winterize outdoor faucets - Frozen outdoor faucet

How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets (With Easy Alternatives!)

When you winterize outdoor water faucets (also called hose spigots or hose bibs) around your home, especially with a frost-free faucet, you are avoiding major headaches and expensive repair bills with one very affordable update.

As the freezing cold begins creeping in around this time of year, nights and early mornings commonly dip into the 10- to 32-degree range in the Midwest and Northeast. So let’s learn how to winterize your outdoor spigots to prevent a plumbing emergency.

What Does it Mean to Winterize Your Plumbing?

In general, winterization is the process of protecting your plumbing (especially your water pipes) from being damaged by freezing temperatures. These extremely low temperatures can cause the water inside your plumbing to expand and burst. 

In regard specifically to your outdoor faucet, winterization means preparing the pipes that are connected to your outdoor faucets to withstand freezing temperatures. There are several methods for doing so, including the installation of a freeze-proof faucet.

Let’s discuss them below.

The Most Basic Method for Winterizing Outdoor Faucets

Right before you enter your freezing winter months, you should begin the process of winterizing your outdoor water faucets. You should also take this precaution if you’ll be leaving your home for an extended period of time, such as on vacation or a business trip.

Here are the basic steps in winterizing your outdoor water faucet:

  1. Disconnect the hose from your faucet

    This step is often forgotten but will prevent you from ruining a perfectly good hose.prevent freezing pipes - water hose

  2. Locate and turn off your water shut-off valve

    In an older system, the shut-off valve to your outdoor faucet can be found in your basement, located under the part of the ceiling that is closest to the wall where your outdoor faucet is located.

    In a more modern system using a frost-free faucet (which you’ll see below), you won’t need to go to your basement because the water will drain on its own. Turn the knob or lever clockwise (to the right) until water stops flowing.Water faucet shut off valve - winterize outdoor water faucets with frost-free faucet

  3. Drain the outdoor faucet pipe

    Go back outside and turn on the outdoor water faucet. This will remove any remaining water from the pipes. Turn off the outdoor water faucet after all the water has been drained.Drain outdoor faucet pipe - winterize outdoor water faucets with frost-free faucet

  4. Drain the inside shut-off valve

    Return to the basement shut-off valve and place a bucket underneath. You need to open the drain plug, a small cap located on the side of the shut-off valve, and let the remaining water on the inside of the pipe drain out.Drain shut off valve with bucket - winterize outdoor water faucets with frost-free spigot

  5. Repeat

    Go through this process for each of your outdoor water faucets.

Congratulations. You’ve completed the first and most basic method for winterizing your outdoor faucets. But there’s more you can and should do, which leads us to the frost-free spigot.

So, What is a Frost-Free Faucet?

Frankly, there’s no better way to winterize your outdoor water faucets than by replacing your old faucet with a modern frost-free spigot. You’ll love them for all the reasons noted above as well as being inexpensive.

Even better? They do all the work for you. In fact, because frost-free spigots are self-winterizing, you won’t need to go through all of those steps above (though you’ll still need to disconnect your hose). But what exactly are they?

Diagram Frost Free Spigot - Winterize Outdoor Faucets
This diagram points out two of the main components of a frost-free spigot: the water valve placed inside the home and the anti-siphon valve on the outside faucet.

Technically, a frost-free faucet is called a “frost-proof (or frost-free), anti-siphon sill cock faucet.” Yeah, that’s a lot to remember, so let’s stick with frost-free faucet. It has two main purposes:

  1. The frost free sill cock keeps the water inside your pipe from freezing by placing the outdoor faucet’s flow valve deeper into the house. By keeping the flow valve further away from the freezing cold outside, the chances for a burst pipe are greatly reduced.
  2. The anti-siphon valve of your frost free spigot will keep unsanitary hose water from backing into your pipes and contaminating your plumbing.

For a more visual description, check out this video from our very own Kameron.

What Else Can I Do to Winterize My Outdoor Faucets?

If you want to be extra cautious, or you’d rather not spend time and money replacing your old outdoor faucets with frost-free spigots, then consider this alternative.

Outdoor faucet covers are made out of soft or hard weather-proof materials that help insulate your outdoor water faucets from freezing cold temperatures.

If you go this route, you still need to perform the basic winterizing steps provided above. Regardless, outdoor faucet covers sure are easy, convenient, and a nice alternative in areas of the country that don’t suffer from long periods of extremely cold weather.

If you’re a Do-It-Yourselfer, here are some products you might want to look into.

  • Anti-Siphon Sillcock Frost-Free Faucet (6, 8, or 12 inches long should suffice)
  • Outdoor Faucet Covers (look for a Soft Sock or Hard Shell variety)

Final Thoughts

If you aren’t careful, an outdoor faucet without winterization can cause a plumbing emergency without warning. Winterizing your outdoor — especially with a frost-free faucet (also called a frost-free spigot) — is an essential step in preventing expensive water damage and flooding to your home. 

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

If you prefer a professional plumber to winterize your home’s plumbing system or simply install modern frost-free spigots, we’re just a phone call away.

Don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237). We will immediately handle any emergency plumbingdrain cleaning and drain clearing, and water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines.

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