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How to Winterize a Sprinkler System

Sprinkler systems need to have all the water blown out of them before winter freeze-up. If you have an air compressor you can do the job yourself and save the hefty service fee.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Compressor set-up

With a basic quick-connect coupling, you can use your air compressor to clear water from your sprinkler system for the winter. Just be aware that even the largest home compressor isn't powerful enough to blow out the entire system at once. But you can probably blow it out zone by zone.

If you're into number crunching and you have the original irrigation layout showing the gallons per minute (gpm) of each sprinkler head, just divide the total gpm of each zone by 7.5. That'll give you the cubic feet per minute (cfm) you need to blow it out. Otherwise, just rent a 10-cfm compressor and hose from your local tool rental center.

Set the compressor air pressure regulator to a maximum of 80 psi for rigid PVC pipe systems, or 50 psi for flexible black polyethylene pipe. Then turn off the water supply and set the system timer to open just one zone. Next, open the manual drain valve at the end of that zone (if equipped). Then, connect the air line to the blow-out port as shown. Connect the other end of the air hose to the compressor and blow out the line. The heads should pop up and spit out water. Disconnect the hose as soon as they run dry. Don't overdo the blowout—without water cooling the plastic gears, they can melt in less than a minute. So move on to the next zone and allow the heads to cool. Then go back and blow out each zone a second time.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Air compressor
    • Air hose

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Quick-connect hose adaptor

Comments from DIY Community Members

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October 19, 2:06 PM [GMT -5]

Re ndphan comment about "winterization required on the section of piping filled with water that goes back to the water supply?"

I'm sorry, but I am not familiar with a section of piping that goes from the sprinkler heads back to the water supply. I thought that all sprinkler systems are one direction only, from the water supply / valveing to the sprinkler heads?

June 16, 12:53 AM [GMT -5]

Doesn't FH staff monitor these comments.... this question was asked over years ago... plus you will never blow out a majority of the water only with the small diameter air hose... never get enough cfm into the system. You will be able to get about half the water out of the system.... then only be blowing air over water in a half filled pipe.

November 07, 5:31 PM [GMT -5]

This is very helpful guidance and tips on half the job...especially the specs on the amount of pressure and warning not to melt the sprinkler mechanism by operating too long on air. What about the other half of the job? Isn't some form of "winterization" required on the section of piping filled with water that goes back to the water supply? This section includes the backflow preventer unit which has a hefty cost if replacement is needed. Guidance/insight on the other half of the job will be appreciated. Thanks.

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