We use outdoor water pumps or fountains, irrigation systems, pond aeration and much more. But when winter comes, these pumps need to be shut down and the systems prepared for the cold months ahead. How do you winterize a water pump?

Keep in mind that these systems are more than just the water pump. Systems have pipes, valves, meters and more to help regulate the water flow and pressure. For elements of the watering system that are below the frost point, the risk of freezing is minimal. But, we must address anything above or close to the surface before the first freeze.

The risk we are trying to avoid is icing. When water freezes, it expands. In a closed system, where there is no place to go, the expanding ice will break the water pump, pipes, and equipment. This breakage is what we will prevent with proper pump system winterization.

The first and best option for the water pump is to bring it indoors. Disconnect the pump from the system, drain the water, and store it in an area that will not freeze. Be sure the intake and ejection ports are open, as well as the drain plugs. This will allow air into the pump, letting the water drain out.

Even though there is no longer water in the pump minimizing exposure to extreme cold will reduce the wear on components such as seals or gaskets. The winter is also a great time to bring the water pump in for general maintenance.

If the pump must remain fixed outside, it should be prepped for the cold. Once drained, replace the drain plug in the bottom of the pump and add food grade propylene glycol into the pump body. The propylene glycol will not freeze and will prevent the damage ice can cause to the pump.

As mentioned, the pump is only one part of a water system. The water should be cleared from the rest of the pipe and equipment as well. Be sure all valves and heads are open. Then, use an air compressor to blow the water out of the rest of the system.

Depending on the complexity of your system, this may have to be done in stages. If one area clears, the air may flow to the clears areas, leaving the other area of the system with water. Check your valves and heads to be sure the water is clearing from all part of the pipes.

If you had your system professionally installed, you should ask the contractor for winterization instructions. Some systems may require more or fewer actions to ensure ice does not damage your water pump or pipes. And, as always, check with manufacturer specific instructions for pump winterization and maintenance.