Every fall the battle of the Sprinkler Blowout begins. Literally thousands of people contact a handful of QUALIFIED sprinkler blowout technicians to race against the clock and Mother Nature to complete this service before the "temperature drops to freezing and their sprinkler systems instantly freeze and disintegrate as if placed in liquid Nitrogen." Ummmm, that doesn't happen, by the way……
For those who have requested a sprinkler blowout expecting it to be done yesterday are in for a bit of a surprise. It could be a week to a month before you receive your blowout, and here is why…….
According to the US Censun Bureau, in 2016 there were a little over 248,000 housing units in Ada and Canyon county combined. For sprinkler blowout purposes, let's remove 48,000 of these homes from the list to cover apartment dwellings that have only one sprinkler system, those who do not have a sprinkler system, or those who have small enough yards that they blow them out themselves with a shop compressor, or they like to live dangerously and don't blow their sprinklers out at all. I believe this number to be high, but it works well for math purposes.
We are left with 200,000 homes in Ada and Canyon county that need a sprinkler blowout. Let's imagine there are 50 qualified sprinkler blowout technicians in the Treasure Valley. (From my research, I believe this number is high as well, but great for the math.) If we divide the 200,000 thousand homes evenly among the 50 technicians, each would get 4,000 sprinkler blowouts to do. Let's spread that over 30 days non-stop, which means each technician would have to do nearly 134 sprinkler blowouts PER DAY. We can break that down to a little over 5 sprinkler blowouts PER HOUR for each 24 hour period. Over 30 days, that would be 720 hours of no sleep. Of course this is all unrealistic. Throw in some of the other counties surrounding Ada and Canyon county that we also cover, like Boise, Gem, and Payette counties, it's even worse.
We can play with the numbers and cut the housing in half to 100,000, and double the technicians to 100, which would still leave 1,000 sprinkler blowouts for each technician to accomplish in 30 days, which breaks down to around 34 sprinkler blowouts a day.
Our long-time customers know that even as tight as we route our sprinkler blowouts, getting 34 done in a day even with our large machine is hard to do. When you consider travel time, time for each blowout, time wasted at properties trying to find valve boxes that haven't been cleared of rocks, bark, leaves, or other debris, or gates not left accessible, etc., we generally get about 25 completed in a day. On a good day without issue, we MIGHT make 30-35, but it is rare. We have a smaller machine we used for years, which will be on the road this year providing I can find someone who wants a job. With both machines running we will probably get about 40 completed in a day, so if we receive around 1,200 sprinkler blowouts, it is possible to complete them all within around 30 days. Keep in mind this is working 8-10 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Getting back on track, it is actually worse than the figures above, because in my opinion there are more than 200,000 homes needing a sprinkler blowout, and less than 50 qualified technicians to do the job.
So, what do you do to protect your system while waiting for a sprinkler blowout? Read one of my previous posts on protecting your system located here: http://www.treasurevalleyrepairs.com/blog/?p=146
We have blown out sprinklers when the outside temperature was 13 degrees with snow on the ground without issue. The ground is warmer than you think, and the snow is actually a good insulator. What won't survive a serious freeze is brass backflow preventers and vacuum breakers that are above ground if you are on a city system, or filters and any piping that is above ground on a pressurized irrigation system. The newer "lead free" backflow preventers and vaccuum breakers do not handle the weather as well as the older ones containing lead. Lead is a soft metal and can expand to a degree during cold snaps, but brass will not. It will crack quickly if left exposed. Although the water will freeze, galvanized pipe will be fine above ground. If your system is made up of poly pipe, it will hold up to the cold for quite awhile but PVC will crack and spiral nearly the entire length of the pipe.
If you are physically able, it is always a good idea to pre-winterize your system by following the steps in the post listed above, especially if the temperature is going to drop QUICKLY to well below freezing. Leave the lids on your valve boxes, but uncover them so they can be found quickly. Some of our customers thought they were helping by leaving the lids off their valve boxes to make our job easier. BAD IDEA. valves will freeze if exposed to the elements directly.
For all the newbies to Idaho, I hope I didn't scare you. Just sign up as early as you can for a blowout. By no means wait until the last minute. It may take awhile to get to you, but waiting until a month after we have already started to sign up is not a wise idea. We have opened up our online sign-up form for sprinkler blowouts so that those wishing to sign up early may do so. Keep in mind we won't be starting until around the end of the first week of October, or when we have determined the irrigation districts have shut down for the season. We accept online sign-ups only. You can sign up here: Sprinkler Blowout
See you soon!