Prepare sprinkler system for winter weather

Colder weather can damage irrigation and sprinkler systems.

That’s why experts advise homeowners to prepare their sprinkler systems to withstand harsh freezing temperatures.

Fortunately, getting your sprinklers ready to face the cold can be simple.

Here are some tips that can help prevent costly damage to irrigation systems:

• Stay in control — If you have an automatic system, then you will need to “shut down” the controller, or timer. Most controllers have a “rain or off-mode” that simply shuts off the signals to the valves. The controller continues to keep time, the programming information — start times, valve run times, etc. isn’t lost and the clock continues to run. The only change is that the valves will not activate. An alternative to using that mode is to simply shut off the power to the controller. If you do, you’ll need to reprogram the time and potentially all the other settings when the weather be-comes warmer.

• Insulate your assets — Shut off the water supply to the irrigation system and protect the main shutoff valve for your irrigation system against freezing. Make sure it is wrapped with insulation — foam insulation tape and a plastic bag. If you do not have a main shutoff valve, install one and consider it a preventative investment. Any aboveground piping needs to be insulated as well. Self-sticking foam-insulating tape or foam insulating tubes commonly found at home supply stores work well.

• Drain the pipes — People in very cold areas should remove the water from the pipes and sprinklers so that it won’t freeze and cause the pipes to burst. There are several ways to drain pipes: manual drain valves, automatic drain valves or the compressed air blowout method. Because there could be potential safety risks, contacting an irrigation specialist is recommended.

• Protect back-flow preventers — Insu-late back-flow preventers and valves if they are above ground. You also can use insulation tape for this. Do not block the air vents and drain outlets on back-flow preventers.