Sprinkler Self Help
How to Turn Off and Drain Your System to Protect It From Early Freezes:
In order to protect your sprinkler system from early freezes in the fall before you have had it fully winterized, you can turn off and drain the water to your sprinkler system which will be adequate to protect it from “light” freezes.
Step 1: Turn off the water supply to the sprinkler system. A ball valve, gate valve, or stop and waste valve located between the water supply and the backflow device needs to be turned off. This is usually located in the basement, crawlspace, or underground in a valve box.
Step 2: Open both ball valves and both test cocks slowly on the backflow device. You will need a small flat blade screwdriver to open the test cocks. This will break the seal on the PVB and allow air into the system so the water can drain out. Some water will come out of the test cocks when you open them but it should lose pressure quickly and then stop. If the water does not stop coming out of the test cocks or comes out at a very high pressure for an extended amount of time, you may not have closed the main shut off properly or all the way. If this is the case, close the test cocks and start over with step 1
Step 3: Drain the water back to the main shut off. Go back to the main water shut off from step one. There should be a drain valve located close to it or a bleed cap on the side of it if the shut off is located in either the basement or crawlspace. Make sure you have a bucket to collect the water you will drain out. Open the drain slowly and leave it open until water stops coming out. This usually will not take more than a couple of minutes unless the drain and the backflow device are located a hundred feet or more apart from each other. If the water does not stop coming out of the drain or comes out at a very high pressure for an extended amount of time, you may not have closed the main shut off properly or all the way.
If this is the case, close the drain valve and start over with step 1.
If the main shut off to the sprinkler system is located underground, it may have an automatic drain or a manual drain. If the system has an automatic drain, go to step 4. If it has a manual drain, open the drain valve slowly and leave it open until the water stops coming out. If the water does not stop coming out of the drain or comes out at a very high pressure for an extended amount of time, you may not have closed the main shut off properly or all the way. If this is the case, close the drain valve and start over with step 1.
Step 4: Drain the water out of the main line. This can be accomplished in several ways. The best way to do this is to open up a drain or sprinkler valve at the lowest point possible in your sprinkler system. These will usually be located underground in a valve box. Open the lid and look for either a manual drain valve or sprinkler valve which you can open manually. If you cannot find a valve to open manually, you can go to your control clock and electronically turn on one of the sprinkler zones. This will allow most of the water to drain out of the main line. Some systems have automatic drain valves. If yours does, this step is not necessary.
How to Insulate and Protect Your System From Early Freezes:
If you do not feel comfortable turning off and draining your system or would rather leave it running, you can insulate any of the above-ground parts of your sprinkler system to protect them from “light” freezes.
Step 1: Locate the backflow device and wrap it with fiberglass insulation or an old blanket. On most sprinkler systems, this will be the only part that is located above ground. If your system has other above-ground parts, such as a pump, pressure tank, or sprinkler valves, these will need to be insulated also.
Step 2: Cover the insulation with a tarp or plastic bag in order to keep it from getting wet. Tie the plastic in place with rope or tape so it will not blow away.
How to Turn Your Sprinkler System Back On in the Spring
Step 1: Close both ball valves and both test cocks on the backflow device. You will need a small flat blade screwdriver to close the test cocks.
Step 2: Check to make sure all the underground drain valves and sprinkler valves are closed manually. These are usually located in underground valve boxes.
Step 3: Close the drain valve or bleed cap located next to the main shutoff for the sprinkler system.
Step 4: Slowly open the main shut off valve for the sprinkler system.
Step 5: Go back to the backflow device and slowly open the ball valve located below the test cocks first. You should hear a suction sound and small pop as the PVB seats itself. A small amount of water may squirt out from the backflow device. If the PVB fails to seal or water continues to flow out of it, you may have left a drain valve open or the backflow device may be damaged. If this is the case, start over with step 1. If after a second try the PVB will not seal or is still leaking, schedule to have it looked at.
Step 6: Slowly open the second ball valve on the backflow device. This will send water out to the sprinkler valves and fill up the main line. If you open this valve too fast, the PVB may lose its seal and start to leak. Close the valve and wait for the PVB to seat itself then slowly open the valve again. If after several tries the PVB fails to maintain its seal and water continues to flow out of it, you may have left a drain valve open or the backflow device may be damaged. If this is the case, start over with step 2. If after a second try the PVB will not seal or is still leaking, schedule to have it looked at.
Step 7: Turn the control clock back on and run through all the sprinkler zones to check for leaks and adjust heads as necessary.