Cold snap increases urgency for winterizing lawn irrigation systems |

Cold snap increases urgency for winterizing lawn irrigation systems

— The sudden change in weather and the hard freeze Monday might have caught by surprise some homeowners with automated lawn irrigation systems.

The temperature in downtown Steamboat at 7 a.m. Monday was 15 degrees. Tree Haus resident Hans Geier said a part on a drip irrigation system at his home failed, but the damage was minimal.

"It was just a $50 repair," Geier said.

Despite the minor setback in his yard, Geier, a former president of Steamboat Ski Area, was hoping for more cold weather by the end of the month to allow for snowmaking. Once a ski area executive, always a ski area executive.

Experts said that because irrigation lines are buried, they are somewhat resistant to freezing. But the critical consideration is whether the system has any copper fittings or valves that are exposed to the cold where the water source for the irrigation system exits the home.

Larry Fontaine, of Rocky Mountain Landscapes, said it's not desirable to design an irrigation system with the copper backflow device or ball valves outside. Fontaine is in his third week of putting his customers' irrigation systems to bed for the winter. People with exposed copper in their systems were at the top of the list.

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"I've got all my customers who have that issue written down," Fontaine said. "So far, I haven't seen any of that stuff busted or frozen."

Peter Casavecchia, of Nature's Design, said he, too, hasn't had any issues with his clients' irrigation systems. He takes the precaution of draining exposed valves for customers who have them before undertaking the general winterization process.

"I go around and turn those off and bleed them off, and that takes care of them until it gets really cold," Casavecchia said. "I think that's the main thing."

Fontaine suggested that people who know they have exposed copper in their systems could place some insulation around those areas in early fall.

Lawn irrigation pros like Fontaine use an air compressor to winterize lawn irrigation systems by blowing out through the sprinkler heads any moisture lingering in the buried pipes.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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