Your hose bibb, or outside spigot, is the faucet located on the exterior of your house… In winter, homeowners in colder climates need to turn off the water to their hose bibbs to prevent damage and flooding when the weather drops below freezing.
If not immediately noticed, a ruptured pipe can be both expensive and time-consuming to clean up.
Why Pipes Might Burst During Cold Seasons
When the temperature drops below freezing and the water in an exposed pipe freezes, it expands, which ruptures the pipe. While most plumbing is protected by insulation or heating, an outdoor faucet is vulnerable to the elements.
A freezeproof faucet, ranging from 4 to 24 inches in length, extends back into the house. Its valve seat, where the water stops when the faucet is off, is all the way inside. So once the handle is turned off outside, the water never makes it farther than the warm side of the wall – any water trapped in between just drains out the faucet.
Most water pipes within a home are okay during the winter months because our homes are heated and insulated. It’s the water pipes in external walls, crawl spaces, and other unprotected areas that are most susceptible to damage.
Steps to Prevent Hose Pipes from Bursting
Remember after shutting off the water to a hose bibb, to also open up the outside faucet and “bleed” out any remaining water left inside. For a typical hose bibb, the water pipes leading up to it are always full and under pressure (how much pressure depends on a variety of factors, such as the supplier, pipe size, demand, etc.) Practically speaking, that also means that water is fed from the source all the way to the hose bibb itself at all times, and while shutting off the valve leading to the hose bibb may cut off its future water supply, the pipe is still full of water which can freeze and cause the pipe to burst. So be sure to let out any water leftover leading up to the outside faucet. Shutting off the supply is only half the battle.
Installing a frost-free faucet can help reduce the necessity of turning off a hose bibb in more temperate climates, but these devices are not 100% freeze proof. They provide a layer of protection by keeping the water away from the freezing air when the faucet is not in use.