about hidden water hot spots and how to clear them out

Here are the facts: Any water left in the pipe can freeze, and in turn, expand and crack the piping.

But that’s not all-this residual water can also damage the internal components, including potentially cracking the electric valves, pumps, and sprinklers.

The take away here is simple:

If the cold weather is coming- Get all the water out of your irrigation system

So, how do you do that?

Most irrigation systems are winterized using one of there methods: Manual Drain, Auto Drain or Blow Out.

Manual Drain Method

This technique is used in systems where manual valves are at the end and low points of the irrigation piping. Although the process may be time consuming, each step is absolutely necessary to ensure that all of the water is removed from the system.   

1)      Shut off the water supply

2)      Open all of the manual drive valves

3)      When the water has drained out of the mainline, it is time to open the boiler drain valve/drain cap on the stop and waste valve and remove all the remaining water that may be resting in between the water shut off valve and the back-flow device.

4)      Open the test cocks on the backflow device (if installed, only found on some municipal water supplies. Lake, pond or river source systems won’t have this component)

5)      For sprinklers that have check valves, pull up on the sprinklers so that the water can drain out of the bottom of the sprinkler body.

6)      Do a final check, and make sure that all water has been removed from the backflow, piping, and sprinklers.

7)      Once the water has fully drained, close all of the manual drain valves.


Automatic Drain Method

Use this method when the valves at the end and low points of the irrigation piping are automatic drain valves.

1)      Shut off the irrigation water supply

2)      Activate a station to relieve the pressure in the system

3)      When the water in the mainline has fully drained, open the boiler drain valve (or the drain cap on the stop and waste valve) and remove the remaining water.

4)      Open the test cocks on the backflow device

5)      For sprinklers that have check valves, pull up on the sprinklers so that the water can drain out of the bottom of the sprinkler body.

6)      Do a final check, and make sure that all of the water has been removed from the backflow, piping, and sprinklers.

Blow Out Method

The blow out method is an extremely efficient way of removing all of the water from the irrigation system.  To do this: the technique attaches an air compressor to the mainline. However; due to the volatile nature of this process, Earth Elements highly recommends that this technique is only done by an irrigation contractor.

Don’t Forget the Pump:

Most irrigation systems use either a centrifugal pump or submersible pump. 

Submersible pumps can be left alone if:

·       They are under six or more feet of water

·       The boathouse or dock has bubblers that prevent the water from freezing

If the pump is in a shallow bay, remove it to reduce the risk of freezing.  But that’s not all, don’t forget to turn the pump breaker off and leave the hose bib along the main shoreline open for the winter.

Centrifugal pumps, on the other hand, should be fully drained and the intake removed from the water.  Once drained, we highly recommend disconnecting the pump and moving it to an area, well above the spring high water line. This will help protect your pump from winter damage and spring flooding-as submerging these pumps in water will ruin their electric motor components.

Take the Extra Step-Shut down the Controller

Controllers help make sure that your irrigation system runs seamlessly in the spring and summer.  There are two options:

1)      Maintain the existing schedule by placing the timer onto rain mode. Now, remove any wires that are connected to the Master Valve and common terminals. This will preserve all of your irrigation settings, while also ensuring that the system will not accidentally be triggered.

2)      Shut off the power to the controller.  In the case of a new controller, the hard memory will have saved the program. However; the time and date will need to be reset. 

For those clients, with ProHC with Hydrawise, you have the added benefit of being able to preset the exact date that the system will activate the following spring.  

In our cold, Canadian winters-irrigation systems need to be fully protected.  But, here’s the thing- you don’t have to do the process on your own. Our team at Earth Elements are here to support you.  We understand the unique needs of each irrigation system, and how to best protect it from the damage of cold, ice and flooding.  Give us a call today!