Whether to Winterize Your Sprinkler System

Seth Patterson

Freezes in central and south Texas rarely (if ever) cause the ground to freeze and damage underground pipes. But the ones that are exposed are still vulnerable to extreme cold.

Over the past few weeks we have seen the first significant winter weather blow in to Bexar County and with it many inquiries and concerns about irrigation systems. Most of the questions have come from newcomers to San Antonio who haven’t yet adapted to our more temperate climate.

San Antonio transplants who lived far north of Texas where prolonged periods of freezing, cold weather causes the ground itself to freeze know first-hand the catastrophic impact frozen ground can have on underground water pipes — including those used by irrigation systems.

Luckily, freezes in central and south Texas are far less severe and rarely (if ever) cause the ground to freeze. Still, freezes can be damaging to pipes and valves that are exposed.

That’s why it’s a good idea to walk your property and inspect your irrigation system before freezing weather sets in. Sometimes erosion can cause irrigation pipes to become visible, making them susceptible to potential freezing and cracking.

Sprinkler heads are typically not sealed and won’t have pressurized water sitting in them so there’s no need to worry about those, but definitely look for exposed sections of pressurized pipe that may need to be covered or protected. Also, check for any open, broken or missing lids on irrigation valves that need to be replaced or repaired.

The ground does a good job of insulating pipes and valves, but once a lid is removed or opened, cold air could creep into and around those pipes and valves and cause big problems. So make sure everything is well covered and sealed!

Also, if you have an above-ground reduced pressure zone backflow prevention device, it’s especially important to properly winterize, cover and insulate the pipes and apparatus itself to avoid any damage from freezing weather.

Of course, this information only covers irrigation components, it is equally important to follow applicable guidelines to winterize your outside pipes, hose bibs and sensitive plants, too.

And last, but definitely not least, if you should have a freeze-related break or leak, having a water flow sensor installed can help you detect and correct the leak before it becomes a huge water (and financial) loss!

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