Most any Michigander can explain the importance of winterizing exterior faucets, but do you actually know how? It seems like a simple task, but there are a few tricks to getting it right.
1.) Disconnect the Garden Hose – Simple, drain and store the hose and any accessories in the garage or shed.
2.) Inspect – check fixtures for leaks and drips. Water dripping, no matter how slowly can freeze in the pipe or the fixture. While a frozen outdoor faucet may not be apparent until the next season, it may be possible to minimize the damage by repairing the leak before the winter.
3.) Drain – Getting as much water out of the pipes is the second step to winterize outdoor faucets. If you have a hose bib that is not freeze proof the best way to do this is to shut off that line if possible and drain it down. If you cannot isolate the water supply to hose bib to shut it off be sure to use extra insulation in the next step.
For a frost free hose bib this step isn’t necessary since the fixture’s design (when properly installed) keeps water well back away from the end of the spigot. Just as with regular hose bibs, however, hoses and other attachments should be removed from frost free hose bibs before the winter or they may not drain down properly.
4.) Protect – The last step to winterize outdoor faucets is to protect them with insulation. An easy way to do this is to install a hose bib cover on each outdoor fixture including frost free hose bibs. Hose bib covers are square or dome shaped to fit right over outdoor faucets. They are made of thick foam so they are quite effective at keeping most of the cold away from the valve. When covering regular hose bibs that could not be drained extra insulation can be installed inside the hose bib cover to keep it warm and dry throughout the winter. In most situations, however, the hose bib cover will provide enough insulation.
Although they are resistant to freezing, Frost free hose bibs should be covered as well because although they are resistant to freezing they are not completely frost proof in the coldest weather. There are rubber gaskets and washers inside the frost free hose bibs that will benefit from the extra protection from the cold that a hose bib cover can provide.
Hose bib covers can be found in most hardware or home improvement stores and are very inexpensive and easy to install. Covers can usually be reused for several years so they are a good long term purchase. For just a few dollars per fixture you can winterize outside faucets quickly and then move on to any other winterizing plumbing tasks that may be necessary.