How Much Does It Cost to Winterize a Sprinkler System?
The cost to winterize sprinkler systems ranges from $56 to $131, with a national average of $89, making it a worthwhile yearly investment to prevent hefty repair costs down the road.
- The cost to winterize a sprinkler system averages $89, or between $56 and $131.
- Homeowners anticipating sprinkler system winterization costs will need to consider factors such as the number of zones, the type of irrigation system, the method of winterization, additional services, and labor rates.
- Homeowners can maintain the warranty for a sprinkler system by winterizing it; this also protects against a much more costly repair for a broken system caused by frozen pipes that burst.
- Blowing out a sprinkler system requires the right kind of equipment and understanding of the pressure and water flow, and professional sprinkler system technicians are experienced at doing so without damaging the entire system.
Winterizing sprinkler systems is a crucial step in safeguarding the in-ground systems for homeowners who live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing. As winter approaches, it’s possible for freezing water inside the irrigation lines to expand and create pressure. Without proper winterization steps to purge the water remaining in the pipes, the expanding ice can wreak havoc on the sprinkler system, causing components to crack, burst, and otherwise become damaged. This can lead to costly repairs and an understandable headache for homeowners.
Proper winterization not only saves money on costly repairs but also extends the lifespan of the entire irrigation system, making it a vital investment for any property owner. By putting this task on a lawn care to-do list, homeowners can prevent major problems from occurring.
Homeowners who are evaluating a new sprinkler system cost will want to factor in the annual maintenance cost to winterize the system. According to HomeAdvisor and Angi, the typical cost range to winterize a sprinkler system is $56 to $131, with a national average of $89. Homeowners can learn more about the benefits of sprinkler winterization, all the factors that influence the cost of this critical service, the difference in cost between hiring a pro and DIY, and ways to save money.
Factors in Calculating the Cost to Winterize a Sprinkler System
For homeowners wondering “How much to winterize a sprinkler system?” several factors play a role in the total cost. The number of watering zones on the property, type of system in place, time frame when winterization occurs, labor fees, and winterization method used will all impact the budget required to have a sprinkler system winterized properly by a professional.
Number of Zones
Sprinkler systems consist of separate segments called zones that cover certain areas of the yard. Each zone is controlled by a separate valve. Different vegetation in the yard often has unique watering needs, so each zone can have different types of equipment depending on those needs.
The average property has two or more zones in the front yard or backyard and one or two zones on the sides of the house. Of course, larger yards have more zones. The national average cost of sprinkler winterization (from $56 to $131) is based on properties with one to six zones. More zones means a higher cost to winterize a sprinkler system.
|Number of Zones||Average Cost|
|1 or 2 zones||$50 to $75|
|3 or 4 zones||$80 to $100|
|5 or 6 zones||$100 to $130|
|7 or 8 zones||$150 to $250|
The price will also depend on the type of irrigation system being winterized and the amount of work involved. Drip irrigation systems are installed above-ground and are ideal for watering smaller areas like flower beds. To shut off and drain the system, the entire faucet assembly needs to be removed and brought inside for the winter. The technician will blow out the system and seal off any open lines.
In-ground sprinklers spray water to larger areas through pipes that are buried underground. The process of winterization is straightforward, since the shut-off valve is above-ground and easily accessible. The pipes are drained by hand, through automatic draining, or by a blowout.
Finally, above-ground sprinklers have exposed pipes that are easy to move around; however, they are more vulnerable to the weather. Exposed pipes need to be insulated before they can be drained manually or automatically.
The sprinkler winterization method used will affect the cost of the project. Blowing out sprinkler systems is the most expensive process, averaging $100 to $250. The other methods are similar to each other in price. Automatically draining the system ranges from $90 to $175, while manually draining typically costs $75 to $150.
Labor rates vary by the local cost of living, demand for services, and availability of providers. Depending on geographic location, sprinkler maintenance professionals typically charge a flat rate of $50 to $150. Another option is to hire a plumber who has experience with sprinkler winterization. Plumbers typically charge a flat fee of $40 to $200, depending on the type of method used, type of system, and size of the sprinkler system.
Timing is everything. Many sprinkler maintenance pros winterize all of their clients’ sprinkler systems at the same time and tend to offer reduced rates during the late summer or early fall. In many areas, the end of the fall is the best time to book a pro. Waiting too long may result in higher prices due to increased demand.
Some regions with colder weather may start winterization as early as August, so homeowners are advised to ask local experts about their schedules and recommendations to gauge the best time to hire a pro. If homeowners are concerned about winterizing too early and not being able to water their lawn sufficiently, they can look at using one of the best lawn sprinklers to provide water management through a dry fall season.
Additional Costs and Considerations
In addition to the typical costs that come with winterizing a sprinkler system, there may be other costs to consider during or after the service. These include service agreements, system tune-ups or repairs, system replacement, self-draining system installation, spring activation, and additional lawn care service.
Bundling sprinkler-related services is a way to save money. Many landscaping and sprinkler maintenance companies offer annual service contracts to cover sprinkler winterization, spring activation, and inspections, so homeowners are set up for the entire year. A package like this usually costs between $150 and $350. Prepaid service agreements are advantageous, since they offer lower prices for flat-rate services, discounts on extra work like repairs, and the option for homeowners to choose multiple services for the year at one time.
System Tune-Up or Repairs
Over time, a sprinkler system will need a tune-up or repairs on worn-out components. The average tune-up costs between $75 and $120 and usually includes cleaning and redirecting sprinkler heads, visually inspecting the heads and valves, and testing the system for pressure and function. Repairs such as the replacement of broken parts tend to be more costly, from $55 to more than $1,000, depending on the repair needed.
|Common Repair||Average Cost (Materials and Labor)|
|Backflow preventer replacement||$455 to $1,660|
|Broken pipe repair||$150 to $350|
|Sprinkler head replacement||$55 to $95|
|Valve replacement||$69 to $320|
|Water pressure adjustment||$50 to $450|
Unfortunately, sometimes a sprinkler system deteriorates from age or is catastrophically damaged from not being winterized properly, and it needs to be completely replaced. Homeowners will typically pay between $2,400 and $4,200 to install a brand-new sprinkler system. Huge yards with multiple zones could cost over $8,000 for professional installation.
Self-Draining System Installation
If the property sits on a hill, homeowners can ask a pro about self-draining sprinkler systems, which use the terrain and gravity to allow water to flow downhill. However, water can still collect in the low-lying areas and freeze when the temperatures plummet. It is recommended to have these types of systems inspected each fall if homeowners decide not to have theirs blown out. An inspection costs between $40 and $75.
While winterization is necessary before the first frost, reactivation of the system will need to be scheduled in the spring to get it ready for the irrigation season. Often part of either the sprinkler winterization or the summer landscaping process, spring activation tasks usually cost a flat rate between $50 and $150. Spring activation services generally include the following:
- inspecting and cleaning the backflow preventer;
- turning on the water supply;
- building pressure slowly to avoid damaging the valves and heads;
- identifying possible leaks;
- testing the sprinkler system by zone;
- cleaning sprinkler heads; and
- planning for any necessary repairs.
Additional Lawn Care Services
While a sprinkler system is being winterized, it may be helpful to have the pro check to see if the lawn would benefit from additional lawn care services such as aeration, dethatching, sod replacement, overseeding, leaf removal, garden cleanup, or other types of maintenance.
|Additional Lawn Care Services||Average Cost|
|Aeration||$75 to $225|
|Dethatching||$160 to $225|
|Garden cleanup||$40 to $75 per hour|
|Leaf removal||$155 to $460|
|Overseeding||$680 to $1,815|
|Sod replacement||$1 to $2 per square foot|
Cost to Winterize a Sprinkler System by Method
The method used for sprinkler winterization impacts the price tag of the service. Depending on the slope of a homeowner’s property, it may be possible to do a manual or automatic draining versus the pricier sprinkler system blowout. However, if manual draining doesn’t clear all the water from the system, a blowout will still be recommended.
This method automatically drains the sprinkler system by turning off the main water supply and backflow preventer. Automatic drain valves typically cost between $5 and $80 for just the components. Labor is an additional fee. The typical cost to winterize an automatic drain sprinkler ranges from $90 to $175. Homeowners are advised to remember that water can still get trapped in low-lying spots with this method, so many automatic drains still need a blowout.
A blowout is the most efficient and effective method for removing water from a sprinkler system, no matter if there is a manual drain valve sprinkler system or an automatic drain valve for a sprinkler system. Professional sprinkler technicians use an air compressor to fill the pipes with compressed air to force out any water that remains in the system. Average sprinkler blowout prices are $100 to $250 but ultimately depend on the number of zones and other factors. While a blowout may be the most expensive option, it does the best job of preventing winter damage that requires costly repairs in the future.
The manual drain winterization method costs $75 to $150 on average. It works by turning off the water main using a manual shutoff valve, then opening a drain valve to release the trapped water. Even with this method, some water could remain in the pipes, so a blowout could still be necessary.
Benefits of Winterizing a Sprinkler System
Skipping lawn sprinkler winterization can result in devastating consequences that may require emergency repairs. But if done correctly and promptly each year, winterizing a sprinkler system can protect the pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads and avoid costly repairs.
Sprinkler Head Protection
Without proper winterization, expanding ice on sprinkler heads can wreak havoc. When water gets trapped in any piece of the sprinkler head, from the body to the spring mechanism, it can freeze and expand. The pressure from expansion causes permanent damage to the sprinkler head and may even pop off the head entirely. Sometimes the sprinkler-head body will crack and leak or the spring mechanism will break so it can’t pop up to water the lawn properly.
Sprinkler System Protection
When homeowners make the decision to winterize irrigation systems, they ensure that the entire system stays intact throughout the cold weather. Each time the sprinklers run, water can remain in the pipes. If the water is not removed before freezing temperatures, the water inside the pipes can freeze. This can lead to problems like cracks in the pipes or catastrophic bursting of pipes. If a sprinkler system isn’t properly winterized, homeowners may find their warranty is voided. Fixing broken irrigation pipes is a pricey endeavor, so it’s best to make the effort to winterize pipes before it gets too cold outside.
Repair Cost Avoidance
The cost to winterize sprinkler systems is nothing compared to the cost to make repairs. Just one night of extremely cold temperatures can break several components of the system and cost hundreds of dollars to fix. One of the most expensive repairs on a broken sprinkler system is repairs to a broken manifold.
Consisting of a main pipe and several attached valves, the manifold is the critical component that regulates the flow of water from the main water line to each zone in the sprinkler system. Manifolds with ice damage usually have cracked pipes or broken valves. This is the most difficult component to repair, given its complexity and location underground.
Winterizing a Sprinkler System: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Some homeowners can turn off a manual or automatic drain system without having to spend a penny. However, for those needing a blowout, hiring a certified contractor from a sprinkler system winterize service is recommended for a number of reasons. And for property owners who don’t know what type of sprinkler system they have, hiring a pro is the best way to go.
Some homeowners may be tempted to rent their own compressor but discover that a sufficient sprinkler blowout air compressor to get the job done costs at least $30 to $100 per day. Large industrial air compressors are required for this type of work, as opposed to the kind sold in a neighborhood hardware store.
A sprinkler system blowout is a complicated process that requires knowledge and experience. Professionals need to assess the gallons per minute (GPM) that flow through each irrigation zone to choose what size air compressor is needed for the job. They also have to know the air volume required to blow out the specific system. Without the correct calculation of air volume and air pressure, an inexperienced DIYer can ruin the sprinkler system by using the wrong air compressor.
Since it’s a trickier process than some homeowners may realize, there are a surprising number of things that can go wrong when winterizing a sprinkler system. If the process is not done correctly and water is left in the pipes, it can end up leading to expensive repairs that will cancel out any savings from trying to DIY the job.
Finally, blowing out a sprinkler system comes with serious safety risks. Since the water in the sprinkler system is pressurized, caution is recommended when homeowners are opening sprinkler blowout valves to keep from damaging the system or being injured. Also, industrial air compressors are powerful. If used improperly, they can cause injuries to people or damage to the sprinkler system.
How to Save Money on the Cost to Winterize a Sprinkler System
Although winterizing a sprinkler system is a relatively low-cost investment, paying for it year after year can start to add up. Therefore, some homeowners may be interested in tips and tricks for saving money when it comes to this annual chore.
- Get multiple quotes. Shopping around to get quotes from at least three companies will ensure that you get the best price possible. Just make sure that quality isn’t being sacrificed for a lower price point.
- Winterize early. Begin contacting local sprinkler winterization companies as the end of summer approaches to get a quote. Some might offer discounts to complete winterization by a certain date, such as a few weeks before the first freeze is expected.
- Opt for a package or service plan. Save money by getting set up with a plan that includes both winterization and activation. By purchasing these services as a bundle, homeowners can take advantage of beneficial discounts offered by many companies.
- Choose DIY sprinkler blowout with borrowed equipment. Cut costs by choosing sprinkler winterization as a DIY project. However, this works only if the air compressor doesn’t need to be rented, since that will cost about as much as hiring a pro. However, borrowing the equipment from a friend or neighbor can save money.
Questions to Ask About Winterizing a Sprinkler System
Before homeowners hire a professional for sprinkler system winterization, it’s important for them to understand everything that is involved. In addition to inquiring about cost, ask the following questions before hiring someone to handle this task.
- What are your certifications?
- Are you licensed and insured?
- Do you offer packages or service plans?
- How long will the project take?
- Do you have experience with my brand of backflow device?
- Are you familiar with my brand of sprinkler system controller?
- When do you recommend my irrigation system be blown out?
- What kind of air compressor do you use for blowout?
- Do you have a pressure regulator on your air compressor? How much pressure do you run?
- How do I know when the blowout is complete and effective?
- Do you repair systems as well as blow them out?
- Do you offer spring activation services?
- Do you foresee any additional costs?
- Do you recommend any additional lawn care services at this time?
Winterizing a sprinkler system is a critical step for those who have an in-ground sprinkler system and live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below freezing. By putting this on a lawn care to-do list, homeowners can prevent major problems like burst pipes. But for those winterizing their sprinkler system for the first time, additional questions may linger. Here are some questions and answers to help guide homeowners through the process.
Q. When should I winterize my sprinkler system?
The best time to winterize a sprinkler system is prior to the first deep freeze in the area. This is often in late autumn, but it could be earlier or later depending on the local climate.
Q. How long does it take to winterize a sprinkler system?
The length of time it takes to winterize a sprinkler system depends on the size of the sprinkler system and the power of airflow available from the compressor. For example, it takes about 5 minutes to blow out one zone if using a compressor that produces 80 to 100 cubic feet of air per minute.
Q. What will happen if you don’t winterize your sprinkler system?
If a homeowner doesn’t winterize their sprinkler system, there could be major issues when any water in the system begins to freeze. Taking this important step helps protect the sprinkler system pipes, sprinkler heads, manifold, and other components from expensive damage caused by expanding ice.
Q. How cold does it have to be for a sprinkler system to freeze?
Once the ground temperature stays consistently below zero, a sprinkler system can freeze. Of course, the depth of the sprinkler system can affect exactly when this happens. A system that’s buried below the frost line probably won’t freeze until deep winter, but a system near the surface may freeze sooner. If homeowners are unsure about how deeply their system is buried, it’s best to consult with a pro in late summer to plan the best time to winterize it.