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How to Prepare for Winter: Outside Faucets

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 For those of us in the Fox Cities and surrounding areas, winter is always unpredictable and the temperature is never consistent. Wisconsinites can easily go through all 4 seasons in one day in the fall months. Luckily, we usually have plenty of warm-ish days in October and November to ready our homes for winter. 

An easy place to start is by protecting outdoor faucets from freezing. Winterizing outdoor faucets is a quick and easy precaution that will save your pipes and your wallet. Our expert Technicians at Absolute Plumbing have compiled 4 easy to follow steps to help even the most novice homeowner. 

When is the best time to winterize outside faucets?
Here in the frozen tundra, it’s best to winterize those outside faucets in the fall and then leave them alone until spring. It is always best to make sure the faucets and water lines are winterized before temperatures are forecasted to drop below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It is important to know that there are two different types of outside faucets. Standard and Frost-Free. The main difference between the two is that the valve on the frost-free type is inside the home where it is warmer, while the standard outside spigot is no more than 4 inches long from the spout to water connection and is mounted on the outside of your home making it much more vulnerable to freezing.

Do I still have to winterize my outdoor faucet if I have the Frost-Free Spigots?
In short, yes. But not like you think! You should not need to perform the same steps as with conventional faucets but you should still walk the perimeter of your home, making sure that hoses have been removed and that all Frost-Free spigots have been turned off and are not leaking. 

What will happen if I fail to winterize my outside faucet?
If you leave a garden hose attached, a small amount of water can stay lodged in the pipe by the spigot and will quickly freeze. This ice can damage your faucet and pipe. Water expands when it freezes forcing water pressure to increase downstream between the ice blockage and the closed faucet. When the pressure becomes too great for the pipe or faucet to contain, it will burst. If you forgot to disconnect your hose before winter arrived, there is also a good chance you did not turn off the water to your outside faucets. Your outside faucets, as well as the pipes that run back into your home, will be at risk of freezing and bursting. 

What steps can I take to winterize my outside faucets?
Our expert Technicians at Absolute Plumbing have complied an easy 4-step process to help you protect your home by winterizing your outside faucets.

  • Walk around the perimeter of your home and locate all exterior faucets. Remove any attached hoses and drain residual water out of each. 
  • Inside the home, usually near the main water shutoff valve or the ceiling of your basement, locate the individual emergency shutoff valve in the supply line leading to each faucet and turn them off. The valve should then be perpendicular to the pipe. (See photo below for example) 
  • Return back outside and open the faucet to run any residual water in the faucet and pipe until it is completely drained. Make sure the faucet is then closed completely. 
  • Install an exterior cover over the faucet if desired to protect it from the snow and other weather conditions over the next few months. These can usually be purchased at a local hardware store. 

Safety considerations: Use caution when accessing a water supply line in a crawl space or other enclosed area. These locations may have low ceilings and cramped space that limits your range of movement. Be patient and move cautiously to avoid bumping your head or causing other injuries. Make sure you bring a flashlight and a communication device such as a cell phone in order to call for assistance if needed. 

This is also a good time to check for other home maintenance issues such as plumbing leaks, rotting wood, animal hazards, or areas that may need to be sealed to prevent drafts. 

When to call a licensed plumber: It’s important to check out your system early. Winterizing outdoor faucets is usually a fast and easy DIY task. If you discover a leak, it is important to contact a professional right away. You may also want to consider upgrading to a Frost-Free faucet and adding emergency shutoffs if you have not already.

All of Absolute Plumbing’s technicians are licensed and certified as well as nationally background checked and drug tested for not only your peace of mind but also for the respect & safety of you, your family, and your home. 

At Absolute Plumbing, our mission is to provide unparalleled service while educating our customers through our highly trained experts and ensuring guaranteed residential installation and repair. Everything we say and do will support our core values which drive our mission and vision. For more information on Absolute Plumbing visit www.absoluteplumbing.com. You can also find us on Nextdoor, the neighborhood hub, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.