Choosing the Right Air Compressor to Blow Out Sprinklers

by Anna

As the autumn leaves begin to fall and winter approaches, it’s essential to prepare your irrigation system for the cold months ahead. One of the most effective ways to prevent costly damage to your sprinkler system is by properly blowing out the water from the lines using an air compressor. However, selecting the right air compressor for this task can be a daunting challenge, considering the various options available in the market. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the factors to consider when choosing an air compressor for blowing out sprinklers, ensuring a hassle-free and efficient winterization process.

Why Blow Out Sprinklers?

Before diving into the specifics of selecting an air compressor for the job, let’s understand why it’s crucial to blow out your sprinklers before winter. When water freezes in your sprinkler lines, it expands and can lead to pipe cracks, valve damage, and other costly repairs. By removing all the water from the system using compressed air, you prevent these potential issues and extend the lifespan of your irrigation system.


Factors to Consider When Choosing an Air Compressor

1. Air Volume (CFM)

One of the most critical factors to consider when selecting an air compressor for blowing out sprinklers is the air volume it can produce, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The CFM rating determines how quickly the compressor can deliver air to your irrigation system, and it directly affects the efficiency of the winterization process.


To determine the required CFM for your sprinkler system, you need to consider the number of zones or sprinkler heads you have. Typically, small residential systems may require 10-20 CFM, while larger commercial systems may need 50 CFM or more. It’s essential to ensure that the air compressor you choose can provide enough CFM to handle your specific system.


2. Air Pressure (PSI)

In addition to CFM, the air pressure (measured in pounds per square inch or PSI) is another critical factor to consider. Sprinkler systems usually require an air compressor that can generate at least 60-80 PSI to push out all the water effectively. Many air compressors can achieve this level of pressure, but it’s still crucial to verify the PSI rating before making your purchase.


3. Tank Size

The size of the air compressor’s tank can significantly impact its performance. A larger tank can store more compressed air, allowing you to work for longer periods without interruptions for the tank to refill. This can be particularly advantageous for larger irrigation systems, where the winterization process may take more time.

However, if you have a small residential sprinkler system, a smaller tank may suffice, as you won’t need to run the compressor continuously for extended periods. Balancing tank size with other factors like CFM and PSI is essential to ensure optimal performance.

4. Portability and Mobility

Consider how portable and easy to move the air compressor is. You’ll likely need to transport it to different parts of your property to access all the sprinkler zones. Look for models with sturdy handles and wheels to make maneuvering easier.

5. Power Source

Air compressors are available in various power sources, including electric, gasoline, and even battery-powered options. The choice of power source depends on your specific needs and the availability of electrical outlets or the convenience of a gasoline-powered unit. Electric models are typically quieter and require less maintenance, but gas-powered ones can offer greater mobility and independence from electricity sources.

6. Noise Level

The noise level of an air compressor can be a significant consideration, especially if you have nearby neighbors or wish to minimize disruptions during the winterization process. Electric air compressors tend to be quieter than gas-powered models, making them a suitable choice for residential areas where noise regulations may apply.

7. Durability and Build Quality

Investing in a durable and well-built air compressor is essential for long-term reliability. Look for models with sturdy construction, quality components, and a good reputation for durability. It’s worth spending a bit more upfront to avoid potential issues down the road.

8. Price and Budget

Air compressors come in a wide range of price points, so it’s crucial to establish a budget before you start shopping. While it’s tempting to opt for the cheapest option, remember that quality matters, especially when it comes to winterizing your valuable sprinkler system. A reasonably priced, mid-range air compressor with the necessary specifications is often the best balance between cost and performance.

9. Maintenance Requirements

Consider the maintenance requirements of the air compressor you choose. Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the compressor’s longevity and performance. Read user reviews and consult the manufacturer’srecommendations to get an idea of the maintenance tasks involved.

10. Additional Features

Some air compressors come with features that can enhance convenience and usability, such as built-in pressure gauges, adjustable regulators, and multiple outlets. Assess your needs and preferences to determine which additional features, if any, are essential for your winterization process.

Recommended Air Compressors for Sprinkler System Winterization

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor:

CFM: 4.2 at 90 PSI
PSI: 130
Portable and quiet operation
Durable and reliable

CFM: 5.1 at 90 PSI
PSI: 175
Portable with a sturdy handle
High-pressure output for efficient winterization
California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor:

CFM: 2.2 at 90 PSI
PSI: 120
Extremely quiet operation
Ideal for smaller residential sprinkler systems
NorthStar Portable Gas-Powered Air Compressor:

CFM: 24.4 at 90 PSI
PSI: 175
Gasoline-powered for mobility
Large tank for extended operation
Suitable for commercial and larger residential systems


Can I use a regular home air compressor for blowing out sprinklers?

While it is possible to use a regular home air compressor for this task, it’s essential to ensure that it meets the necessary CFM and PSI requirements for your specific sprinkler system. Many home air compressors may not provide the adequate air volume and pressure needed for efficient winterization.

Are gas-powered or electric air compressors better for blowing out sprinklers?

The choice between gas-powered and electric air compressors depends on your specific circumstances. Electric compressors are quieter and require less maintenance, making them suitable for residential areas. Gas-powered compressors offer greater mobility and independence from electrical sources, making them ideal for larger properties or remote locations.

How often should I blow out my sprinkler system?

It’s recommended to blow out your sprinkler system once a year before the winter season sets in. This annual maintenance routine helps prevent freezing damage and prolongs the life of your irrigation system.

Can I rent an air compressor for winterizing my sprinklers?

Yes, you can rent an air compressor for the winterization process if you don’t want to invest in one. Many hardware stores and equipment rental businesses offer air compressor rentals. Ensure that the rented compressor meets the necessary specifications for your sprinkler system.

Do I need any additional accessories when using an air compressor for winterization?

Yes, you may need some additional accessories, such as a blowout adapter, which connects the air compressor to the sprinkler system. Additionally, having an air hose with appropriate fittings, safety goggles, and ear protection is recommended for a safe and effective winterization process.


Blowing out your sprinkler system before winter is a crucial maintenance step that can save you from costly repairs and ensure the longevity of your irrigation system. When choosing the right air compressor for this task, consider factors such as CFM, PSI, tank size, portability, power source, noise level, durability, and budget. By carefully assessing your specific needs and preferences, you can select an air compressor that will make winterization a breeze, protecting your investment and ensuring a worry-free spring startup.

Remember that proper maintenance and care of your chosen air compressor are essential to keep it in top working condition and ready for each annual winterization. With the right equipment and knowledge, you can ensure the health and functionality of your sprinkler system for years to come.

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