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What Is a Frost-Proof Faucet and Does It Work?

When the hot winds of summer slowly begin to fade, you can’t help but turn your thoughts to winter and the frigid blasts that turn everything into ice. That’s when you should start checking outdoor faucets and rolling up garden hoses as part of your winterization plans.

Ideally, you should ensure that your faucets are free from leaks and can withstand freezing temperatures. If the faucets fail, your pipes can become ruptured and cause significant damage to your home’s walls. A frost-proof faucet is recommended to stop water from leaking into the pipes near your exterior walls as it keeps the pipes from freezing and splitting.

What Is a Frost-Proof Faucet?

The home outdoor faucet is sometimes called a hose bib. Although it usually works fine during summer, it could end up completely frozen when the temperature drops. A frost-free hose bib can prevent this from happening. This compression-style faucet with a long barrel can be installed on the side or back of your house. A frost-free hose bib is also known by several other names, including freeze-proof faucet, frost-free faucet, sillcock, freeze-proof spigot, freeze-proof outdoor tap, and frost-proof outdoor tap.

How Do Frost-Proof Faucets Work?

When you turn off a frost-free faucet, water will stop flowing from behind the valve located further back indoors. The water will not freeze inside the pipes because it stays at the same temperature level as the inside of the house. Meanwhile, any water left in the exterior part of the pipeline drains to the outdoors as the pipes are installed at a slightly downward angle, so there is no chance of it freezing and triggering pressure in the pipes.

Parts of a Frost-Proof Faucet

Before frost-proof faucets were invented, homeowners had to shut off the water supply to their homes when the cold season began to prevent frozen pipes. Things are somewhat different nowadays, thanks to freeze-proof spigots and their various parts.

1. Compression Valve

The compression valve controls the water flow that can be entirely stopped if you turn the handle clockwise.

2. Faucet Stem

The faucet stem is a short pipe-like rod running through the exterior wall. It connects the indoor water line to the outdoor hose bib.

3. Air Gap

An air gap is a built-in flapper valve that keeps water from being siphoned into your home. This feature is not available on all outdoor faucet types.

4. Stem Washer

A stem washer is also called a stem cartridge or compression washer. It is usually found at the end of the faucet stem. The compression washer can stop or slow water flow when properly closed.

5. Vacuum Breaker

Vacuum breakers, also known as anti-siphon valves, prevent water from getting sucked back from your hose into your water system. The typical frost-proof faucet vacuum breaker is usually preinstalled on the faucet spout.

Do Frost-Proof Faucets Freeze?

While freeze-proof faucets are generally effective and hardly freeze, several issues can impact their overall functionality. These include the following:

1. Pipe Flaw

If the barrels of your pipes are made from flimsy or poor materials, the water that flows through them can still freeze even if you have a frost-proof outdoor faucet. If the pipes eventually burst, the nearby basement or crawl space will likely get flooded.

2. Incorrect Faucet Installation

Winterizing a frost-free faucet is unnecessary if this is correctly installed. Your outdoor faucet should have a slight downward pitch so that the water will drain when the spigot is turned off. If it’s not angled this way, water can sit in the stem of the sillcock and could burst once it freezes.

Most homeowners don’t notice this until they turn on the faucet and water starts to leak from the burst stem and moves towards the house, which can lead to a mess, not to mention costly water damage.

4. Air Gap Leak

If the air gap is not correctly sealed, water will siphon into your home. The leak has to be sealed completely, or the siphon will break, especially if intense pressure comes into the line.

5. Worn-Out Compression Washer

The most common cause of leaking outdoor faucets is a worn-out stem washer. It is usually located at the end of the faucet stem and can become damaged due to wear and tear. When this happens, the handle will not close properly, and water will continue to flow.

Replacing the washer is recommended, but the new one has to be of the same size and type. Also, the washer is usually held by a screw made of brass and is often quite soft. If this needs to be replaced, the new screw should also be brass-based. Other metals can easily dissolve if you opt to use them as replacements.

5. Damaged Faucet Seat

The faucet seat is an attachment that fits into the bottom of the faucet valve. It has a hole in the middle that allows water to flow. It could be damaged in some ways or have an uneven surface that prevents the rubber washer from creating a perfect seal.

Unfortunately, the faucet seat is not repairable even with a complete set of frost-proof faucet repair kit. The best option is to replace the seat with a new one.

6. Worn Out Vacuum Cap

The vacuum cap is a simple device consisting of a diaphragm and a watertight compartment. Water pressure pushes the diaphragm down, opening the valve through which water can flow. When water pressure is absent, the diaphragm forms a seal or a vacuum cap. Over time, the cap or diaphragm seal becomes worn out, causing your outdoor faucet to leak from the vacuum breaker.

Key Takeaway

As summer ends and the cold season comes in, many homeowners’ common concern is their outdoor plumbing pipes. These can freeze under low temperatures, and the ideal solution is to have the pipes effectively insulated. Another option is to install frost-free outdoor faucets.

With freeze-proof spigots, there’s no need to shut off your home’s water supply. These specially designed faucets will ensure that water flow gets stopped when you want to. They are quite effective but can sometimes malfunction due to incorrect installation and damaged or worn-out parts. Ensure that your frost-proof faucet will work efficiently by having it installed by a qualified plumber.

Absolute Electrical Heating and Air can install a fully functional freeze-proof outdoor faucet for you.

If you’re seriously considering installing a frost-proof faucet but are unsure how to go about it, trust Absolute Electrical Heating and Air to do the work for you.

We have a professional team of Aurora plumbing experts highly knowledgeable about the intricacies of outdoor faucet installation. We assure you of complete, quick, and effective installation services to prepare your faucets for the cold months. Call us now.


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