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How To Quickly Drain A Sprinkler System

The weather here in Broomfield and across Colorado has changed quickly today. Temperatures in the mid-90’s had us heading to the pool yesterday and today we are scrambling to find our sweatshirts and winter coats. With temperatures dropping into the 20’s overnight it’s important to protect your irrigation system. Below I discuss the steps to quickly drain a sprinkler system.

It is recommended that homeowners drain their sprinkler systems anytime the overnight temperature falls below 32 degrees. This is not a permanent winterization of the system and can quickly be turned back on once the weather warms back up.

1. Locate the water shutoff valve

The sprinkler line shutoff (the yellow handle) shown in the off position.

The shutoff valve for your sprinkler system is likely located near the main water shutoff for your home. In the photo above, the main water line shutoff is the red handle, where the sprinkler line shutoff is the yellow handle. Once you have located the water shutoff for the sprinkler system turn the water off by rotating the handle perpendicular to the pipe (as shown in the photo above).

2. Drain water from the exterior

Now that the water to the sprinkler system is turned off, you’re ready to drain the water from the system on the outside of the home. Doing this protects the copper pipes from freezing and bursting when the temperature drops.

First, turn the screw type slots on the drains to a 45 degree angle using a flathead screw driver as shown in the image above. Remember, this valve will continue to rotate 360 degrees so make sure you have the screws at only a 45 degree angle. Water will drain out of these valves as you move them to a partially open position.

Next, turn the rectangular handles to a 45 degree angle. This will partially open this ball valve allowing the water to drain while still protecting your system.

On some systems you may find a small drain on the bottom of the pipe below the rectangular handles. If your system has this drain, unscrew the plug and let the water drain from this location as well.

3. Open the valve box

Inside the valve box you will find the individual zone valves as well as a drain at the end of the valve box. Open the drain in the valve box and allow the water to drain.

4. Drain water from the interior

The next step is to drain the water from the interior of the home. To do this locate the drain plug near the interior water shutoff valve we previously turned off. Unscrew the drain plug and allow the water to drain. I recommend having a small bucket or bag to catch the water so you don’t end up with water on the floor of your basement or crawl space.

5. Turn off the system

The final step to quickly draining your sprinkler system is turning off the system from the control box.

6. Restarting the sprinkler system

Turning the sprinkler system back on is as simple as reversing the steps that you just did to drain the system.

Remember, draining the sprinkler system in this manner is not a replacement for winterizing the system. This method is best used for times when the temperatures dips below freezing for a day or two. Most irrigation companies recommend winterizing your system in mid-October.

I hope this guide was helpful and saves you the frustration of a frozen or burst pipe. Stay warm and enjoy the Colorado weather when it changes again later this week.

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