How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets
In colder climates, winter comes along each year and does its best to destroy our water pipes. The best way to minimize the damage from cold weather on household plumbing is to do a little winterizing pre-season, which essentially means protecting them against any freezing that can expand the water and rupture the pipes. Burst water pipes can cause thousands of dollars of damage when the water soaks walls, ceilings, and floors, so it just makes sense to take preventive measures when and where you can.
A good starting point is to winterize your outdoor faucets (hose spigots). Doing so is relatively easy, thanks to insulated covers you can purchase to fit over the spigots. Installing these covers, along with performing a few simple winterizing procedures, can prevent outdoor faucets from rupturing due to freezing temperatures.
While there are specialty outdoor spigots marketed as “freeze-proof,” there is no guarantee that these faucets will not freeze in the coldest weather, so even these faucets can benefit from outdoor faucet covers. Long term, though, installing freeze-proof spigots is a good step towards avoiding potential problems.
How Frost-Proof Wall Hydrants or Hose Bibs Work
Frost-proof wall hydrants or hose bibs are designed to shut off the water inside the foundation wall. This is accomplished because the mechanism is longer than the washer seats at the end of the hydrant or hose bib. They come in different lengths, depending on the width of your foundation wall or point of connection inside. When off, the water drains out.
They do not need additional outside insulation if installed correctly. However, you should always disconnect garden hoses prior to the winter months.
In very harsh environments or during particularly cold winters, if the room where the piping connects inside is not heated, pipes can freeze and burst when they thaw.
How Outdoor Faucet Covers Work
Most faucet covers use one of two styles. Faucet covers are either square or dome-shaped shells made of rigid thermal foam with flexible gaskets that fit right over outdoor faucets, or they are flexible bags made of thick fabric stuffed with insulation. When properly installed so that they seal tightly around the base of the faucet, either style provides good insurance against spigots rupturing due to freezing.
Faucet covers work by trapping heat that naturally radiates through the interior pipes to the outdoor spigot. The insulated cover prevents this radiated heat from escaping and therefore prevents water in the faucet from freezing, expanding, and rupturing the spigot.
Manufacturers may market these faucet covers under several different names, including “garden faucet insulation cover” or “insulated faucet socks.” All of them will do the job, but for the best results, they need to seal tightly so they can provide the most thermal protection.