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Is Your Sprinkler Irrigation System Ready for Winter? Part 2

Winterizing Your Irrigation System

Once you’ve finished your tune-up, repairs and upgrades, it’s now time to winterize your sprinkler irrigation system to avoid costly repairs in the spring.

This part of Texas has relatively mild winters. However, we do get freezing temperatures, and you need to prepare your sprinkler irrigation system for any freezes. This far south we don’t need to blow out our pipes with compressed air, but there are other preparations we need to make.

If you haven’t already checked for leaks with your inspection, now is the time. If you don’t catch and repair these leaks you’ll be wasting water and money during the winter that’s better saved for the summer. Also, if broken pipes are the cause of your leaks, water will remain trapped in the system, and won’t clear properly in the event you do have to drain them to prevent freezing and bursting.

When a freeze is forecast, shut off the water supply to the irrigation system. You need to protect the main shut-off valve to the system, and if it isn’t below the frost line, or inside a heated room, insulate it. If you don’t have a main shut-off valve for your system, it’s a good idea to install one.

Winterizing Above Ground

It’s very important to winterize an above ground, unprotected backflow preventer, so that freezing temperatures won’t cause trapped water in the device to expand and damage it. There are several types of backflow preventers, but their purpose is to prevent contaminated water in the irrigation system from being sucked back into your family’s drinking water if there’s a reverse flow.

The best solution is to drain the backflow device to prevent any freezing damage. However, you won’t be able to use your irrigation system if you do this until the freezing danger has past. A solution for this is to insulate the backflow preventer so you can still use it. Wrap the device in foam pipe wrap, followed by a heavy rubber tape to protect the insulation. Then cover the backflow device with an insulated bag. Call us if you need any assistance.

If you have an automatic system, shut off power to the sprinkler valves using the “rain” or “off” mode on the controller. All your settings will be maintained in this mode. If your irrigation controller has a dial similar to a clock face with no digital read-out, use the “save energy” setting to turn off power to the controller. In this case there are no settings to lose.

Insulate all above ground sprinkler pipes with either self-sticking foam insulating tape, or foam insulation tubes.

Check to see that the water has drained out of any above ground gear-driven rotor sprinklers. You’ll need to install a drain valve on their sprinkler supply line if the water won’t drain by itself. Another option is to remove the rotors and shake the water out of them. You can then replace them or store them until needed.

Avoiding Winter Problems

We recommend running your irrigation system a few times over the colder months to avoid creating any of the following problems:

  • Valve diaphragms drying out and splitting
  • Stuck valves
  • Sprinkler seals and gaskets drying out and cracking
  • Algae growing in stagnant pipe water, later clogging up sprinklers and ruining them
  • Dry dirt and dust working into sprinklers
  • Misaligned sprinklers caused by soil movement
  • Insects crawling into sprinklers and getting stuck

Running your sprinklers lubricates diaphragms and seals, moves stagnant water out of pipes, and blows dirt and insects out of the system.

There are situations when some water may need to be drained from pipes to prevent freezing and breaking, even in our temperate climate. There are a few different way to do this, but it’s best to call us to avoid damage if you’re uncertain.


Protect the investment you’ve made in your sprinkler system.  Call Smart Earth Sprinklers at (512) 694-1147 for professional inspections, repairs, and maintenance.

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