Hose Bibbs - Seasonal Maintenance Required
Hose bibb, spigot, or "the water thing your hose attaches to"--call it what you will, every house has at least one.
Everyone has heard horror stories of house floods due to burst water lines. Unfortunately, sometimes these things happen due to a cold winter or improper installation. But the good news is that most of the time, these situations can be avoided.
Here is some basic info to help ensure your house remains flood-free:
Identify the type of outdoor hose bibb you are dealing with.
If you are in an older house (pre-80's), it is likely you have a non-frost protected hose bibb. What this means is you will have a shut off inside the house that is specifically for that individual hose bibb. The only sure-fire way to keep that hose bibb from freezing is to shut the valve off in the fall and open the outdoor tap to relieve the pressure.
Two things to consider when shutting off a valve for the winter:
1. Does the valve stop the water completely?
If the valve is no longer in proper working order, it will let water trickle out. This can eventually refill the pipe and potentially freeze.
2. Does the valve leak from the handle?
Older valves that have not been used much have a tendency to drip once disturbed. Be watchful of any old valve you use in your house as they can cause more problems then you bargained for.
The other type of hose bibb is called a frost-free hose bibb. These are now the standard for most installations. What "frost-free" ultimately means is the hose bibb is approximately 8 inches long and has a stem that runs in the center of the unit and shuts the water off at the end, which is inside the building. The purpose of this is to avoid the need for a shut-off valve in the house. This makes the installation cleaner and simpler for you--the homeowner.
Now, as we know, innovation is not without its own set of challenges. On all of these type of hose bibbs (as per code regulations), there is a mechanism called a vacuum breaker. The sole purpose of these little things is to keep water from outside your house from going back inside.
This may seem unnecessary, but there's a purpose. Someone, somewhere hooked a jug of RoundUp to their hose to kill some weeds, and somehow that RoundUp was siphoned into the house and poisoned people. Vacuum breakers protect us from this.
Frost-free hose bibbs do not need to be shut off in the winter but they do need to be maintained. Most of us leave our hoses attached to the bibb all the time. This is the biggest cause for hose bibb problems come spring.
When we leave our hose attached, it does not allow the water inside the hose bibb body to run out. Then, when the weather turns cold, that water has nowhere to expand--except outwards--which leads to split hose bibbs.
The benefit of frost-free hose bibbs is that the split is almost always on the side that isn't under pressure. Ultimately, this means there is no immediate issue. But it does mean that upon the first or any use of the hose come spring, your basement or crawl space could be in for a little moisture.
Quick Tips for Hose Bibbs:
1. Know what type you have.
At the first sign of cold weather...
2. If you have a frost-free hose bibb, disconnect your hose.
3. If you do not have a frost-free hose bibb, turn off the valve(s) inside your house. Then, open the hose bibb on the outside of the house to let any remaining water trickle out.
4. When turning your hose on for the first time, have someone inside the house watching for leaks so you know right away if there is a problem.