Protect sprinkler systems from freeze damage

5:17 PM, Oct 21, 2011   |    comments
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Just two years ago, overnight temperatures in early October dipped to 16 degrees. That early freeze caught many homeowners up and down the Front Range off guard, and caused extensive damage to sprinkler systems that had not yet been winterized. Many homeowners didn't see the damage until they were ready to water the following spring.

An ounce of prevention

Backflow prevention devices (BFPs) are one of the most costly components of a sprinkler system to replace, and the most vulnerable in a freeze. If an early freeze hits prior to blowing out the system, repairs can run $200 to $400. Wrapping this device with simple household items can save both money and inconvenience.

The BFP device is usually found outside the home and close to the foundation. It's clearly visible above ground. To protect it, simply wrap it with a large towel or household insulation, cover the towel with a sturdy plastic garbage bag and secure it around the bottom with duct tape. This should keep the device dry and protected if there's a freeze before the system is winterized.

But don't stop there. In Colorado, you still need to winterize the entire sprinkler system by blowing out the lines with compressed air.

Failure to winterize sprinkler systems before prolonged freezes hit can also damage other expensive components such as mainlines, automatic valves and manifolds. This damage can easily hit the $1,000 mark, not to mention that your yard will have to be dug up to make the repairs.

Winterize the sprinkler system

Blow out all the sprinkler lines with compressed air. If you hire a pro to do this, average fees to winterize a residential system can range from $40 - $100, but can cost more or less depending on the size of your yard. If you do the job yourself, be aware that a small shop compressor many people have in the garage won't produce the 150 cubic feet per minute of air that the commercial quality compressors do. These smaller compressors often don't have the pressure it takes to get all of the water out of lines and sprinkler heads-and it will take two to three hours to blow out lines on an average-sized property. The commercial compressors typically take about 15 to 30 minutes to complete the job.

If you do hire a contractor, you can often get a better deal by getting everyone on the block to schedule with the same contractor on the same day. Many contractors also warrant their work and that can pay off in the spring if you need repairs related to the winterization process.

But don't forget to water!

Just because the system is off, don't think you don't need to water. Last year's warm, dry fall followed by a dry winter severely stressed and even killed some trees, shrubs and even lawns. Since snow does not contain adequate moisture, plan on watering trees and shrubs at least once per month October through April. If conditions are similar to last winter, also be ready to water the lawn.

Courtesy Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, sponsors of the 9News Water Wise Garden and the 2011 Kitchen Garden. To find a landscape professional, go to and click on Find a Pro.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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