What you should do now to prevent your outside faucets from freezing this winter
In Minnesota and in places that have freezing weather in the winter, it is smart to winterize your lawn faucets before the temperatures start to drop. When temperatures begin to drop below freezing, water inside your pipes will freeze. As it freezes, it can expand and can cause the pipes to burst. But, if you properly winterize them, allowing air to flow freely inside, the pipes will not break.
Many lawn faucets are frost-free models, so the stem is already stopping the water 12” or more from the outside on/off handle. Then on the inside of the house, there is another valve that you can turn off during the winter. This valve can be either a round-handled wheel valve that you turn all the way to the right to shut off or it can be a ball valve that has a lever turned parallel to the pipe when it is open and perpendicular to the pipe when it is closed. In either case, the first thing you want to do is turn that inside valve off. That valve has a small bleeder on the side, a little cap that you unscrew all the way off to drain the water from that section of the pipe towards the lawn faucet.
St Paul Pipeworks recommends leaving the cap off and storing it in a small plastic bag that you attach with tape or tack to the wood joist right above the valve so you do not lose it throughout the winter. Once you have removed that cap, you then go outside and open the lawn faucet handle on the outside of the house. That gives you airflow on both sides of the valve so that if any water gets in throughout the winter and freezes, it can expand and your pipes will not burst. It may seem wrong, but you want to leave the outside faucet open all winter.
The last important step in this process is to disconnect the outdoor hose from the faucet. One of the worst things you can do is leave the hose connected. This can cause more trouble because there is nowhere for the water in the hose to drain. St Paul Pipeworks recommends bringing the hoses inside into the garage or into the basement. A trick to avoid a dripping messy task is to take the two ends of the hose and screw them together so that no water leaks out while you are transporting the hoses for winter storage.
There is an older silcock style of faucet that is not frost-proof. If you have this style, you must be certain to turn off the inside valve and use the bleeder to drain away any water.
In the springtime when you are ready to begin to use your lawn faucets again, all you do is reverse the entire process. If you have any questions about winterizing your lawn faucets or are looking for a quality plumber in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro area, give St Paul Pipeworks a call today.
- Turn off the valve in the basement quarter turn clockwise so that the handle is perpendicular to the water piping.
- Open the brass cap on the side of the turn-off valve. Water will come out of the hole on the side of the brass drain cap. (It is possible to totally unscrew this cap. Taking it off is OK, as long as you don’t lose it. You’ll need it in the spring when you turn things back on.
- Go outside & open the lawn faucet. Opening is turning it counterclockwise as you face it. This will slowly drain any remaining water between the inside shutoff’ valve and the lawn faucet.
Spring Re-open Checklist
- Turn the outside lawn faucet off. Turn the handle clockwise.
- Hand tighten the brass drain cap on the side of the basement shut-off valve.
- Open the basement shutoff valve. The handle will now be “inline” with the water pipe.
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