While there are plenty of ways to get from Point A to Point B when it comes to winterizing a sprinkler system, the most important rule throughout the entire process is to get the irrigation system prepared before the first hard freeze of the season. Once the air dips below freezing, exposed sprinkler components can incur damage, especially if there’s still water trapped anywhere within those sprinkler heads or—even worse—the sprinkler lines themselves.

Of course, every year there are people who don’t get on our schedule here at A-Team Irrigation before the first hard freeze of the season. Sometimes, it isn’t even their fault; people can schedule their winterization appointments at perfectly reasonable times, only to have a surprise cold snap hit the weather forecast and make everything much more challenging.

An early cold snap can cause big problems for your sprinkler system, but don’t panic! There are a couple of options to ensure your sprinkler system doesn’t end up damaged.

What Can Happen If a System Freezes Unexpectedly

First and foremost, it’s important to know that waiting too long to winterize a sprinkler system could result in important irrigation system components freezing and cracking, even during that first cold snap. Specifically, the following problems can occur:

Frozen Pipes

Failing to blow out pipes before the first freeze of the season could result in cracked pipes, particularly if those pipes are above ground. Frozen pipes are one of the most common and costliest results of a hard freeze in combination with a non-winterized system. Draining as much water as possible from these pipes before freezing is the best way to avoid this damage.

Frozen Sprinklers

Water also can freeze inside the sprinkler heads themselves. As the frozen water expands, it can crack these heads and the supply tubes that lead to them, and those can require complete replacement of a component, as well.

Frozen Manifolds

The manifold is the main pipe and valves for your sprinkler system, and it connects to your main line. If water freezes in there, it can cause the same type of damage as anywhere else, but fixing this is more labor-intensive than any other part of the system. To winterize this, remove the drain cap and drain the water before the air freezes.

How Do I Deal with an Early Freeze?

Most irrigation systems have a place near the main water source to blow out the lines with an air compressor, so if you can get a hold of an air compressor yourself before your scheduled winterization appointment, it’s worth giving it a shot to blow out whatever water you can.

The good news is that one night of freezing temperatures probably isn’t going to ruin your entire irrigation system, but you still want to get as much water out of those pipes as possible.

That means shutting off the water at the source. Do not let the sprinkler run all night in an attempt to keep things flowing despite the cold. Blow out whatever air you can and then make sure the professionals and A-Team Irrigation can complete the rest of the winterization process as soon as possible.

A cold snap isn’t a death sentence for a sprinkler system, but you still want to get it winterized as soon as possible if that cold weather sneaks up on you.