Outdoor faucets save time and energy in the summer and give you fresh water at your fingertips for watering the garden or filling the pool. They typically do not require maintenance or care during the summer, which makes them easy to forget when cold weather rolls around. Forgetting to winterize your outside faucet in the fall can result in broken faucets, burst pipes and a watery mess to contend with when you try to use them in the spring. How you winterize them depends on the type of faucet you have.
Traditional Outside Faucets
If you have an older home you probably have a traditional outside faucet that requires shutting down and draining the plumbing line before cold weather strikes. Here’s what you need to do to winterize a traditional faucet:
- Disconnect your garden hose. Not only will your hose freeze during cold weather, a frozen garden hose can also encourage ice to back up in your water line.
- Locate the shutoff valve inside the home and turn it off. The shutoff valve is typically a red lever, but it may be a wheel. It is often located in the basement near the ceiling close to the outside faucet, but might be located beside the main water valve to the rest of your plumbing. If your shutoff valves are not labeled, this is a good time to label them.
- Open the outside faucet. Water might run out of the faucet, but don’t let this fool you. You are not finished draining the plumbing, yet.
- Locate the bleeder cap in the plumbing line leading to the outside faucet. The bleeder cap looks like a little knob on the side of the pipe that can be turned by hand. This will allow the water in the line to run either out the faucet or through the bleeder hole. If you are unsure how yours operates, be sure to have a bucket ready to catch the water.
- Close the bleeder cap. Don’t forget to close the cap once the water has drained completely.
- Close the outside faucet. When spring arrives, all you need to do is turn the shutoff valve on and your outside faucet will be ready to use.
Faucets with Vacuum Breakers
Some faucets are fitted with a vacuum breaker, also known as a backflow preventer. While they typically have a shutoff valve inside the home and can be winterized following the same procedure as the traditional faucet, the vacuum breaker might require additional attention. Water left in the breaker will damage the breaker in cold weather. Follow these tips for handling the vacuum breaker:
- Remove the vacuum breaker completely. If possible, just remove this piece for the winter. Otherwise you will need to drain the breaker.
- Look inside the faucet. You will see either a white plastic post or a plastic ring.
- Push the post, or ring, to the side. This will allow any remaining water to drain from the vacuum breaker.
Winterizing your outside faucet before cold weather strikes will help you avoid problems with frozen or burst pipes and keep your plumbing in good shape. If you have problems locating the the shut off valves or draining the vacuum breaker, contact your local plumber for assistance.