How to Drain a Sprinkler System for Winter

By Brian Mounts | May 18, 2020
How to Drain a Sprinkler System for Winter

Ah, the winters- these are nightmares for lawn-owners. Lawn owners such as me, who use sprinkler systems, are specially worried at this point of time. This is so, because we need to drain our Sprinkler systems if we don’t want them to be ruined. It’s really easy to forget to drain them, and to actually end up having to buy one next year. However, you must be wondering about How to Drain a Sprinkler System for Winter, and that’s exactly why Turf Mechanic is here!

In today’s article, we are going to take a look at How to Drain a Sprinkler System for Winter. We are going to look at several methods, and find out which one is the best idea and when. So, it is really recommended that you take your time to read the article to the very end. We really hope that you would be able to learn at least something that would help you in the long run. After all, you need to take all the advice you can get in order to maintain your lawn perfectly!

Winterizing your sprinklers- definition and importance.

The process of draining your sprinkler system is known as winterizing them. While you might be aware about how long you might want to run your sprinklers to water your plants, you cannot do that during the winters. In fact, if you let the water remain inside them during the winters, it will freeze. This might actually end up damaging your entire system, and you really do not want that to happen.

So, in order to avoid this, you need to winterize your sprinklers. It is really important to keep in mind that you need to do it before the water freezes. Also, you must do it in such a way that it is not damaged. In today’s article, we are going to take a look at the several ways that you might use, and which one is the most recommendable- and why. So, let’s get started!

How to Drain a Sprinkler System for Winter?

As I remarked earlier, there are several ways to actually drain your sprinkler system. We are going to take a look at a few main ones among them and see which one seems to be the best. Naturally, we are going to arrive at this conclusion by closely examining all the positive and negative of every method that we mention.

So, let us get started without further delay. Here are the main methods that you might want to try out:

1. Doing it manually.

The first method is to actually do it manually. A lot of experts recommend this method if you plan to do it without professional help. This method is a good idea because this is the safest method. You can actually use it even without the help of a professional without putting your equipment at risk.

So, you must be wondering what to do in this method. Here are the steps that you might want to follow if you’re planning to opt for this method:

  • First of all, you need to find the Manual Drain Valves, which are located downstream of each zone valve. Since these are at the bottom part, it’s actually common sense that water accumulates here- which makes it easy for you. It makes it much easier for you to drain the water.
  • Next, you might want to turn off the water supply. Of course, you can’t just winterize a sprinkler system while the water supply is still on, so you might want to turn it off. Experts recommend actually properly insulating the point of supply, so that it isn’t damaged. As you might have guessed, you are going to need the supply next year too!
  • Now, you should open the manual drain valves, and let the water drain. It might take a while, but you need to be patient. Don’t forget to ensure that all the water has properly drained before you put it back. Again, you might also want to open the drain valves, so that the rest of the water can flow out as well. It is essential to empty the system of water, in order to ensure that it’s not damaged when the temperature falls below the freezing point.

2. Using a Compressor

Again, you might want to actually save a lot of this effort, and a lot of this time. There is one special way that professionals use, that you might be able to use then. This requires you to own an air compressor and use it at high power. While you still might not be able to do it all at once, you can do it zone by zone.

It is fairly easy to know which level of a compressor you’re looking for. Quoting FamilyHandyman:

If you’re into number crunching and you have the original irrigation layout showing the gallons per minute (gpm) of each sprinkler head, just divide the total gpm of each zone by 7.5. That’ll give you the cubic feet per minute (cfm) you need to blow it out. Otherwise, just rent a 10-cfm compressor and hose from your local tool rental center.

Now, you might actually want to open the manual drain valves. Some water will drain naturally, but that’s not really something you want to think too much about. You can connect your compressor to the other end, and just let the air push the rest of the water out. Honestly, from this angle, this method is really effort-free.

However, keep in mind that this actually puts your machine at risk. If you use too much force, you might end up damaging your sprinkler system, We know that you don’t want that, and so we really don’t recommend going for this method yourself. If you want to go for this method anyway, we recommend having a professional over. You must always keep in mind that damaging your setup is never a good idea, especially when you’re trying to keep it safe!

3. Automatic Drain Valves

Now, this is something everyone has to go through. Naturally, some models offer you with automatic drain valves too. These actually make the job much easier if you have them. So, you must first check out if you actually have the automatic drain valves. If you do, there is not need for you to go through the manual method (or any other method). So, what you might want to do in this case are as follows:

  • First of all, you might want to turn of the supply of water from the main source. This is essential, naturally, because you really cannot empty the setup of water while it’s still coming in.  Now, when the water level falls, the system would automatically be emptied.
  • You need to ensure that there’s no water stuck between the main valve and the backflow part either. For this, you might want to put the drain cap between them, quoting SFGATE:

Open the drain cap between the main valve and the backflow device. This removes any water trapped in this section of piping.

  • Finally, lift the sprinkler heads individually to ensure that there’s no water inside them anymore. This is, once again, essential to do so that you can eliminate any remaining chances of water remaining inside.


So, at the end of the day, we can say that there are quite a few methods out there. Each of these methods is a good one, although suited best to different circumstances.

If you plan to do it yourself, going for the manual method (or the automatic one if that’s part of the design) is the best idea. This ensures that the work is done and there is no damage to the overall setup. While you might still chose to go for the compressor method, it might actually end up damaging your system if all doesn’t go perfectly.

If you want the job to be done quickly and don’t mind spending a bit for that, calling the professionals is the best option. Even if you want to learn how the compressor method is used before you do it yourself, you might want to call the professionals for the first few times and gradually try to do it yourself.

Turf Mechanic is here for you!

You have once again reached the end of the article- and we thank you once again for taking your time to read it. We really hope that there was at least something here that you would be able to apply in your lawn.

On our part, we understand that there might still be a few questions you might have for us. And guess what? We look forward to hearing from you! So, should you have anything for us, please do not hesitate in reaching out to us- we are always here for you!

Once again, we thank you for taking your time to read the article till the very end. We hope to see you again on our upcoming articles! Till then, Turf Mechanic takes your leave!