Winterizing Irrigation System with no Power

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by Maco Services, Oct 24, 2010.

  1. Maco Services

    Maco Services LawnSite Member
    Messages: 229

    Ok, I'll start by saying I'm no irrigation expert, nor do I sell myself as such. I do however winterize a lot of vacant home that we manage (lot of foreclosures) and some have irrigation systems. Some, are the Homedepot 4zone variety with inexpensive sprayers etc, some are the large multi zones with larger pop up sprinkler heads. Often these homes have no electricity on, and I'll likely never see them again, so adding pigtails for remotes seems like it may be a waste.

    So, I'm trying to find the correct way to drain/winterize them. I'm in Alabama, but many of my banks request a winterization. I've looked at a few irrigation companies, and most just drain, they don't mention anything about blowouts.

    I've yet to find a irrigation system with an above ground backflow preventer with blowout connections. Actually, many of these systems (smaller ones) just have a valve box and thats it. I look at these valve and done know if I need to disassemble, just crack some of the screws to let them bleed. At my home, I had a cracked main 2 years ago (at the street), and the water company told us it was because we didn't winterize our irrigation system. He said loosen the 1/4 " screws to the right of each valve, letting air in, and the system will drain itself. Um, is this correct?

    Again, calling a local irrigation isn't a real option, I don't want to wast their time, because I wont be able to hire them retail to do it, and honestly, I haven't heard one yet that does anything other than drain. I don't think our irrigation installers plan for a rough winter.

    For you guys in the South, what is typical to winterize these systems when no blowout ports are in place?

    If there is no power, do you just hook up a generator to the controller or is there a simpler option?

    What's a typical time it takes to perform?

    Where can I send beer to to those that are helpful in this thread? :drinkup:

    Ive read many a thread, and yet to find a lot of applicable "southern" blowout/winterization experience. Thank you in advance for your feedback!

    Have a great day!

  2. Buck_wheat

    Buck_wheat LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 585

    Since I'm in zone 9 I can't offer an informed suggestion but would appreciate consideration since my post was helpful in that I didn't blow smoke up your butt...

    Bringing a generator to a property with no power is always a good idea. Just remember to hook it up to the high voltage side of the controller

    Now do I get a beer?
  3. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,214

    Do you really have a frost line in the winter that the below ground portion needs to be blown out? Unless the system has automatic drains (or King drains as known by the predominant brand), it will not all drain out. If you must blow out out the system, with no power, just manually turn the valves on with the bleeder screw or the solenoid.
  4. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,292

    as far as the controller goes you could buy a stationmaster or a pro-48 and use it as a portable power source to activate the valves, you can also connect 2-3 9vlt batteries together to bump the valves.
  5. Fireguy97

    Fireguy97 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394

    Backflow prevention assemblies don’t have blowout connections, and compressed air is not supposed to be blown through them. A hose bibb, or as some call it, a boiler drain should be used for the air line connection.

    Add one.

    Why would you need power except to power an electrical compressor? Open the valves manually.

    If you know what you are doing – four zones 12 to 20 minutes, including pulling hose.

    I’m in the south west in Canada, does that count? We are classified as a desert region.

    Last edited: Oct 24, 2010
  6. Maco Services

    Maco Services LawnSite Member
    Messages: 229

    So, I can get power to the controller, even expensive installs in many of the houses I see, the controller is just plugged into the wall. Generator, plug, problem solved there correct?

    So I can actuate the valves, but where should I hook up air? At the valve box?

    As far as "king valves", is there any way to tell if they are in the system?

    All are under consideration for their beverage of choice, but likely the top contributors get first priority. Thanks for not blowing smoke.

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  7. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,214

    Buying a generator for this purpose is a waste of money, unless you need it for something else. Waste of time and energy too in my opinion. You can easily turn the valves on by hand or with a Station Master as Jim mentioned.

    As much as we don't like to do it, at least 75% of our systems are blown out through the testcock ports on the backflow preventer. It is what it is.

    Only if your x-ray vision is working. Mine's on the fritz.

    Anything from your closest local brewery would be my choice. :)
  8. Maco Services

    Maco Services LawnSite Member
    Messages: 229

    Mick- great reply. I always thought the valves were electrically actuated, hence needing electricity to switch from zone to zone. Pardon the stupid question, but is simply turning the knob in the valve box on the associated valve( usually it will rotate quite a ways) turn the valve on? I though this was a flow regulation adjustment, I didn't realize this could be physically opened and closed ( or did you mean with the aid of a local battery at the valve box?).

    As far as adding a blowout, I assume all would try to find the closest spot to water entry( ideally directly downstream of the shutoff valve, cut the PVC connection, add a blowout t?, and proceed to make geysers?

    For someone who does this intermittently, say when new houses are vacated, and it may be Dec and the only winterization I'll be doing
    , do you still go rent a high cfm compressor? or is their an intermediate size compressor that would do the job if it had to? my situation is slightly different since these homes come and go, I don't want to invest much to make it easier in the future, because I'll likely not see it again. Additionally, I'm talking about doing 10-12 of these this month, then likely 2-4 a month through the winter, so renting a compressor I'm sure will be costly per blowout.

    Posted via Mobile Device
  9. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,410

    If there are no testcocks or other valves, or pipe plugs/caps to connect air to, a last resort might be to use a hose bib on the home, and run the air through the house plumbing.
  10. Buck_wheat

    Buck_wheat LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 585

    As far as the generator goes, if all you are doing is popping the valves open, you can do that manually as suggested or buy a stationmaster like Jim suggested.

    Some controllers are hard wired and not plugged in, so if you go that route, remember the HIGH voltage side. A stationmaster is about $90-120.00 and well worth it if you are going to do a lot of these and it'll be easier to carry in your pocket than humping a generator or running extension cords.

    If you are going to blow out the lines, use a pressure regulator and ask somebody what PSI, I wouldn't let it get much over 50PSI... slow and steady.

    King valve; he probably means just a gate valve, one you turns the thingy on top and it turn your water on or off.

    BTW I prefer CHEAP beer. Ever since I was a young man, after I got a taste of an expensive cognac and didn't appreciate it, I was told it was an acquired taste, then I got a toke on a Cuban cigar and was told that was an acquired taste also, as was caviar, etc. And so I decided that if these things were acquired tastes, that I should acquire a taste for the cheap beer, cheap whiskey, cheap cigars and ugly women, i've never been disappointed and have saved a lot of money :drinkup:

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