Sprinkler System Maintenance and Winterization

Sprinkler System Maintenance and Winterization

 When the air becomes cool, and the leaves take on their fall colors, our southern grasses begin entering into their dormant stage. Time to turn off our irrigation systems, but before you do let’s look at a few things that might make our spring start up a little less adventurous. Many of us set our timers (start times and run times) to water when we are asleep or not at home and we never see the irrigation actually operate. Often sprinkler heads are misaligned, broken or even missing and we have no idea that anything is wrong.

Before you lock it all up for the winter, start each zone and check to see if a head needs adjusting (watering buildings and pavement provide no real benefits and actually waste water and money). Replace broken and missing heads. If you have a drip system, check and clean your filters. All irrigation heads have a screen type strainer, if a heads seems to be performing poorly, check its screen to see if it might be clogged. Also a nozzle may be stopped up.

This would be a great time to add a rain check device to your controller in order to save money next year. A rain check would allow you to prevent watering when rainfall is available without rescheduling your timer. Some of us may have made some changes to our landscaping, and now our irrigation needs to be updated in order to better conform to the new or rearranged plant material and hardscaping. Contractors are often overwhelmed during the spring with new installations and repairs, so fall and winter are excellent times to get these renovations done.

Exposed pipes should be wrapped with some sort of insulation or drained. Irrigation pumps and their suction and discharge lines should also be drained. The correct way to accomplish this is to remove the drain plug (lowest plug on the pump housing) and the fill plug (where you prime the pump), turn off the breaker to the pump and start the irrigation controller so that it runs all the stations (you can shorten the length of time for each station or manually run through the stations allowing a couple of minutes per zone). By using this method we assure that the drainage of water from the system is more complete.

The suction lines of the pump are harder to drain due to the foot valve (a check valve with an intake screen). You could remove the foot valve (difficult to do), unhook the suction piping from the pump and pull it all up on shore and dump out the water or separate the suction from the pump and wrap it with an insulation. Be sure to prevent any insects or small animals from crawling into exposed openings. After taking care of the suction loosely replace both plugs and turn your controller to the off position. Your spring startup should be a lot less stressful next year.

David Park
W.P. Law Inc.

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