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Winterizing Drip Irrigation Systems

Posted on November 21 2019

Winterizing Drip Irrigation Systems

It’s getting down to crunch time in several parts of the U.S. for winterizing your drip irrigation systems so they’ll be ready for spring, and with minimal headaches or repairs necessary. Your valves, filters, plastic fittings, PVC pipe, poly pike, layflat hoses and even brass can bust or crack should water freeze inside these irrigation parts. Not only can it delay your spring kick-off, but it can also be quite costly to replace or repair.

Ideally, you would winterize prior to the first freeze and the time invested winterizing yields a low maintenance and cost effective setup when it’s time to start moving water again. You want to shut off the water and blow out any left in the backflow device, valves, filters, lines, sprinklers, drippers and drip line. On flat terrain, you can install automatic drain valves, flush valves or a basic emitter at the lowest points of your drip irrigation system. It may also be a good idea to run chlorine through the system, and flush it out to thoroughly clean your system prior to storing it for the winter.

Battery timers, filters and regulators should all be removed and brought indoors. Be sure to remove the batteries from the times as well. When your timer is removed, we’d recommend an insert plug be installed in the end of your main line.

Always drain your pumps by opening the lowest plug or drain outlet. Be sure that no water is left inside. Any open ends you’ll want to cover in order to keep debris and even critters from making your pump a winter home.

Both gate and ball valves will freeze. A closed gate valve traps water in the bonnet and a ball valve holds water inside the ball. If either of these freeze and expand, you’re bound to find busting, splits or cracks. You’re looking at a hefty price tag should your 3” or 4” brass gate valve succumb to a crack or split because from a freeze with water in it. Solenoid valves you can simply leave open for the winter. Automatic control valves, typically used for pressure reducing, pressure relief or a combination of valves require special care to thoroughly drain due to all the nooks and crannies. If the entire unit can be easily removed from the pipe and brought indoors, that might be the best plan of action.

Drip tape is typically an annual purchase and disposed of at the time of winterization, however poly pipe and vinyl layflat hose should be good to go for the next season and needs to be drained. You can either lift the hose every few feet to drain any remaining water, or carefully blow it out with compressed air. Layflat hose can even be automated on a spool and rolled up for the winter.

In summary, it’s imperative to get every last drop of water you can out of your drip irrigation system, and it’s a good idea to go ahead and bring anything you can indoors for the winter. Just be sure to store it so that bored rodents won’t be tempted to chew any holes in your system. Whether you need a few tools, plugs or caps, we've got you covered, and in a worst case scenario, you can trust we'll be here in the spring if any of your drip irrigation parts need replacing!