Though we at the Wills Company are always more than happy to hear from our clients, we’d love to help those we serve avoid the need to call regarding water problems related to exterior sprinkler system malfunctions during cold weather months. Sprinkler systems can be irreparably damaged if proper steps aren’t taken in advance of winter.

Before cooler temperatures settle in, prepare your exterior sprinkler system to weather the chill—and prevent more costly, complicated issues such as bursting pipes and shattering sprinkler heads. Here are some key tips that you and your irrigation system provider can address.

Blow out the water from the system.

It’s essential to blow out all/drain water from the irrigation system. This ensures water won’t freeze and expand in the pipes. Landscapers or irrigation system providers may use a commercial compressor to accomplish a full flush.

Disengage the timer.

To keep the pipes empty, be sure to turn off or unplug your timer. Any system water blow-out would be for naught if the timer is still on, sending water through the system. If you chose to unplug the timer, be aware that you will need to reprogram it come springtime.

Turn off the main water valve.

The shut-off valve for your sprinkler system should be located in a place that can’t freeze. Still, you will want to turn off the main water valve at the meter with a manual shut-off. This is an effective measure to prevent freezing. If your system doesn’t have a main shutoff valve, consider having one installed in advance of the winter months.

Remove backflow preventer and valves.

Your system’s back flow preventer and valves are located above ground and, thus, subject to freezing. They should be removed each winter, as even the smallest drips of frozen water could damage internal parts.

Protect your pump.

If your system is fed by pumping water from a well or pond, take steps to care for the pump during the cold. Some professionals recommend putting 1 to 2 cups of RV anti-freeze into the pump to keep it from freezing. The anti-freeze won’t harm the landscape when it is ejected once the system is turned back on (though precaution should be taken for pets and wildlife).

Insulate above ground pipes.

Make it standard procedure to wrap pipes that are above ground and exposed to the elements. Be sure to insulate your valve if it is located in a place that might be compromised by frigid temperatures.

Scale it back.

Even if temperatures remain above freezing, reduce watering times and frequency during cooler temperatures. Most plants and grasses adapt to cooler temperatures and shorter days by curtailing growth, or going dormant when it’s cold out. Proper pacing of water during all seasons results in healthier plants year-round.

Don’t forget outdoor showers and fountains.

Similar precautions apply to the care of outdoor shower and fountains during winter months, as well. Systems should be flushed of water and valves disengaged and insulated to weather the cold without incident.

Rely on the professionals.

If you need specific assistance or more details, we recommend you rely on your irrigation system provider or knowledgeable landscaper.

The Wills Company partners with homeowners to ensure homes look and function well both inside and out. We are happy to connect our clients to specialists as needed to address various aspects of home care, as we strive to make “home” as sweet a place for families to live long term.