An 1/8 of an inch crack in a frozen water pipe that bursts can waste 250 gallons a day, which is a good reason you shouldn’t forget to protect outdoor faucets from Old Man Winter. Winterizing your outdoor faucet requires some time, but you will save money by not having to hire a water clean up service or plumber. Here are some tips to winterize outdoor faucets.
Shut off the Water and Gather Tools
For this project, you need pipe insulation (tubular sleeves, pipe wrap, old clothes, or newspapers), and vise grips or pliers. Some outdoor faucets have shut-off valves in your house. The shut-off valve may be located under your crawl space, basement, or garage, which may be a three-to-four inch handle, or metal knobs on a length of pipe.
If you have an older home, look for a square post on a pipe junction, and give it a turn to the right with pliers or vise grips. For valves with handles, set the lever in ‘off’ position, or rotate it clockwise if it doesn’t have a marking. Rotate valves with metal knobs to the right to close them.
Regardless if you’re faucet is frost-proof or not, remove hoses and splitters from the tap. Drain water from hoses, and turn on the tap to relieve pressure. Even when you drain all the water, there could be a very small amount of it left, but it won’t be enough to cause damage if it freezes.
After the water stops draining, tighten the drain cap, but don’t make it too tight. On frost-free faucets, draining isn’t required, since the design prevents water from getting to the end of the spigot.
Wrap the pipe with insulating material, which is more important if the faucet doesn’t have a shut-off valve. Common types of insulation include pipe wrap and tubular sleeve made from foam or fiberglass. Install pipe wrap without adhesive by placing duct tape on one end, and cover the pipe, allowing a ½ inch overlap.
To install tubular sleeve, split the sides of the sleeve open cover the pipes, then duct tape them together. Another less expensive, but not as reliable option is to wrap the pipes with old newspapers or old clothes, cover with plastic, and secure with duct tape. You should still insulate frost-free faucets, since they are not completely resistant to severe cold, and the rubber gaskets benefit from the extra cover.
Winterizing your outdoor faucets is worth the effort to prevent the harshness of Old Man Winter from beating down on them. Don’t forget to check pipes for leaks before winterizing. If you spot leaks or your pipes have already frozen, contact a professional for plumbing repair.