How much does it cost to winterize a sprinkler system?
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Winterize Sprinkler System Cost Guide
Updated: August 17, 2022
If you have an inground sprinkler system and live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below freezing, it is a good idea to winterize your system each fall. Winterizing removes any water from the system so that when the ground freezes, your system is protected against expanding ice, cracks, and other damage.
Winterizing is a fairly quick and simple process that does not take long to carry out. The average cost to winterize a sprinkler system ranges between $75 and $150, with the average homeowner spending around $100 to inspect your irrigation system, blow it out with compressed air, and set the controls for three to four zones. However, prices can range from as low as $50 to inspect and manually drain an irrigation system with one or two zones to as high as $250 to inspect and blow out a system with seven to eight zones.
Sprinkler Winterization Cost
|Winterize Sprinkler System Cost|
|National average cost||$100|
Sprinkler Winterization Cost by Number of Zones
Sprinkler systems are broken down into zones that cover certain areas of the yard. To ensure proper coverage, each zone has the type of sprinkler heads needed for that particular type of watering (grass, shrubs, trees, etc.) as well as the size of the area. The larger the yard, the more zones you will have. The sprinkler winterization price will vary according to the number of zones you have, generally ranging from $50 to $250.
|Number of Zones||Average Cost (Labor Included)|
|1 - 2 Zones||$50 - $75|
|3 - 4 Zones||$80 - $100|
|5 - 6 Zones||$100 - $130|
|7 - 8 Zones||$150 - $250|
Irrigation Winterization Cost by Method
The goal of winterizing is to clear the system of any water completely. There are three methods for doing this: the manual drain method, the automatic drain method, and the blowout method. All three methods have varying levels of effectiveness and costs. Therefore, the right choice for you depends on your specific irrigation system and your budget for the project because you will have to pay for service before the first frost and once spring rolls around again. Depending on which method you choose, you can expect to pay between $75 and $250 to winterize the sprinklers covering three to six zones.
|Winterization Method||Average Cost (Labor Included)|
|Manual Drain||$75 - $150|
|Automatic Drain||$90 - $175|
|Blowout||$100 - $250|
Manual Sprinkler Drain Valve Method
Manual drainage costs between $75 and $150 on average. If your sprinklers have a manual drainage system, one can empty water by just opening a valve. Specific valves will let the water drain from the highest points, but water may still collect and freeze in low areas. Once the water is drained, it must be closed again. Some of these sprinklers also have check valves, which only allow water to flow in one direction. If your system has these valves, your hired plumber or lawn professional will have to raise the sprinkler heads to let the water drain.
Sprinkler Auto Drain Valve Method
Other irrigation systems feature an automatic drain. On average, this method of winterization costs between $90 and $175. As the name suggests, these will automatically allow water to drain from any high points once it is opened. Much like the manual draining method, the issue with this setting is that any low spots may still contain some water, which can freeze and cause damage. Therefore, it is still recommended that a professional come out and blow out the system to dispose of the remaining water completely.
Another way to drain an irrigation system is called the blowout method. It ranges from $100 to $250. During this process, all valves are opened and between 50 and 80 pounds per square inch (psi) of compressed air is blown through the system, pushing any water out of the openings and clearing them. After this point, all the water valves are shut off to prevent new water from entering as well as the controls that operate the flow.
However, it is important to have an irrigation system that can handle that amount of pressure. Otherwise, it can damage the entire system. This method is recommended even for those with manual or automatic draining included because a small amount of water can be left in the pipes when only draining them, which can still turn into a big problem if temperatures get low enough.
Labor Cost to Winterize Sprinkler System
Most lawn care and irrigation specialists charge a flat rate for winterizing a system, between $50 and $150. This rate is good for manually or automatically draining up to 6 zones. If your lawn has more than that, specialists typically charge an additional $8 per zone. You can also hire a plumber to complete this job, which generally costs between $40 and $200 for labor and materials depending on what type of method you use to winterize your system, how big it is, and what type of system you have. The winterization cost is mild compared to expensive repairs that you may incur without it.
Overall costs are dependent on which type of professional you use for the job and the type of draining method you choose. Costs include giving the system a cursory inspection ($40 to $60) to make sure it is working properly and draining through manual drains, automatic drains, or blowing compressed air through the system. The national average cost to inspect and blow out an irrigation system with three or four zones is approximately $100. This is the method recommended even for those that have manual or automatic draining included. This is because a small amount of water can be left in the pipes when only draining them, which can still turn into a big problem if temperatures get low enough. Many companies offer a package to winterize, tune-up, and complete spring reactivation for around $150 to $350. It is often recommended that you have a professional inspect your system prior to winterization so that any needed repairs can be caught and made.
Winterizing Different Types of Irrigation Systems
There are a few different types of irrigation systems that one may have. Each is slightly different in terms of set up. Drip irrigation systems are designed to distribute water to a small plot of land. In-ground sprinklers distribute water to larger areas through pipes that are protected underground. Conversely, above-ground sprinklers feature exposed pipes that are easy to move around but are more vulnerable to the elements. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Drip Irrigation System Winterization
To winterize a drip irrigation system, your hired plumber or lawn care specialist will have to shut it off and drain it. This involves removing the entire faucet assembly and bringing it inside to stay warm throughout the winter months. This type of sprinkler rests above the ground, so it is even more important to make sure it is completely insulated and protected from the cold. They also may use the blowout method to make sure all excess water is removed from the sprinklers. After that, they’ll seal off any open lines to make sure nothing can take shelter in them.
Winterizing In-Ground Sprinkler System
This is the most common type due to how convenient they are. When it comes to winterization, the process is quite straightforward. Although the pipes themselves in an in-ground sprinkler system are underground, the main shut-off valve can still be exposed to the elements because it sits above the ground to be easily accessible. From there, all one must do is drain the pipes by manual draining, auto draining, and/or blowout.
Above-Ground Sprinkler System Winterization
When it comes to above-ground sprinklers, it is important to insulate all the exposed pipes to make sure they don’t freeze in below-zero temperatures. After that, the process is much the same. You can start with either manual or auto draining depending on the type of system you have and should consider blowing them out as well to get rid of any excess water that can freeze.
When Should I Winterize My Sprinkler System?
The reason that winterization is so important is that during an extended cold spell, which is a minimum of three days below 32º Fahrenheit, the ground your sprinklers are set in will freeze. This means any water trapped inside the pipes or sprinkler heads will also freeze. When water freezes, it expands. Over time, this causes cracks in your system, which can lead to leaks, burst heads, and expensive repairs.
So, the best time to winterize your system is before the first extended cold snap of the year. For most people, this means sometime during the late fall but varies depending on your climate. If your area frequently sees early frosts, it is a good idea to winterize early, while climates that do not see a freeze until later in the year can often wait a few weeks longer.
If you live in a warm climate that does not experience a ground freeze, there is no need of winterization. You may still want to have it blown out and inspected once a year anyway to make sure it is in good working order.
Sprinkler System Activation
To get your system ready in the spring, most simply need to be turned on and have the water supply valve opened. The activation occurs at the end of the winter. It involves turning it back on and doing a tune-up to make sure everything is working properly. The cost for activation is generally about $40 to $150. The water is turned back on slowly so that pipes do not burst from a water surge. There will also be cleaning and inspection of all moving parts and each zone, which will be included in the activation price. The heads will be straightened and raised, the electrical system tested, pressure checks done, and the timer will be reset for the correct watering schedule. Any broken or worn parts will be replaced, costing between $1 and $3 per foot of pipe and $1 to $8 per connecting piece, including installation. The sprinkler lines will also need to be cleared of any debris or rodent nesting, which could result in an additional cost of $50 to $200. If your system requires more than this to get going, such as tuning the heads, inspecting the pipes, and setting the controls most companies complete this for between $75 and $150.
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
When installing a sprinkler system, it is possible to have a self-draining system installed. It allows the water in the pipes to drain naturally down a slope. However, it is still possible for water to collect in the low-lying areas, which could still freeze. It is recommended, therefore, that you have your self-draining system inspected if you choose not to have it blown out. This generally costs between $40 and $75.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- DIY. If you choose to DIY the winterization, you can rent a small air compressor to do the job at a cost of roughly $20 an hour from most hardware stores.
- Replacement. If your system is damaged and needs to be replaced, this can cost around $5,500, depending on how large it is. Repairs to an existing system run around $100 to $400 on average.
- Lawn care. If your area sees a drought before freezing, it is usually recommended to water the grass before freezing to strengthen it and prevent damage to the roots. If this is the case, you may wish to winterize after the first day or two of low temperatures to give your grass the best chance of survival. Otherwise, manually watering the lawn and draining the outside spigot afterward may help.
- Bundles. Some companies offer lower rates when servicing more than one yard in the same neighborhood or when winterization is included with other services needed for your property, such as lawn care, landscaping, insect control, and more.
- How much does it cost to winterize a sprinkler system?
On average, it costs between $75 and $150 to winterize your sprinkler system. This process refers to completely draining the water out of your system and shutting it down, preventing damage from freezing during colder months.
- Do I need to winterize my sprinkler system?
Winterization is only mandatory in some regions, usually in areas where the temperature drops below freezing. However, it is still a good idea if you live in a region that gets fairly cold because your pipes may still be prone to freezing and rupturing with extreme temperature changes.
- How much does it cost to blow out sprinklers?
Depending on how many irrigation zones there are, the average cost to blow out a sprinkler system ranges from $100 to $250 to blow out your sprinkler system. This process involves forcing compressed air through the system to push all the excess water out of the sprinkler head.
- How do I protect my sprinkler system from freezing?
The best way to protect your sprinkler system from freezing is to winterize it, which basically means draining the water out of the pipes, so they don’t freeze and explode. There are a few different methods for draining water out of your irrigation system and preparing it for freezing temperatures: manual draining, automatic draining, and blowing out.
- At what temperature will a sprinkler system freeze?
Your sprinkler system is at risk for freezing when temperatures get to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This causes exposed pipes to crack or rupture due to built up pressure, which can cause even more issues around your property.
- When should I open my sprinkler system?
Typically, it is best to wait until the last hard frost of the year. You should be monitoring temperatures and seeing when it remains above freezing through the entire night. Depending on where you live, this usually occurs between mid-April through the end of May.