Freezing water in pipes can create costly damage, which is especially common in cases where the piping is consistently exposed to low winter temperatures. Outdoor faucets in particular are prone to this kind of damage, sometimes bursting under the stress of expanding ice. By taking a few easy steps before winter arrives, however, you can eradicate the possibility of frozen outdoor pipes altogether.
Step 1 - Close the Outdoor Supply Valve
By draining all the water from the faucet system, you can prevent ice from ever forming in the piping. Therefore, it's important to start with cutting off the main water supply to your outdoor faucets. Before your area starts experiencing freezing weather, locate and close the supply valve outside your home. Most houses have this close to the location of the outdoor pipe, but if you're having trouble locating it, you may be able to contact your local water company for help.
Tip: You should also close off the main water supply to prevent water from sitting too long in the pipes if you will be traveling during the winter.
In some homes, there is no separate supply valve provided for the outdoor water supply; the indoor and outdoor supply are connected instead. In such a case, you can directly proceed to the next step.
Step 2 - Remove Attached Hoses and Empty the Outdoor Pipe
Go outside and remove any hoses that may be attached to the outdoor faucet. Empty them of any remaining water, and store them in a safe place such as your garage. Then, if you were able to shut off the outdoor water supply, open the faucet so that all the water in it drains out. There will be a very minuscule amount of water remaining in the pipe afterward, and even if this water freezes, it will have enough space to expand without causing any damage.
Tip: If you have underground sprinklers, make sure to drain them out as well by following manufacturer recommendations.
Step 3 - Cover Pipe With Insulation
To protect your outdoor pipes from sub-zero temperatures, you can cover them with an insulating material that will keep them warm. 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 the insulation of your choice. An inexpensive, yet less reliable method, is to wrap several newspapers or rag clothes around the pipe before covering it with plastic. Secure the materials in place with duct tape.
Some slightly more expensive, but durable insulation options include fiberglass and foam insulation sleeves that are made to fit around piping. There are also heating tapes on the market that you can wrap around any size. You can find most of these products in home improvement centers. Keep in mind that in addition to an outdoor faucet itself, any pipes running through unheated places such as basements and attics must also be protected.
Step 4 - Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you discover a frozen pipe, never use flames or fire to attempt to thaw the ice. Instead, wrap thick rags around the affected area and pour hot water on it. You can also try warming up the pipe with a hairdryer. However, avoid using an extension cord and ensure that you are standing in a dry area first.
With any luck, these steps should keep your outdoor faucets from freezing during the colder months of the year.