How to winterize your Texas Irrigation System
Why do we winterize?
We want to take care of our irrigation system. Often times there are breaks in our systems after a long hard winter. Everyone knows that water expands when it freezes – we need to take this into consideration when we are preparing for the cold months.
The majority of winter irrigation issues in Texas arise from underuse instead of freezing issues. Many people turn off their systems entirely. This intuitively makes sense. The grass goes dormant and there is often a smattering of rain, so why should you run you system and waste water? Turns out there are a couple of reasons to make sure you run your system consistently throughout the cold season.
- Your turf still needs water – just a lot less than the summer. Proper watering throughout the winter season will keep your soil loose and your turf better fortified from the damage of the cold.
- Irrigation – like most mechanical things – needs to be used periodically so that it doesn’t break. Like an old car, when you don’t use it, you lose it. Old fittings dry out and break. Pipes dry out. Etc.
When we think about winter damage to our irrigation we usually think about pipe breaks, but with the vast majority of systems under ground we don’t get many pipe issues. The ground in Central Texas almost never gets cold enough to threaten buried pipes.
There is a notable exception – Backflow preventors. Certain backflow preventors are above ground (often out by the street or by the house). These are pipes and are a high risk for breaking in a hard freeze (we replace several a year). Unfortunately, these are also expensive due to the heavy amounts of metal used in their construction.
How to winterize your irrigation system:
Let’s start with the most expensive thing to protect – the backflow preventor. Like we said earlier, these are often the only part of the system that is above ground and they are expensive. Insulation. Insulation. Insulation. BUT, make sure you apply the insulation in such a manner as to not render the devide inefeective. If you don’t know, backflow preventors are very important for the health of our water system. They prevent nasty stuf to go back through our system in to the public drinking water. Just wrapping the thing in insulation tape will actually prevent the system from working properly. We recommend insulation bags. They are not perfect and will not prevent every issue, but they are almost always enough to protect your system.
Next let’s talk about operating the system – how should the timer be set? Short answer – it depends. Longer answer – most zones should still run, just at a significantly decreased rate and less often than at other times in the spring. Some zones can be turned off, but this is rare. It is safe to just assume a very short run time.
Finally, to winterize your irrigation system, you should inspect the home for other areas of high risk. Each home has its own unique challenges. Perhaps you have an exposed faucet (not irrigation but still good to protect). Perhaps you have an exposed pipe where there is erosion. Do a quick run through and make sure that you don’t have any small problems that will turn into big problems.
If you want to learn more about who we are and why we exist please visit our about page.
Or if you want to visit a site for a north winterization visit here. It doesn’t really apply to us in Texas though.