Prepare for Freezing Temperatures!
by Martin Newmark
Short List of Things To Do
I'll start with a short checklist and elaborate a bit on each item below.
Disconnect garden hoses from hose bibbs or hose faucet
Drain your sprinkler system
Drain water from non-frost-proof hose bibbs
Disconnect hose nozzles and bring inside
Drain garden hoses
Disconnect and drain swamp cooler
Disconnect Hoses from Hose Bibbs
Simply unscrew the hose from the hose bibb. You may need a pliers if it's very tight. If you don't disconnect hoses from the hose bibb water can freeze in the bibb and when it thaws it can flood your basement, crawlspace or yard.
Drain Your Sprinkler System
Ideally you would have this done by an expert that can hook your sprinkler system up to air pressure and blow the water out of the system.
If you can't get this done before freezing weather at least shut off the valve for the sprinkler system and drain the water you can from the system.
Shut Off Valve
The shut off valve for the sprinkler system is usually located near the main water shutoff for the home. Look in your basement or crawlspace. If it's a round knob, turn it clockwise to close it. If it's a straight lever handle, turn the handle so that it draws a line across the pipe - this is the closed position. If the handle is in-line with the pipe the valve is open.
Drain Water from Sprinkler System
Even though you've shut the water off to the sprinkler system there is still water in it. One of the most expensive parts of your sprinkler system is a backflow prevention valve. This valve is usually above ground and subject to freezing. The best chance of draining the water from this valve is to open a little drain hole in the valve you just turned off. The picture to the right shows a valve with this type of drain hole. It's under the little knurled knob at the bottom of the valve (not the blue handle). You can sometimes remove the cap from the drain hole with your fingers, but you may need a pliers.
Have a bucket or large cup ready to catch the water in the system when you remove this cap.
Remove this cap, catching the water in your bucket or cup. After it stops draining, replace the cap.
Now all you can do is hope for the best until you can have the sprinkler system blown out with compressed air.
Drain Water from NON-Frost-Proof Hose Bibbs
Before reading this section, test if you have NON-frost-proof hose bibbs.
If your home is built after 1980, you probably have frost-proof hose bibbs and don't need to do this, but it's a good idea to check so that you are sure.
To test if you have NON-frost-proof hose bibbs, turn the water on at a hose faucet. Then turn it off. If the water dribbles out for a couple of seconds after you turn the valve off you probably have frost-proof hose bibbs. If the water shuts off immediately you probably have NON-frost-proof hose bibbs.
Another way to check is the orientation of the knob on the hose bibb. If the handle sticks straight out from the house it is probably is a frost-proof hose bibb. If the knob sticks up at a bit of an angle its probably a NON-frost-proof hose bibb. See the photos at right. The top one is frost proof, the bottom one is NON-frost-proof.
How Frost-Proof Works
In order to prevent a hose bibb from freezing there can't be any water near the exterior of the home. So how do you have a hose bibb at the exterior of a home and prevent the water at the hose bibb from freezing? The answer is a frost-proof hose bibb.
A frost-proof hose bibb shuts the water off about 12 inches back from the exterior of the home at a location where the pipes shouldn't freeze. When you shut off a frost-proof hose bibb the water between the shutoff point (12" deep in the house) and where the hose is attached to the bibb drains out of the bibb. This is why the handle on a frost-proof hose bibb has to stick straight out from the side of the house. It has to reach 12 inches back into the home to the shut off point.
If You Have NON-Frost-Proof Hose Bibbs
If you've figured out that you have NON-frost-proof hose bibbs, keep reading.
If you have NON-frost-proof hose bibbs there is usually a shut off valve in the basement or crawlspace in the pipe that feeds the hose bibb just inside the building. Find this valve and turn it off. Then open the hose bibb at the exterior of the home to drain the water out of the pipe. If there's a little drain port on the side of the valve in the basement or crawlspace, like in the very top picture above, then open this cap and let the water drain out. Then put the cap back on.
Disconnect Hose Nozzles and Bring them Inside
After dealing with the hose bibbs, it's time to deal with the hoses and attachments.
It's a good idea to remove any nozzles or attachments you have on your hoses and bring them inside for the winter. This will prevent them from freezing a breaking.
Drain Garden Hoses
Now drain your hoses. Lay them out on a hill or run them over your shoulder to drain the water out of the hoses. Coil them up and store them flat on the ground outside or hang them in the garage.
Disconnect and Drain the Swamp Cooler
Most of you don't have a swamp cooler, but if you do you'll want to disconnect the water supply and drain that line. Then you'll want to drain the water that is sitting in the bottom of the swap cooler.
All the above will help prevent major problems from freezing pipes.
©2011 Abacus Inspection Service