Winterizing your home sprinkler system helps ensure that your lawn irrigation system stays functional for as long as possible. It is important to clear the water out of your sprinkler lines annually before the coldest months of the year. 

One of the most effective methods for winterizing your sprinkler system, the “blowout” method, involves using an air compressor to force dormant water out of the lines.

Performing this method of winterization requires some level of knowledge regarding the requirements for air compressors that fit the needs of the project, as well as an understanding of the blowout method itself.

Below, we will explore everything you need to know regarding air compressor specifications, options, and rankings. We will also examine the basics of the blowout method, in order to prepare you to winterize your own lawn sprinkler system.

Blowing Out Sprinklers

What is the Best Air Compressor for Winterizing Sprinkler Systems?

The Best Air Compressor for Winterizing a Sprinkler System is the Stealth 20 Gallon SAQ-12018. The Stealth SAQ-12018 is a versatile, powerful, and mobile air compressor.

It provides more than enough air pressure to winterize a lawn irrigation system with the zone method. The zone method involves clearing the pipes of different zones of the sprinkler system at different times, without compromising on mobility or ease of use. Additionally, it features an excellent price point, at around $400.

While the specifics of multiple air compressors are discussed below in greater detail, the upshot is that the best air compressor on the market today for the purpose of winterizing your sprinkler system is the Stealth 20 Gallon SAQ-12018.

While the Stealth compressor mentioned above is, in our assessment, the best air compressor for sprinkler systems, its particular strengths may not match your needs precisely.

If you are looking to offer sprinkler blow out service, you will need a tow behind air compressors or you can fill out the form below, for a FREE quotes. For homeowners, looking to DIY, check out the sprinkler systems offered below.

Best Air Compressors for Sprinkler Systems

Model NameCFM @ 90 PSIMax PSIHP
NorthStar GX39018.7 SCFM175 PSI12 HP
Stealth 20 Gallon SAQ-120185 SCFM150 PSI1.8 HP
California Air Tools 10020C5.3 SCFM125 PSI2 HP
Campbell Hausfeld (VT6271)5.3 CFM135 PSI2 HP
Eagle (EA-6500)6 CFM125 PSI2.5 HP

1.NorthStar GX390 Compressor -The Most Powerful

This NorthStar unit is the most powerful on our list and can handle blowing out a sprinkler system with ease. This gas-powered air compressor from NorthStar features a very powerful Honda GX390 Ohv motor.

The Good: High PSI

It operates with a maximum 175 PSI pressure, which is more than enough to get the job done if what you need is an air compressor for sprinkler system blowouts.

In addition to the incredibly high PSI, it boasts an output of 18.7 CFM at 175 PSI, as well as 24.4 CFM at 90 PSI. This compressor features a 30-gallon tank, which is plenty for blowing out a sprinkler system.

The Bad: Heavy & Expensive 

The unit is particularly heavy (492 lbs), requiring a dolly or other device in order to move it. The Other disadvantage is the especially high price point for those who are only using the compressor to winterize sprinkler systems (typically ~$1,000-2,000).

This is a great option for those who need a powerful air compressor for additional tasks or for everyday use.

Northstar Gas Cold Water Portable Pressure Washer Power...
  • Honda GX390 OHV engine for quiet, reliable performance
  • CAT 66DX direct drive crankshaft triplex pump with thermal protection and ceramic plungers
  • Oil drain cutouts for quick, clean engine and pump oil changes

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2.California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet – Most Durable Option 

The California Air Tools 10020C features an oil-free pump that is designed for a life cycle of 3000+ hours, making it ideal for winterizing your sprinkler system year after year.

Oil-Free Means Less Maintenance 

Its oil-free pump requires less maintenance and upkeep cost than oil-based systems, while its 2.0 HP motor provides a maximum pressure of 125 PSI. With an output of 6.4 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI, it has plenty of pressure and output capacity to perform a zone by zone blowout.

Also, its 10-gallon air tank, extremely low weight (82.5 lbs), and wheeled metal frame make it a good choice for more casual users who are wanting a compressor only for sprinkler system maintenance.

California Air Tools 10020C-22060 Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free...
  • Ultra Quiet only 70 Decibels
  • Oil-Free Pump for Less Maintenance & Costs. Powerful 2.0 Hp with Low Amp Draw 7 amps
  • Two universal 1/4 inch quick connector. 125 PSI Maximum Pressure. 220v / 60 hz Rating

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3.Stealth 20 Gallon SAQ-12018 Air Compressor – The Best All-Around

This particular unit captured our mention for best on the market and is perfect for winterizing a sprinkler system. This electric air compressor from Stealth features an oil-free induction motor that offers a maximum pressure of 150 PSI.

It includes a 20-gallon tank, which provides more than enough air for the job at hand. This Stealth model boasts an output of 6 CFM at 40 PSI and 5 CFM at 90 PSI.

While not as powerful as the NorthStar discussed above, this quiet unit should work well for those who are primarily using their compressor to winterize a sprinkler system, or for less intensive air compression tasks.

Additionally, its light wheeled weight frame (121.1 lbs) and lower cost (typically ~$400) makes it a great choice for those with a range of residential air compression needs.

Stealth 20 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor,1.8 HP Oil-Free...
  • ✦【ULTRA QUIET & 3 TIMES LONG LIFE】STEALTH innovative quiet system air compressor have been tested to be up to 80% quieter and qualify to 3 times longer life than standard induction motors
  • ✦【POWERFUL & 20 GALLON CAPACITY】High quality induction motor generates the 1. 8 horsepower power, time of recharge the air tank from empty to full only 70 seconds. 20 Gallon capacity enable your innovation work continue without break
  • ✦【ULTRA QUIET SERIES& LONG LIFE CYCLE】Working noise only 68 decibels, ultra quiet and long-life cycle working hours more than 1000H. More quieter and save more money and time to replace new device

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4.Campbell Hausfeld (VT6271) Horizontal Compressor – Most Portable Option 

This unit from Campbell Hausfeld is a great all-around air compressor, with enough power for the blowout method and even more if you need it. It features 3.7 HP motor that boasts a maximum pressure of 135 PSI.

Its output is especially impressive, measuring at 10.2 CFM at 90 PSI. That pressure is more than enough to complete a zone method blowout of any lawn sprinkler system.

The tank capacity is 30-gallons, which contributes to its heavier weight (163lbs). But its horizontal design and wheeled frame make it a great unit for convenient storage and mobility. The price point is steeper than other offerings on this list, typically around $600-700.

5.Eagle (EA-6500) 20 Gallon Air Compressor – The Quietest Option 

The Eagle EA-6500 offers users both portability and power enough to clear your sprinkler lines while running very quietly. It is the quietest in its range, at 53 dB’s at 25ft.

It features a 2.5 HP motor that can reach a maximum pressure of 125 PSI. Its output is particularly impressive, measuring 7.9 CFM at 40 PSI and 6 CFM at 90 PSI. That very strong output is great for fully clearing sprinkler system lines through the blowout method.

Eagle EA-6500 Silent Series Air Compressor 125 Psi Max Hot...
  • Ultra quiet operation
  • Oil free double PISTON pump
  • Low amp draw increases life expectancy by 4 times over the average "oil free" air compressor

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

It also provides a particularly quiet motor, which makes indoor use possible. Its 20-gallon air tank can hold more than enough to winterize a lawn sprinkler system.

This model is another versatile option for those who primarily need a compressor to winterize their sprinkler system but may also have other uses for it throughout the year. It typically costs more than the Stealth unit mentioned above, usually around $500.


Buyer’s Guide for Sprinkler Blowout: What To Look For

Because there are so many options for small air compressors for residential use on the market, it’s important to understand which specifications and measurements matter when considering different compressors.

In order to find the right compressor for blowing out sprinklers, you will need to consider and balance many factors, including tank size, PSI, CFM, and ease of mobility.

What Size Air Compressor Do You Need for Blowing a Sprinkler Line?

In order to blow out a sprinkler line, you will need a tank that can hold at least 4-5 gallons of air. Depending on the needs you have, the tank size you need will differ. For example, ease of mobility will be useful but may be less important if you’re planning to keep your compressor in storage the majority of the time.

However, there are some sizing specs that will be important regardless, when you are planning to blow out a sprinkler system with a small compressor. The size of the air tank on an air compressor is an important feature to consider.

This is because blowing out your sprinkler system will require an air compressor that can maintain the appropriate pressure (50-80 PSI with 5-6 CFM) for anywhere from 2-5 minutes for each zone of your sprinkler line, when blowing out one zone of your sprinkler lines at a time.

If a compressor can operate for 2-5 minutes while maintaining the necessary air pressure, it should do the job. As noted above, this typically will mean an air compressor with a tank that can hold at least 4-5 gallons of air. 

What Does an Air Compressor Require in Terms of PSI for Blowing Out Sprinklers?

In order for an air compressor to blow out a sprinkler system, it will need to reach between 50-80 PSI, depending on the type of pipes the system features.

Pound-force per square inch (PSI) is a unit of measurement that determines the amount of pressure or stress that is being applied in a given situation. When it comes to air compressors, the higher the PSI, the more force that specific air compressor can extrude. 

Having an air compressor that boasts a sufficiently high PSI is necessary to ensure that you will be able to adequately force all of the water out of your sprinkler lines in order to winterize the system.

At the same time, you don’t want to apply too much pressure to the pipes in your sprinkler system, as this could cause them to rupture or otherwise damage the system.

How Many CFM Does an Air Compressor Need to Blow Out your Sprinkler System?

Most blowout air compressors require at least 5-6 CFM. That much CFM will be enough if you are doing a zone by zone blowout. However, If you are winterizing an entire sprinkler system at once, you will need a compressor that boasts at least 20 CFM.

The larger the diameter of the pipes of your system, the higher CFM you will need. Some irrigation experts use compressors that are rated up to 50 CFM, but 20 CFM is a good baseline rating.

Champion-Rotary Screw Air Compressors
Photo from Air Power Equipment CO.

However, if you are planning to clear the pipes of your sprinkler system one zone at a time, you can utilize compressors with a lower CFM rating – at least 5-6 CFM. 

The Importance of Winterizing Your Sprinkler System 

Winterizing your home sprinkler system is an element of home maintenance that many of us don’t often consider. Lawn irrigation systems require proper winterization in order to avoid the frustrating outcomes of burst pipes and damage to valves or sprinkler heads.

While it might seem easier to pay professionals to blow out the water from your sprinkler system using compressed air, this option can be costly. 

DIY Winterizing and Air Compressor Choice 

In order to avoid the cost of paying professionals every year, purchasing your own air compressor in order to winterize your sprinkler system yourself can be an enticing option.

However, determining which type, size, and strength of air compressor you should purchase in order to winterize your sprinkler system can be overwhelming. There are innumerable options with various specs at a range of price points. 

Important Tips for Blowing Out Sprinkler Systems

When performing a sprinkler blowout, compressor specs are incredibly important. But knowing how to approach the project is equally vital. Here are several tips to ensure that you are able to successfully and safely use your air compressor for blowing out sprinklers. 

Prepare the Sprinkler System 

Prepare the sprinkler system for the blowout process by shutting off the main water line that runs into the system. Also, close the additional valve(s) on the backflow preventer if applicable. This will ensure that compressed air doesn’t flow into the backflow. 

Sprinkler System Air Compressor Connection 

After you have prepared the system, connect the air compressor to the blowout port on the sprinkler line. This may require an additional adaptor if your water line does not already include an air compressor fitting.

Some air compressors may include this piece with purchase, but they are also readily available at most local hardware stores, along with couplings to secure the sprinkler system air compressor connection.

Gradually Engage the Air Compressor 

Once you’ve made sure that your air compressor is fully charged, begin to apply air to the sprinkler system very gradually, not exceeding the appropriate PSI for your sprinkler piping.

If applicable, open the valve on the blowout port slowly, as well. Be sure to wear eye protection when engaging the air compressor to ensure your own safety.

When performing a sprinkler blowout, compressor engagement will likely be targeted to different zones of the system at different times (that is, the zone method).

This is due to the fact that some of the air compressors discussed here will not be powerful enough to clear an entire sprinkler system at once (see CFM, above).

Remove All Latent Water 

When blowing out a particular zone of your sprinkler system, be certain that you engage the air compressor for a sufficient amount of time to clear all the water out of that section of the system.

You should be able to tell this by watching your sprinkler heads. Once only air from the compressor is escaping through the opening of the sprinkler heads, the line is cleared. This typically takes 2-5 minutes per zone.

Using the methods and compressor specifications detailed above should ensure that your lawn irrigation system remains functional for years to come and doesn’t succumb to the potential dangers of the winter months, including burst pipes and damaged sprinkler heads.

Did you find this guide helpful? Please leave us a comment and let us know which air compressor you are thinking of getting.