I remember the excitement when I first bought a home with outdoor faucets. Having taps outside made tasks like watering plants, washing cars, and filling pools much easier. But when winter rolled around, I ran into a problem – should outdoor faucets be left open or closed in winter?
I learned the importance of opening the exterior faucets the hard way one winter. Our forecast called for a sudden cold snap with overnight lows in my area. I closed the internal valve but forgot to open the outdoor faucet, which caused the water in the pipe to freeze, expand, and consequently burst.
When temperatures started rising, I faced the challenge of water gushing out! Not only did I have a huge mess to clean up, but repairing the broken pipe and water damage cost an arm and a leg.
In this guide, I’ll share tips for preparing your outdoor faucets for winter because nobody wants to deal with cracked pipes or costly plumbing repairs down the road. Read on till the end and get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about keeping outside water faucets open in winter.
Safeguard Outdoor Faucets This Winter In 5 Easy Steps
Exterior faucets are vulnerable to cracks and bursts if water freezes in the pipes. Protect your outdoor plumbing this winter by shutting off the internal valve and winterizing external spigots by following these five simple steps:
- Shut Off The Water Supply Valve
Locate the valve that controls water flow to outside faucets. It’s mostly located inside where the main water line enters the home or basement. Turn the valve clockwise to the off position to stop water from reaching the external faucets.
- Disconnect Hoses And Attachments
Remove any hoses or splitters attached to exterior faucets. Detached hoses can hold water that may freeze and cause cracking damage. Coil up hoses and store them safely indoors after disconnecting.
- Open The Valve On The Bib
Now that the water supply is cut off, open the outside faucet valve counterclockwise. This allows trapped water in the pipes to drain out. You can only leave the outdoor faucet open throughout winter when the internal valve is closed. This continuously drains any leaking water, preventing water buildup and freezing inside the pipes. I also installed insulating faucet covers to add an extra layer of protection.
- Remove Other Fixtures
Take off other attachments on outdoor faucets, like splitters or backflow preventers. Store safely until spring. Lingering water in fixtures can freeze and cause plumbing issues.
- Drain The Bleeder Valve
Finally, locate the bleeder valve near the main shutoff valve on the supply line. Place a bucket underneath and unscrew the bleeder valve cap. This drains any last drips of water and completes the winterization process.
With the water flow stopped, fixtures detached, taps opened, and lines drained, your exterior faucets are ready for winter’s freezing temperatures. Reverse the process in spring after all freeze risks pass. Stay cozy this season with fully protected outdoor plumbing.
Why People Keep Outdoor Faucets Open For Winter
With every outgoing spring comes the question – Should outside faucets be left open or closed in winter? Keeping the outside faucets open is the most common practice, but only after you’ve done the winterization of your faucet. Winterization minimizes the chances of damage to the faucets, piping, and hose. Keep the outdoor faucets open if you want to do the following.
Prevent Freezing And Pipe Bursts
The biggest reason people don’t shut off outdoor faucets is to avoid freezing issues. If water remains in the pipes and temperatures dip below 32°F, the water can freeze and expand. This pressure causes pipes to crack or joints to burst.
And few things are worse than dealing with a ruptured pipe or water gushing out of your outdoor faucet in winter! Nobody wants that nightmare. So understandably, some homeowners decide it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep the outdoor faucet open. This eliminates the risk.
Finally, keeping the outdoor taps open in the winter simplifies maintenance. You don’t have to worry about frozen water in the pipes or remember to check for leaks. And when spring arrives, you just turn the water back on by opening the internal valve. It’s an easier, more hands-off approach.
Types Of Outdoor Faucets
Installing an outdoor faucet provides convenient access to water for various yard needs. But with several types available, you must understand the options before choosing one for your home.
The Versatile Hose Bib Faucet
The versatile hose bib faucet is the most common outdoor faucet. Hose bib faucets allow you to screw on garden hoses using the bib fixtures. This simplifies starting water flow when washing cars, watering lawns, or completing other outdoor tasks.
Hose bibs typically have plastic or rubber handle covers, making gripping and turning on the faucet more comfortable. Regarding maintenance, just detach the hose before winter, so leftover water can drain fully from the faucet. This prevents freezing issues in cold weather.
Go Frost-Free With Frost-Proof Faucets
A frost-proof faucet is a wise investment for outdoor water access year-round in colder climates prone to sub-freezing temperatures. Frost-proof faucets have most of the piping extend into the warmer indoor space.
This insulation keeps the water above freezing even when exterior conditions turn frigid. As a result, there is no need to shut off or winterize the faucet during cold seasons. Frost-proof faucets provide carefree outdoor water flow when you need it. However, improper installation can result in water retention, even inside the frost-proof faucets.
Yard hydrants function slightly differently than normal hoses, as they connect to the underground water supply rather than in your home. Much of the piping is also underground and thus does not need insulation. The minimal exposed portion can withstand winter conditions. While costing more upfront, frost-free faucets and yard hydrants save you from seasonal winterizing costs.
Anti-Siphon Models For Chemical Safety
Anti-siphon valves contain a special fail-safe mechanism that prevents water from flowing backward into your home’s plumbing system from the faucet. This safety feature is important if you ever need to spray yard chemicals, pesticides, or other hazardous compounds with a hose.
The anti-siphon design guarantees no harmful chemicals can backflow into and contaminate your household drinking water supply. While not always necessary, anti-siphon faucets provide an extra level of protection.
Precision Flow With Ball Valves
Some homeowners prefer installing ball valve outdoor faucets. When you turn the handle, these faucets have a ball inside that gradually opens and closes the water flow passageway.
The ball valve design allows for precise control over water volume, which is helpful for tasks like watering the backyard. However, the restricted opening also limits high-volume water flow. So, ball valve faucets are less ideal for filling pools or washing vehicles.
If you prefer metered, measured water flow, a ball valve faucet is the right choice. Remember that the tradeoff offers less versatility for heavy-duty water flow needs.
Convenience Of Outdoor Kitchen Faucets
Install an outdoor kitchen faucet if you frequently entertain outdoors or have dedicated patio cooking areas. These faucets provide both hot and cold running water.
Outdoor kitchen faucets allow you to prep, cook, and do all the related activities outdoors alongside your grill, sink, counters, and dining space. They have a higher upfront cost but take your patio living experience to a new level of comfort and practicality.
Prepping Wall Hydrants And Freeze-Proof Faucets
Wall hydrants and freeze-proof faucets are less prone to freezing issues. But follow these steps to add an extra layer of security:
- Detach any hoses and ensure the water drains fully.
- Cover the exposed pipe sections with insulating wrap.
- Maintain suitable indoor heat near the faucet to keep interior components from freezing.
- Regularly check for cracks, leaks, or drips which increase freezing potential.
Pro tip: TO EXTEND THE WALL HYDRANT LIFE, CLOSE IT SLOWLY. BANGING IT SHUT CAN DAMAGE INTERIOR SEALS.
The Right Winterization Method For Your Situation
Preparing outdoor taps for winter takes some work. But it’s worth it to avoid costly plumbing repairs and water damage. Choosing the best method depends on the following:
- Your climate: How low do temperatures typically get in winter where you live? How long do cold snaps last? The colder your winters, the more precautions you should take.
- Faucet exposure: Are fixtures fully exposed to the cold or partially sheltered? More exposed taps are at higher freezing risk.
- Faucet quality: Do you have basic or freeze-resistant outdoor faucets? Basic taps are more vulnerable.
- Water needs: Will you need access to outdoor taps in winter for car washing or pool filling? Leaving the faucets on makes this easier.
- Home setup – Are outdoor faucets far from interior shutoff valves? That distance increases the chance of leaks or bursts if shut off.
- Plumbing skill – Do you know how to reverse winterization properly in spring? If not, leaving taps active is wiser.
Consider your unique home setup, weather, and needs to decide if you’re better off shutting down outdoor faucets or taking steps to keep them on. And no matter which direction you choose, be diligent about maintaining insulation and checking fixtures during winter. Take the proper precautions to avoid the dreaded surprise of broken pipes!
Protecting your exterior plumbing from freezing helps avoid cracked pipes and costly repairs. Start by shutting off the interior water supply valve and opening the outside faucet. Then, disconnect all hoses and fixtures so water can fully drain out. Insulate exposed pipes and fixtures as an extra safeguard.
With the internal valve closed, external spigot open, and lines drained, your outdoor faucets are ready for winter’s frigid temps. Don’t wait until it’s too late to winterize – a few simple proactive steps now save you from plumbing headaches down the road.
Reverse the process slowly in spring only after all freezing risks have passed in your area. Take time to flush supply lines and check for leaks before reattaching hoses. With proper seasonal maintenance, your outdoor faucets will provide years of convenient water access, no matter the weather!
You’ve almost reached the end of this outdoor faucet winterization guide! Here are answers to some common questions on this topic:
- How do open or closed outdoor faucets in winter impact plumbing?
Open outdoor faucets are better for your home plumbing in the winter as they decrease the risk of water freezing in the pipes. Closing the faucets is also a practical option, but in case of any leaking pipe, it can lead to water freezing and expansion of the leaked water, causing the pipes to burst.
- Steps to protect outdoor faucets from freezing temperatures?
Winterize the outdoor faucets to protect them from freezing temperatures. First, shut off their interior water supply and drain any lingering water. Then disconnect hoses, wrap fixtures with insulating covers, and consider heat tape for extra protection. Leaving taps open helps leftover water escape. Check periodically for leaks and repair promptly.
- What are the consequences of not closing outdoor faucets properly in winter?
If your outdoor faucet is open and you haven’t closed the internal valve completely, it can lead to water buildup, freezing, and expansion, which can burst the pipe and cause a flood-like situation in your home.
- Should specific types of outdoor faucets be left open or closed in winter?
Frost-free faucets resist cold temperatures and automatically drain the water once you close the faucet. However, improperly installed frost-free faucets can retain water and lead to plumbing issues. You should open it to prevent any issues down the road.