Winter weather can be very tough on your home and one potential by-product of cold weather is the frozen water pipe. As water freezes, it expands and as it expands it can produce thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. This pressure is what causes a water pipe to rupture. The tutorial Preventing and Thawing a Frozen Water Pipe describes the steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes in your home.
However, that tutorial only gives you one tip for preventing freezing of your outside faucet.
This article will focus on the outside faucet also known as a sill-cock or hose bibb and what you can do to prevent your outside faucet from freezing, starting with the most effective solution to the least effective solution.
The surest way to prevent your outside faucet from freezing is to replace your exterior faucet with a frost-proof sill-cock. Think of it as a remote control faucet handle. Why? Because that's what it is.
These faucets feature remote control of the water supply faucet valve located inside the home, which then allows water flow to the exterior faucet spout. The faucet head is attached to a long tube usually 6” to 20” in length. At the end of this tube is a fitting for connecting a threaded, soldered or PEX tubing water supply line. The exterior faucet handle of the frost-proof sill cock turns a long rod inside this tube which is connected to a disc, compression or cartridge faucet valve located 6" to 20" away (depending on the tube length).
The disc, compression or cartridge faucet valve is located inside the tube just before the connector fitting. With this design the faucet valve and water supply pipe are always kept remote from the cold faucet head; unlike standard sill-cocks where the water supply valve is in the head of the exterior faucet on the outside of the house.
With the frost-proof sill cock, freezing cold temperatures are now kept away from any water supply line feeding the exterior faucet. Frost-proof sillcocks are also available with an anti-siphon valve to prevent unsafe water from entering your drinking water supply lines.
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If you are using a standard sill-cock, make sure the valve supplying water to the sill-cock is turned off and the handle of the outside faucet is open, not closed. This allows any water to drain out of the faucet. If any water is left and does freeze, the water will expand out the faucet, not in the supply line. If your sill-cock does not have a shut-off valve, you need to have one installed. If you don’t, the water supply will be running right up to the outside faucet and may freeze and burst the water supply pipe.
Also, make sure to remove any exterior garden hose as described in the tutorial for Preventing and Thawing a Frozen Water Pipe.
Outdoor Faucet Sock
Worth mentioning is this generic product sold by a number of companies. It sells under a number of names similar to “faucet sock,” “faucet insulator,” or “outdoor faucet cover.” This product is being mentioned because it is very popular but essentially useless!
All these socks do is cover the exterior faucet with a thinly insulated cover. But the amount of insulation is not the issue. Insulation merely slows heat loss, it does not create heat.
Your exterior faucet generates no heat. It just sits there since, well, it’s an outside faucet.
Once the insulated sock is placed over the exterior faucet, the inside of the insulated sock will be as cold as the outside over time. You just end up with a frozen cold faucet inside a “pretty” sock. Don’t waste your money.
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