Winterizing your sprinkler system is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that it works efficiently and effectively year after year. Failing to winterize your system or doing it incorrectly can damage the system, leading to costly repairs or requiring a full replacement come springtime.

This guide is designed to teach you how to winterize your sprinkler system safely so it will be ready next season when you need it. Use these 4 easy steps to properly prepare your sprinkler system for a freezing winter.

Steps For Winterizing Your Sprinkler System

Winterizing your sprinkler system is a fairly simple task that most homeowners can manage, but it requires some care and attention to detail. Make sure you read and understand all the steps before winterizing your sprinkler system.

Step 1: Shut Off the Water to Your Sprinkler System

Before winterizing your sprinkler system, you must shut off the main water valve that supplies the system with water. Most homes have a shut-off valve near the water meter. Don’t confuse the main shut-off valve with the smaller, local valve under your faucet.

If your system uses valves to prevent backflow, you must shut them off before continuing. Most systems have two backflow valves that connect to the backflow device, so make sure you turn both off before proceeding.

Step 2: Turn Off the Timer if You Have One

If your sprinkler system has a timer, you’ll need to shut it off for the winter. Turning the timer off completely can create a hassle when it’s time to turn it back on since you’ll have to reprogram the settings.

A better option is to put your system into rain mode, which prevents the sprinkler system from turning on. A rain mode is usually used to skip scheduled watering during rainy periods, but it’s also a great way to turn your system off for the winter without destroying your settings. When you turn rain mode off in the spring, your sprinkler will resume function with the same settings it had in the fall.

Step 3: Drain the System

Draining the system is the most time-consuming step and the one where you can do some damage if you’re not careful. Before you start, consult your sprinkler system’s user manual to determine what kind of draining your system if you don’t already know. Virtually all sprinkler systems have one of three draining mechanisms: automatic draining, manual draining, or blow-out draining.

Automatic Draining

If your sprinkler system has automatic draining, you’re in luck. These systems are the simplest to work with and take little time or effort to drain.

Some automatic draining systems activate as soon as the water pressure drops when you shut off the main valve. This acts as a protection mechanism that prevents homeowners from accidentally leaving water in the system. Turning on one of the sprinkler heads once the water supply is turned off is usually enough to get an automatic system working, but you should follow the instructions in your user manual.

Even an automatic draining system still needs some hands-on attention at the valves. Each valve has a solenoid cap you need to loosen to drain the water. Open the solenoid enough for air to flow into the system and allow the water to drain out of the valves.

Manual Draining

Manual draining sprinkler systems take slightly more effort than automatic ones, but they’re still straightforward.

Most manual draining systems have at least one manual drain valve at the end of the irrigation system or low points in the piping network. You need to open all shut-off valves by hand to let the water drain out of the sprinkler system. Some sprinklers have check valves requiring you to lift the sprinkler head to drain the water. If you’re having trouble draining your system, check your user manual to see if you have check valves.

It is extremely important to wear eye protection and slowly loosen manual draining shut-off valves. Even if the water pressure in the system is low, the air pressure can remain high, making it dangerous if the manual valves open suddenly.

Blow-Out Draining

The most sophisticated draining system a home sprinkler system can have is blow-out draining. Systems with blow-out draining can use an air compressor to force the water out of the irrigation pipes. This method is the most effective and surefire way to remove excess water from your sprinkler system to protect it from the winter’s freezing temperatures.

Unfortunately, blow-out systems are not as easy to winterize and often require a professional-grade air compressor. Most home air compressors can easily supply enough pressure but cannot move the air at the necessary ten cubic feet per minute (cfm) required to empty the entire system of any remaining water. Most people who drain their sprinkler systems with the blow-out method use a professional service.

If you attempt blow-out draining, use a high-quality compressor to supply the necessary ten cfm. Be sure not to exceed 80 PSI if your system uses PVC piping or 50 PSI if it uses polyethylene pipe.

Step 4: Insulate the External Components

After you drain the system, you need to insulate the backflow preventers, main shut-off valve, and exposed pipes. The easiest way to insulate these components is with insulation tape or specially-designed foam wrappings.

Be careful not to cover any air vents and drain outlets on the backflow preventers.

Reference Your User Manual

When in doubt, you should consult your sprinkler system’s user manual. It will have all the information you need to winterize your system and tell you if it has a manual or automatic drain. Even though this guide will get you through most of the process, you should follow the user manual anywhere it deviates from the steps outlined here.

Lawn Care Resources

If you’re afraid you’ll cause damage to your sprinkler system if you try to winterize it yourself, there’s no shame in hiring a professional service. Many professional lawn care services also provide sprinkler winterization services, so you may already have access to a company you trust that can do it for you. TruGreen is one of the most popular lawn care companies offering winterization services for in-ground sprinkler systems.

You could also consider hiring a standalone sprinkler service company if you don’t use TruGreen and prefer not to DIY your lawn care. These businesses specialize in sprinkler maintenance and will know how to handle your system.

We strongly encourage you to use a service like TruGreen if you have a blow-out draining system. Compressed air can damage pipes if it’s not used properly, and dealing with high-pressure equipment is dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Final Thoughts

Winterizing your sprinkler system doesn’t need to be a stressful experience. If you have an automatic or manual draining system, you can probably do it yourself without too much trouble; make sure you have your user manual nearby in case you run into any issues. However, if you have a sprinkler system that needs to be blown out before the winter arrives, we recommend using a professional service to avoid causing irreparable damage.

If you decide to go with a professional service rather than winterize your system yourself, check with your current lawn care service provider since many professional lawn care companies offer a winterization package for in-ground sprinkler systems that will take care of everything. TruGreen is one of the most popular lawn care businesses that will winterize your sprinkler for you, and their services come highly recommended.

Today’s Homeowner Rating & Methodology

At Today’s Homeowner, transparency and trust are our most important values for the reader. That’s why we took the time to create an objective rating system and score each lawn company/service according to our methodology.

Our research team dug deep into the fine print of contracts, combed through more than one hundred customer reviews, and thoroughly investigated all of each lawn care service’s services, costs, and products. We’ve done the homework for you by researching nearly all of the lawn care companies on the market so you can have the information you need to make the best choice for your home.

We developed a formula to objectively determine the best lawn care companies and give each a score out of 100 based on the following criteria:

  • Plan Options (30): Do they provide a variety of plan options? We looked at the number of plans each company offered and the flexibility of adjusting the plan.
  • Services offered (20): How many services are offered in each plan? We looked at the number of lawn care coverages, including weed control, seeding, irrigation, aeration, dethatching, and more.
  • Trust (10): What do customers say after their lawn has been serviced? Does this company offer a guarantee? We considered how satisfied customers are post-service if the company does what it says it will, BBB accreditation, and service guarantees.
  • Prices (10): How reasonable are the costs of the plan or service in comparison to the industry average? We compared the costs of each company to competitors that offer the same lawn services.
  • Unique perks (10): Does the company offer discounts or special services such as organic treatments, pest control, or a mobile app? We looked for perks each company offers that set them apart from the competition.
  • Customer Service (10): How is the customer experience when contacting the company? We considered the speed of response, weekend/holiday availability, and ease of communication through phone calls, email, and online chat functions.
  • Nationwide availability (10): How many states does the company offer its services? Companies that operate nationally and in all zip codes are favored over those with limited availability.
Editorial Contributors
Dan Simms

Dan Simms


Dan Simms worked in real estate management for five years before using his experience to help property owners maintain their own homes. He got his master’s degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and he now enjoys sharing his knowledge about homeownership and DIY projects with others on Today’s Homeowner. When he’s not writing, he’s usually outdoors with his wife and his dog, enjoying mountain biking, skiing, and hiking.

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Lora Novak

Senior Editor

Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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