To protect exterior faucets and hose bibbs, winterize your outside water pipes 2 weeks before the first average freeze. Unlike interior pipes, which are warmed by the heat inside your home, exterior water pipes can freeze once temperatures drop to 32℉ (0℃). As little as 6 hours of exposure to freezing temperatures can freeze the water in outside pipes solid. To prevent a burst pipe or cracked hose bibb, winterize before freezing weather arrives.
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Do You Have to Shut Off Outside Water in Winter?
If you live in a region where winter temperatures dip below freezing, it’s essential to shut off the water supply to outside water sources before winter sets in. Late October or early November is the best time to winterize outside water pipes.
- If your home is exposed to freezing temperatures in winter, shut off the water supply to outside pipes in fall.
- In regions with long winters, shut off outside water in late October or early November.
- If your home is rarely exposed to freezing temperatures, only shut off outside water if a weather pattern with freezing temperatures is incoming.
If you live in a region that only receives freezing temperatures occasionally, keep an eye on the weather. If an extreme storm or cold weather system is incoming, it’s essential to winterize your outside water—including outdoor sinks and hose spigots—before the cold weather hits.
What Happens if You Don’t Shut Off Outside Water in Winter?
When cold weather strikes, outside water pipes are typically the first to freeze. If water contained in the pipe freezes, it will expand. This expansion bursts pipes from the inside out, leading to water leaks and damage. Since outside pipes typically lead back into your home, a frozen pipe can flood your basement, crawlspace, or home. Repairing burst pipes requires the assistance of a licensed plumber and can be expensive.
- Outside water pipes and hose bibbs that are not properly winterized can burst when exposed to freezing temperatures.
- Burst pipes can flood into your home, causing water damage and necessitating expensive repairs.
- Copper and galvanized steel pipes are more prone to bursting than plastic pipes.
Although all exterior pipes have the potential to burst, metal pipes are most at risk. Plastic pipes, such as PVC and PEX, are slightly less likely to break. Because most outdoor faucets and hose bibbs are made of metal, they are at a high risk of cracking or breaking when exposed to freezing cold temperatures.
At What Temperature Do Pipes Burst?
Pipes are capable of bursting any time they are exposed to freezing temperatures. Although interior pipes are generally safe at temperatures as low as 20℉ (-7℃), outdoor faucets can freeze as long as temperatures are at or below 32℉ (0℃) for at least 6 hours. This is because outside water pipes do not receive radiant heat from your home, making them more prone to freezing.
- Exterior water supply pipes can freeze and burst any time temperatures go as low as 32℉ (0℃) for 6 hours or longer.
- Interior pipes are typically only at risk of freezing in temperatures below 20℉ (-7℃).
- Depending on where you live, interior pipes may burst once temperatures reach freezing.
In northern regions, homes are constructed to withstand winter temperatures. Interior pipes are often insulated or are run through well-insulated spaces. If your region doesn’t typically experience freezing weather, the pipes may not be protected from cold. Your interior pipes may freeze at the same point your outside pipes do. In short, any time temperatures reach the freezing point, there is a danger of broken water pipes.
How Do You Keep Outside Water Pipes From Freezing?
The best way to protect your outside water pipes from freezing cold is to shut off water flow to the pipes. Then, open the exterior water faucets to drain any remaining water trapped in the pipe. Your outside water pipes should have a water supply valve on the line, which allows you to shut off the flow of water near the source. In most cases, this water shutoff valve is located inside your basement, crawlspace, or utility closet.
- Find the water supply valve that controls the flow of water to your outside pipes.
- Water supply valves are typically located in the basement, crawlspace, utility closet, or near your water meter.
- Turn the water supply valve to the right (clockwise) to turn off the flow of water to your outdoor faucet.
- Remove any hoses and fittings from your outdoor faucet.
- Open the valve on the faucet or spigot to allow trapped water to escape.
With the water supply to your outside pipes closed off, remove any attached hoses to your hose bibb. Hoses can trap water in the spigot, causing it to crack as the water freezes. With the hoses removed, open the tap on the spigot to allow trapped water to escape. With the water supply closed and stored water drained, there will be no water inside the pipes to freeze and expand. This eliminates the risk of burst pipes.
When Should Outside Water be Turned Off to Prepare for Winter?
If you live in a region of North America that experiences long winter freezes, plan to turn off the water to your outside pipes in late October or early November. This gives you ample time to winterize your pipes before a surprise freeze sets in. If you live in a region that only experiences occasional freezing temperatures, keep a close eye on the weather. If freezing temperatures are imminent, shut off the water supply to outside pipes before the cold weather arrives. Because exterior water pipes are exposed to the elements, it’s key to winterize them before cold weather arrives. This is the best way to avoid burst pipes.