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How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets
Frozen Garden Hose 
 skhoward / Getty Images

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Project Overview:

Total Time: 10 mins.

Skill Level: Beginner

Estimated Cost: $10 to $20 or more
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Each year winter comes along and tries its best to destroy water pipes. The best way to reduce damage to household plumbing due to freezing weather is to winterize your home​. This means protecting your plumbing against freezing which can expand the water within your pipes, causing them to burst. Ruptured water lines can cause serious damage to your home such as water-soaked walls, ceilings, and floors, all of which require costly repairs.

A good starting point is to winterize outdoor faucets (hose spigots). This type of project typically costs $10 to $20 and is relatively easy to do with simple insulated covers that fit over the spigots. Installing these covers, along with completing a few other winterizing procedures, can help prevent outdoor faucets from malfunctioning due to freezing.

Frost-Free Faucets Also Need Protection

While some outdoor spigots are marked as “freeze-proof”, there is no guarantee that these faucets will not freeze in extremely cold weather. Even these spigots benefit from properly installed covers. However, installing freeze-proof spigots is a good, long term step to avoiding problems. This is best done while the weather is still above freezing so as to avoid unnecessary complications.


How Frost-Proof Wall Hydrants or Hose Bibs Work


  • These fixtures are designed to turn off the water inside the foundation wall. This is accomplished by the mechanism being longer than the width of your foundation wall and a washer seats at the end of the hydrant or hose bib.

  • Coming in a variety of lengths depending on the width of the foundation wall or point of connection inside, these fixtures drain water out when they are off.​

  • If properly insulated, they do not need additional insulation. However, you should always disconnect hoses before freezing weather sets in.

  • During very cold winters, if where the piping connects inside is not heated or is drafty, pipes may freeze and burst when they thaw.

How Outdoor Faucet Covers Work

Many faucet covers use one of two styles. One style is made of rigid thermal foam with a flexible gasket around the edges. Style two is made of a flexible insulated bag that secures around the spigot. Either style works well and provides extra protection against a spigot bursting due to freezing.

Both of the above styles work by trapping naturally occurring heat that radiates through the pipes to the outdoor spigots. If the cover is correctly installed, the radiated heat is trapped and therefore prevents the faucet from freezing, expanding, and rupturing.

Outdoor faucet covers are marketed under many different names, including “garden faucet insulation cover” or “insulated faucet socks”. These are essentially the same thing and will do the job, but for best results, be sure that they give a tight seal so that they provide proper thermal protection.

What You'll Need
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Materials
  • Insulated faucet covers (one for each outdoor spigot)
  • Faucet repair materials (as needed)

Instructions
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Installing outdoor faucet covers should be done at the same time as other winterizing procedures aimed at removing as much water as possible so there is minimal trapped water that can freeze inside the spigot.​


01 Disconnect Hoses

Regardless of the type of outdoor spigots you have, freeze-proof or not, it is crucial that you remove any hoses or fittings screwed onto the spigot before winter. If this is not done, water can become trapped making freezing much more likely. It is best to stay ahead of the cold weather by disconnecting hoses and fittings early because just one night of freezing weather can cause pipes to burst.

02 Inspect Spigots

Next up is leak detection and repair. Check all of your spigots, yard hydrants, and other fixtures for leaks and drips. If a problem is found, repair or replace the fixture prior to freezing weather. A dripping or leaky faucet often indicates a failing washer or cartridge, which if left unchecked can block and freeze the spigot or the pipe feeding it.

03 Drain the Spigot and Corresponding Pipes

Now it’s time to remove as much water as possible from the pipes. If you have an outdoor spigot that is not freeze-proof, the best way to do this is by turning off the interior shut-off valve to the water line supplying the spigot, then opening the spigot and leaving it open for a couple of hours until all of the water inside the pipe drains out. After this, close the spigot. This procedure is best to do while the temperature is above freezing. If there is not an indoor shut-off valve, it is even more important to carefully insulate the spigot from the outdoors.

With frost-free spigots or yard hydrants, this step is not required due to the fixtures being designed to keep the water well away from the end of the spigot. However, just as with regular outdoor spigots, all hoses and other fittings should be disconnected before winter, or they may not drain properly.


04 Install Outdoor Faucet Covers

The final step in winterizing outdoor faucets is to protect them with insulation. The easiest way to do this is by installing a faucet cover on each outdoor spigot, including frost-free ones. These covers often come as square or dome-shaped shells that fit over the faucet, or as flexible bags made of durable fabric that is stuffed with insulation.

When covering non-freeze-proof spigots, additional loose insulation can be installed inside the cover to further insulate the spigot throughout the winter. In most scenarios, however, the cover alone will provide adequate protection.

Freeze-proof spigots should be covered too, because, though they are resistant to freezing, they are not entirely frost-proof in the harshest winters. There are rubber gaskets and washers inside these spigots that benefit from the extra insulation.

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Your outdoor faucets are now protected from the winter, and it is very unlikely that these spigots or the pipes that supply them will freeze or rupture. After the freezing weather has passed, remove the faucet covers and save them for use the following winter. Typically, they can be reused for many years before replacing them. 

 

Bedford Regional Water Authority
1723 Falling Creek Road • Bedford • VA 24523
540.586.7679

How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets