An outdoor faucet is exposed to freezing temperatures in the winter, and happens quite often here in Washington state. When the water in a pipe freezes, it expands and exerts immense pressure on the pipe. This causes pipes to expand and sometimes burst. In such a circumstance, your home is susceptible to water damage and costly plumbing repairs. By taking a few easy steps before winter arrives, you can eradicate the possibility of frozen outdoor pipes.
Step 1 – Cut off Outdoor Water Supply Valve
By draining out all the water from the pipe, you can protect an outdoor faucet from freezing. Make sure you do this before we start experiencing freezing weather. Close off the supply valve that provides water to your outdoor pipe. Most homes have a separate outdoor water supply valve close to the location of the outdoor pipe. Close this valve. In some homes, there is no separate supply valve provided for the outdoor water supply, which means you cannot close off the valve because it is provides water for indoor use as well. In such a case, you can directly proceed to the next step.
Step 2 – Remove Hoses and Empty the Outdoor Pipe
Go outside and remove any hoses that may be attached to the outdoor faucet. Empty the hoses of any remaining water as well. If you have underground sprinklers, drain them out by following manufacturer recommendations. Open the outdoor faucet so that all the water in it drains out. After you perform these steps, there will be a very minuscule amount of water remaining in the pipe. Even if this water freezes, it will have enough space to expand in the pipe without causing any damage. The more water left in the pipes, the more damage it's capable of doing.
Step 3 – Cover Pipe with Insulation or Store Bought Faucet Covers
To protect your outdoor pipes from sub-zero temperatures, you must cover it with insulating material that will keep it warmer. This step is even more crucial if you do not have a separate outdoor water supply valve that you can shut off. Cover the faucet and exposed pipe with an insulating material. An inexpensive, but less reliable method is wrapping several newspapers or rag clothes around the pipe and then covering it with plastic. Secure the insulation in place with duct tape.
Some slightly expensive, but durable insulation options include fiber glass and foam insulation sleeves that can fit around the pipe. Heating tapes that you can wrap around pipes are a very reliable insulation option. You can find most of these products at any home improvement stores. Keep in mind that in addition to outdoor faucets, any pipes running through unheated places such as basements and attics must also be protected from freezing temperatures. Also it's recommended that you cover any outdoor faucets as well, the best way to do this is to buy a cheap cover that straps onto the facet and covers it with an insulating foam.
Step 4 – Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you discover a frozen pipe, never use flames or fire to attempt to thaw out the ice. Instead, wrap thick rags around the pipe and pour hot water on it. You could also try warming up the pipe with a hair dryer. Avoid using an extension cord and ensure that you are standing in a dry area. If you are going away for a few days, close off the main water supply.
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