It’s early December and the weather has made a decided turn toward cold! Just like all of you with residential sprinkler systems, here at the golf course we also need to get the water out of our pipes before heavy freeze causes damage. Our process for blowing out the irrigation system is similar to yours or your landscaper’s, but on a much larger scale.
We begin the week before our rented air compressors arrive, and let the system “gravity drain” for a day or two. We open some of the higher elevated valves to let air in the pipes, which in turn lets water drain into some of the ponds around the course. When water is no longer flowing out of our pipes we close all of our valves, attach the compressors to the main pipe outside of the pump house, and begin pumping compressed air into the irrigation system. We re-open the pond fills and let the air push out as much water as possible. Next, starting closest to the pump house and working away from it, we open every hose connection and run every sprinkler until nothing but air exits.
We literally have miles of pipe to empty, and 800 or so sprinkler heads and quick coupling valves that need to be emptied. Though we only make use of the compressors for two or three days, it takes about a week to complete our blowout. The goal is not to get every drop of water out of the system, but to get enough out so that if a deep freeze occurs, the pipes and sprinklers will remain undamaged. We have a pretty good process going and rarely do we see damage caused by ice. The process can be tedious, but it saves us an awful lot of trouble when we recharge the system the following spring!
This article was contributed by Chris Lare, Assistant Superintendent.