Don’t Neglect This Fall Home Maintenance Chore

winterizing irrigation system

There are so many home upgrades and tasks that we take on during the fall and winter months, but this one should never be missed. Here’s what it is:

Winterizing outdoor irrigation systems

No, this is not exciting or glamorous. But freezing temperatures are a major threat to your irrigation systems. Learn how to avoid costly repairs before it’s too late.

When leaves begin to drop, it’s time to shut down your lawn irrigation systems and prepare for winter’s bitter cold. Sprinkler pipes and other components are at risk of freezing and breaking when temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take the steps now to avoid costly repairs. And couple this with your professional seasonal maintenance.

Below are some general steps for you to take:

Shut off water supply

Shut off the water supply to the lawn irrigation systems. The main shut-off valve for your sprinkler system needs to be protected. If you do not have a main shut-off valve, consider it a preventative investment and arrange to have one installed to avoid an expensive lawn sprinkler system repair.

Any above ground piping system should be insulated. Self-sticking foam-insulating tape or foam insulating tubes commonly found at home supply stores are fine. Better yet, bury the piping when possible.

Stay in control

If you have an automatic system, then you will need to shut down the controller (timer). Most controllers have an “off” or “rain-mode” setting, which simply shuts off the signals to the valves.

If your controller is responsible for activating a pump, remove wires that are connected to “MV” and “common” to prevent the possibility of the pump from being activated. Activating the pump could cause overheating.

An alternative to using the rain mode is to shut off the power to the controller or unplug the transformer. If you do, you’ll need to reprogram the time and potentially all your other settings then replace the battery (if applicable) in the spring.

A good rule of thumb is that if the controller has a digital time display,  you should use the rain setting on the controller. If the controller has a dial, like an analog clock face, turn off the power to the controller to save electricity.

Drain the pipes

In the Virginia Beach area, it may not be necessary to remove all the water from the underground pipes, because it doesn’t freeze that deep. But you do need to remove most of the water from the pipes to prevent breakage of the pipe or other components.

There are several ways to drain your pipes: the manual drain valve, the automatic drain valve or the compressed air blow-out methods. However, because there could be potential safety risks, we always recommend contacting the professionals.

Protect irrigation system valves and backflow preventers

If your backflow preventers and valves are above ground, protect them. You can use insulation tape or pine straw for this.

Of course, we always recommend to review your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on how to best prepare your systems for the cool winter months. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This definitely applies when you winterize spinkler system equipment.

When in doubt, call a professional.

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