Winterization 101

Winter is right around the corner, and with it comes one of the largest operational hazards of any jetter, combination truck, or hydro excavator; freezing temperatures. Water expands as it freezes, and ice buildup can lead to serious damage to your equipment including burst water lines, cracked water tanks, and water pumps. Even a small amount of moisture can prove to be destructive to water lines and systems. Repairing the damage done by ice cannot only prove to be costly in parts and labor, but machine downtime cuts into productivity which can often time be an even larger cost. Proper maintenance of your machinery can prevent this, through a process called winterization.

Proper winterization means better productivity in winter and ensures the safety of your equipment in cold weather.

What is Winterization?

Winterization is the process of removing water from all parts of the jetting system to avoid freezing while the equipment is not in use. Most hydro jetters, combination sewer cleaners, and hydrovac machines come equipped with one of two winterization methods; an air purge system or an antifreeze system. An air purge system uses compressed air to push water and moisture out of the system, preventing potential ice buildup in the water pump, lines, and hoses. Most combo trucks or hydro excavators utilize existing onboard air compressors, while hydro jetters generally have a fitting which allows an air compressor to be connected to the jetting system.

Antifreeze systems are generally considered more efficient for winterization than air purge valves, but having an air purge system is better than having nothing at all.

Antifreeze winterization systems pump liquid antifreeze through the water system, clearing out all water, as well as leaving behind a protective coating to even further protect against freezing. Many jetter manufacturers offer this as an option, but the climate and conditions you work in during the winter months would indicate whether this method of winterization is right for you. It is important to note that not all antifreeze is created equal; jetting systems require the use of RV (or “pink”) antifreeze as opposed to the green or blue antifreeze commonly used in cars and trucks. RV antifreeze is far safer to use with jetting systems, as its chemical composition will not damage the system’s internal components. Commonly, the appropriate ratio of water-to-antifreeze is 50/50, which will generally protect your machine up to fifty degrees below zero. If you are recirculating antifreeze through the system, you should keep the engine revolution and water pump pressure on the lowest setting possible to prevent damaging your equipment.

If your trailer jetter equipment does not have an air purge system, there is no need to be concerned as air purge fittings are relatively easy to install. If you have any questions regarding the installation of a winterization system, you should contact the manufacturer of your equipment for advice and training materials.

When Should I Winterize?

Winterizing is vital when working in freezing conditions to maintain productivity and keep your equipment safe. It’s recommended to winterize between job sites if you have to drive further than 10 minutes.

Any time weather conditions come close to freezing temperatures, it is recommended to winterize your jetter, combination sewer cleaner, or hydrovac machine when the equipment is not going to be in immediate use. Generally speaking, this means every time you put the machine away you should winterize. Whether you are parking your hydro excavator for the night or putting your jetter away for the winter season, you should always winterize. Operators working in freezing climates even winterize between jobs via an air purge valve or recirculating antifreeze through the system while driving to the next job site. An additional feature that aids against water system freezing is enclosing all system components within a heated shroud. A heated enclosure is recommended for contractors or municipalities who experience multiple months of freezing temperatures.

Which Method of Winterization is Right for Me?

The answer to this question largely depends on your climate, the capabilities of your machine, your budget and personal preference. If you live in a region that rarely sees temperatures drop below 32 degrees or your equipment does not work in subzero temperatures, an air purge system may be all you need. Most contractors and municipalities prefer to have an antifreeze recirculation system due to its higher efficiency and reliability, providing not only water removal but also a protective coating to the entire water system against freezing.  However, please remember you are always better having an air purge valve than having no winterization method at all.

What Else Can I Do To Protect My Equipment?

Ensuring you have appropriate storage for your machine is instrumental in protecting your investment from the winter elements. Many contractors and municipalities store jetters, combination cleaners and hydro excavators in heated garages or enclosures to help prevent damage from winter weather. Regardless of your storage arrangement, always remember to winterize at the end of the day.

For more information or questions on winterization, you can contact Sewer Equipment technical support at 815-835-5566 or email techsupport@sewerequipment.com.