The cold winter months can wreak havoc on outdoor faucets. Freezing temperatures can cause water in the pipes to expand, leading to cracked lines, water leaks, and even burst pipes. The repairs needed to fix this type of damage can be incredibly expensive and time-consuming. But there is a simple solution to avoid the headaches of frozen and burst pipes – installing a freeze proof outdoor faucet.
A freeze proof outdoor faucet is specially designed to prevent freezing issues. This heavy-duty outdoor faucet has a long interior pipe that runs from the outdoor spigot down to a shutoff valve inside your warm house, below the frost line. This keeps water in the pipe protected from frigid temperatures that could freeze it. Freeze proof faucets also typically have a vacuum breaker to prevent backflow of contaminated water.
How Do Outdoor Faucets Freeze?
To understand why you need a freeze proof outdoor faucet, it helps to first look at how standard outdoor faucets freeze in cold weather. On a typical outdoor spigot, the pipe and shutoff valves are close to the exterior wall of the house. When temperatures dip below freezing, any water sitting in those pipes and faucets can start to freeze.
As water freezes, it expands in volume. This expansion puts pressure on the pipe walls and joints, often forcing them to crack and burst. You may come outside to find water spewing out of these cracks on very cold days. Even small leaks in an outdoor faucet can lead to mold and water damage over time.
Outdoor faucets and spigots on external walls or in unheated garages are particularly prone to freezing. Pipes in these areas have more exposure to freezing air temperatures. The cracks and leaks caused by frozen pipes can be a frustrating and expensive problem for homeowners.
Freeze Proof Faucet Design
This is where a freeze proof outdoor faucet comes in. Unlike a standard outdoor faucet, a freeze proof faucet is designed to prevent water inside it from ever freezing in the first place. Here’s how it works:
A freeze proof outdoor faucet has a much longer vertical pipe that runs from the outdoor spigot down into your basement or crawlspace, below the frost line. Down there, the pipe connects back up to the main indoor shutoff valve for your water supply line. So the entire water pipe is protected from frost because it stays in the warmer area inside your house.
With no standing water in the outdoor faucet to freeze, the pipe remains intact through cold snaps. These faucets also typically have a vacuum breaker which prevents contaminated backflow into your home’s water supply.
By keeping water in a freeze proof faucet behind your home’s frost line, you don’t have to worry about frozen or burst pipes every winter. The innovative design provides reliable and convenient access to outdoor water year-round.
Advantages of Freeze Proof Faucets
Installing a freeze proof outdoor faucet offers many benefits over a standard outdoor spigot:
- Prevents expensive repairs from burst pipes and water damage
- Avoids frustration of having no outdoor water in winter
- Eliminates need to repeatedly disconnect and store hoses
- Provides water access for washing cars, pets, etc in cold months
- Saves you time winterizing outdoor pipes every season
- Adds value and appeal to your home for buyers
For homeowners in colder climates, a freeze proof faucet provides reliable outdoor water access even in frigid single digit temperatures. The peace of mind and convenience are well worth the investment.
How to Install a Freeze Proof Faucet
Replacing your standard outdoor faucet with a new freeze proof model is a fairly straightforward project you may be able to DIY if you’re handy. Here are the basic steps:
- Turn off main water supply and open outdoor faucet to drain any residual water
- Disconnect and remove old outdoor faucet
- Run new copper pipe from faucet down into basement below frost line
- Connect pipe to main shutoff valve and install new faucet
- Make sure faucet and pipes are properly sealed and insulated
- Turn water back on and check for leaks
The key is ensuring the new copper pipe running the freeze proof faucet is installed below your home’s frost line depth. This varies by region – around 2 to 4 feet below ground is typical. Professional installation can ensure proper placement.
Winterizing Your New Freeze Proof Faucet
It’s important to note that a freeze proof outdoor faucet is not completely exempt from winter prep. While the faucet itself won’t freeze, you still need to take a few extra steps for maximum protection:
- Drain any residual water from the line by opening the faucet
- Disconnect any garden hoses and drain them fully
- Make sure the indoor shutoff valve is turned off
- Install an insulating cover or foam pad over the outdoor faucet
Plan to do this winterizing each fall before the cold hits. And double check for cracks or leaks at the start of spring. Preventative maintenance will ensure your new freeze proof faucet lasts for years.
Choosing the Best Freeze Proof Faucet
If you’re shopping for a new freeze proof outdoor faucet, keep these tips in mind:
- Look for solid brass or stainless steel construction over cheaper plastics
- Pick a model with an insulated or enclosed design for added weather protection
- Choose an anti-siphon valve for backflow prevention
- Consider convenient features like hand-tightening valves or auto-draining
- Pick a durable brand known for quality like Woodford, Prier, or Arrowhead
- Match the look to your home with different finishes and facings
High-end faucets made with premium materials can cost over $500, but provide lasting performance. There are also quality budget-friendly models for under $100. Regardless of price, always look for reliable freeze protection.
Costs of Installing a Freeze Proof Faucet
For the faucet itself, you’ll typically spend between $100 on the low end to $500+ for commercial-grade units made of brass or stainless steel. The more advanced the freeze protection features, the higher the cost may be.
If you have a professional plumber install your new freeze proof outdoor faucet, expect to pay $200-$500 in labor costs. The benefit is having an expert handle the tricky pipe placement and connections. DIY installation can save money but requires some plumbing skills.
Either way, the upfront investment is small compared to thousands of dollars to repair burst pipes, water damage, mold issues, etc. A freeze proof faucet can more than pay for itself over time if it prevents even a single pipe incident.
Common Questions About Freeze Proof Faucets
Do these faucets need winterizing?
It’s still smart to winterize a freeze proof faucet by shutting off water, removing hoses, and draining residual water. But the internal design prevents freezing even if you forget these steps.
How long does installation take?
A trained plumber can install a new freeze proof faucet in 2-3 hours. DIY installation may take 4-6 hours to complete if running new pipe.
What are signs of a frozen outdoor faucet?
Signs include no water flow, leaks, loud banging noises, and bulges or cracks in pipes. A freeze proof faucet prevents many frozen pipe issues.
How do I thaw a frozen faucet?
Wrap heat tape around the frozen section. Open indoor valves so melted water can drain out. Check for cracks and damage before using again.
Don’t wait until you have an expensive frozen pipe emergency to take action. Installing a freeze proof outdoor faucet is an easy way to avoid headaches from burst water lines and damage repairs down the road. With convenient year-round outdoor access to water, you can keep your car, pets, and yard clean even when the temperatures plummet.
Protect your plumbing and your peace of mind with a heavy-duty outdoor faucet designed to stand up to frigid conditions. No more worrying about winterizing outdoor pipes every fall. Simply flip on your new freeze proof faucet and have instant water flow all season long.