Cooler weather is around the corner and for operations using ag irrigation systems, this is an important maintenance time. Failure to prepare irrigating systems for cold weather can lead to damage that can be costly to repair and even delay the start of planting next season. To protect irrigators over the winter, ag irrigation system services recommend that growers use these important tips once the last harvest is done, but before the temperatures can dip down below freezing.
Water Shutoff and System Drainage
Begin the winterization process by turning off the main water supply feeding the system at the shutoff valve so water will no longer enter the irrigation lines. Then drain all irrigation pipes and valves using a drain valve, either manual or automatic. The most important part of winterizing ag irrigation systems is removing all water from the system, as expanding, freezing water caught in pipes or valves could cause cracks, burst pipes, or other irreparable damage. Once all water has been removed from the pipes, move on to the next step.
Supply Valve Insulation
After the outdoor water supply has been shut off and all pipes and lines drained, protect the supply valve with insulation. Apply self sticking, winterizing insulation tape over the valve and any piping at the above-ground supply. Keep the valve open in case of minor dripping in order to prevent the possibility of ice buildup that could crack the valve, causing damage that will require repair by ag irrigation system services come springtime.
Backflow Preventer and System Valve Insulation
Once the main supply value has been insulated, move on to insulate backflow preventers and all other valves within ag irrigation systems. Wrap these valves with self-sticking insulation tape as above. When insulating backflow valves, be sure not to cover the rain outlets or air vents, as these are important to help keep the insides of the valves dry during the off-season.
Irrigation Equipment Storage
Depending on the type of irrigation system, some use portable pieces of equipment that can be moved out of the fields such as hose reels, traveling guns, sprinklers, etc. Whenever possible, store these components indoors over the winter to reduce exposure to the elements and unnecessary damage caused by freezing temperatures. Be sure to unroll and drain any hoses to reduce the chance of freezing water trapped inside causing problems. If indoor storage is not possible, storage under a shed or some other cover is recommended.
Ag irrigation systems are a necessary, yet expensive investment for growers in Texas and throughout the country. In regions that do see winter temperatures below freezing, protecting these systems from cold damage is essential. Ag irrigation system services find that the best way to do so is using the methods mentioned above. Although it will take a bit of time to drain, insulate, and store irrigation components, this is the best way to protect this important equipment so it remains in good shape for many years of trouble free service!