Monday, October 4, 2010

Shutting down for the Season

I feel as if I have been neglecting you all, but September is a pretty quiet month sprinkler-wise. Other than to remind you to turn down your sprinkler from summer settings there isn't a lot happening in sprinkler world in September. October is another story. All the fertilizer companies have been busy applying fall fertilizer and we have already had our first frost. This points to one thing in our world - Winterizations.

It is absolutely vital your sprinkler gets properly winterized each fall. If you are not sure how it is done, it is MUCH more cost-effective to pay the winterization fee to a professional than it is to pay for repairs in the spring.

The two most common reasons we see spring breakage are: 1) Forgetting to turn (open)  the bleed screws on the test-cocks. This tiny 1/4 of a turn action is what releases any remaining water out of the pressure backflow device and is a very important step. 2) Failure of the sprinkler shut-off valve in the basement. Damage from this problem can be prevented by simply returning to the basement a week or so after you have winterized and re-opening the basement drain. If water comes out, your shut off valve is leaking water into the pipe, which will eventually fill up and break the backflow. Call your sprinkler or plumbing contractor immediately to have this valve replaced to avoid damage. If it is dry, all is well and you walk away until spring.  Of course, this test only works if you winterize your sprinkler BEFORE the temperatures drop below freezing.

Here is your official reminder of how to winterize your average sprinkler system. Although we can't specifically address the needs of every system, but these are some basic instruction to help you winterize.

Tools Needed : A bucket, a large screwdriver or pliers with long handles, a flat blade screwdriver.
 1.  Go to the basement and shut off the water supply to the sprinkler system. This is usually a yellow, blue or red handle. Locate the system drain valve. This typically looks like a hose bibb handle and is on the same water line as the shut-off valve. Hang a bucket off or under the drain and open the drain.
2.  Go outside and open the valve box(es) in the ground. You will need the large screwdriver or a long pliers handle to open the lid. Open the drain(s) in the valve box(es). NOTE: Not every system will have valve box drains, most newer systems have automatic drains. If you do have a drain you will see a shut-off much like a hose bibb.
3.  Go to the vacuum breaker (PVB) this will be located on the side of the building. Open the drains by turning the bleed screws on the test cocks - you will need a flat blade screwdriver. Turn the screws 1/4 turn either direction. Turn the green handles 1/4 turn so they are half-way on and half-way off.
4.  Return to the basement, close the drain and empty the bucket.
5.  Go to the garage and turn the controller to the off position. You do not need to unplug the controller for the winter. Simply turning it to off will retain your preferred watering settings for the next watering season.

This is really not a difficult process, but some people just don't get it, and that is okay. That's what we are here for! It is better to be safe than sorry.

If you can't winterize your system properly and the temperatures are going to be below freezing for a night, you can set your sprinkler to run when the temperatures are at their lowest -- running water doesn't freeze as easily.

The easiest quick fix is to take an old towel or blanket and cover up your vacuum breaker (the exposed part of your sprinkler at the side of your house), and as an extra precaution turn off the water source for your sprinkler (in your basement). That way, if the pipe outside does freeze and break, at least it won't be spraying water.

Remember -- these tricks will not get you through the winter safely -- your system needs to be properly drained to prevent damage, but they will carry you through an occasional cold night.

Have a great fall. Remember to take care of your sprinkler BEFORE the temperatures drop below 30 degrees. If you have questions feel free to give us a call.