Covering outdoor faucets is an important part of winterizing your plumbing. If you forget this vital step, you might find yourself dealing with frozen pipes. You could even end up with a serious plumbing leak or cracked pipes as a result.
Covering your outdoor faucets for the winter isn’t a labor-intensive chore, but it’s an important one if you don’t want to ruin your plumbing. Read on to learn how to cover your outdoor faucets for winter before freezing weather hits.
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How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets
Winterizing your outdoor faucets mainly involves covering the faucets with a temperature-insulated covering that keeps them from falling below freezing temperature. Since faucets are a direct lead-in to your plumbing system, freezing temperatures in faucets can lead to freezing temperatures in your water pipes.
Outdoor faucets should be drained and insulated with rags or other buffer material before being topped off with a faucet cover. This cover is usually made of plastic or styrofoam and serves the purpose of keeping the faucets and pipes from freezing in cold weather. Frozen faucets can damage pipes.
To prevent your pipes from freezing in the winter, carry out the following steps for covering your outdoor faucets:
- Find all your outdoor faucets. You might have a faucet or two in mind when you get ready to winterize your faucets, but don’t forget about plumbing in exterior buildings like sheds or in secondary properties like vacation homes. It’s a good idea to make a list of all of the outdoor faucets on your property so that you don’t accidentally miss one.
- Shut off the water to the faucets. You want your outdoor faucets to be completely dry when you cover and winterize them, so make sure that any water to the pipes connected to the faucets are shut off through the valves. Check your home interior or the basement for access to water shut-off valves.
- Drain the faucets. After the water is shut off to your outdoor faucets, you still need to make sure there’s no remaining water sitting idle in the plumbing system. Turn the faucets on and allow them to run until no more water drips out and the faucet is running dry.
- Cover the faucets: When the faucets are running dry, turn the knob for the water back off and cover the faucets to winterize them. Place some rags or other filler around the faucet head to make sure there is as little open air in the covering as possible. You can either use a commercial outdoor faucet sock or one out of styrofoam.
Once your outdoor faucets are covered, you’re good to go for winter! Keep in mind that you won’t be able to use the faucets again until the spring thaw, so make sure that any water-related chores you need to use the faucets for are completed before you get ready to winterize them.
Using Outdoor Faucets in Freezing Weather
If you need to use your outdoor faucets in freezing weather, use the Freeze Miser outdoor faucet connector. This ingenious product screws on to your faucet to allow water to drip to keep pipes from freezing. You can also use this product when you don’t have a specific shut off valve for your outdoor faucets.
The internal mechanism is designed to only allow water to drip once the temperature drops below 37 degrees and only the amount necessary to prevent freezing. While you could just let your faucet drip on its own, you will be wasting a lot more water or not enough and the pipes will still freeze.
Materials for Insulating Outdoor Faucets
The most popular material used for covering outdoor faucets is Styrofoam. This is because Styrofoam is an excellent insulator that prevents heat energy from transferring through it. Styrofoam works because it is full of tiny air bubbles that act as a buffer, keeping warm air in and cold air out.
Many commercial faucet covers are filled with styrofoam but also contain a thin plastic covering. This covering is meant to protect the styrofoam against environmental wear and tear, allowing the cover to last a little bit longer in use.
Alternatives for Covering Outdoor Faucets in Winter
If you don’t want to use a commercial outdoor faucet cover to cover your faucets, there are a few alternatives you can try instead. Here’s one alternative way that you can effectively insulate your outdoor faucets without using a commercial faucet cover
- Take an old towel, rag, or tee-shirt and wrap it tightly around the end of your faucet. Keep the material as snug to the faucet surface as possible.
- Use a ziploc storage bag or other zipping plastic storage bag to cover the end of the faucet where the cloth has been wrapped around it. Bring the edges of the plastic bag up to the edges of the building the faucet is connected to.
- Use a roll of duct table to carefully wrap the faucet head with the plastic bag and cloth underneath it. Keep all of the materials as tight as possible during this process so the covering doesn’t slide around.
And that’s that! If you need to cover your outdoor faucets for a surprise freeze and you don’t have any commercial outdoor faucet covers on hand, the above method is a great alternative way to get your pipes protected in a hurry.
What Happens If Faucets Aren’t Winterized?
Covering outdoor faucets for winter might seem like a simple task, but it’s a simple task with big consequences if you forget to do it before it gets below freezing in the winter. Here are a few things that can happen if you forget to cover your faucets (Source: Ewing Irrigation):
- Busted fittings or pipes: When the weather drops below freezing, this causes water in the pipes to freeze and expand. If the water expands too much, it can warp or break the plumbing. If the fittings become broken, this can cause your faucets to leak. If your pipes leak, you can end up with serious water damage.
- Busted sprinkler heads and valves: Winterizing the faucets on your irrigation system is just as important as winterizing the outdoor faucets on your house or shed. If the heads or valves become damaged by freezing, you may end up needing to replace part or all of the irrigation system. This can potentially run thousands of dollars in repairs.
If you break your outdoor faucets or plumbing by allowing them to freeze, it doesn’t just mean you may have to spend a ton of money getting things repaired. It also means that you lose access to that plumbing fixture until the repairs are made. In the spring when you’re trying to get your landscaping back off the ground, busted outdoor faucets can be a massive hassle.
Winterize Faucets to Prevent Serious Damage
Covering your outdoor faucets is a chore that will probably not take you more than an hour to complete, and will probably take you much less time than that. Be sure to get your plumbing covered or you could be dealing with a much bigger problem than a frozen faucet by the time cold weather rolls around.