Unless you live somewhere warm all year round, you’ll need to shut off your outside water supply before winter hits. Every year without fail, homeowners neglect to take care of this small detail – leading to burst pipes, flooded basements, and expensive repairs.
Avoiding these costly mistakes is as easy as learning to turn off your outside water for winter. This task doesn’t take long and is easy enough that anyone and their grandma can do it.
Even if you remember to detach your garden hose and shut off your hose bib, water can remain inside the pipe, which can then freeze and burst over winter.
Let’s take a look at how to turn off your outside water for winter – so you’ll be well prepared for whatever the weather gods have in store.
Turning Off Outside Water for Winter – Guide
The reason your outdoor water faucet (also called a hose bib) is subject to freezing and damage is that it’s subject to swings in the exterior temperature. Unlike your house’s interior pipes – which are protected by heat and insulation – the outdoor faucet pipes will freeze when the temperature drops below zero for a significant period of time.
These pipes have stagnant water under pressure inside them. When the stagnant water freezes inside this pipe, it can expand up to 10% larger, leading to leaking, bursting, and flooding.
The way to prevent this is simple enough. You’ll need to drain this pipe of any stagnant water – so the external temperature will have zero effect on your pipes.
What temperature to turn off outside water?
So, when is the right time to turn off the water supply to your hose bibs?
Obviously, this will depend on your location. But as a rule of thumb, when the temperate drops below 20° Fahrenheit for 6 hours in a row, your pipes are at risk of freezing.
This will also depend on how well your pipes are insulated. While it sounds somewhat counterintuitive, if you’re located in a northern state, your pipes are less likely to freeze over from a sudden dip in temperature. Houses are generally better insulated in northern states, and most newer houses are designed to provide some protection against pipes freezing.
Southern houses may not have the same level of insulation, so a sudden dip in temperature is more likely to lead to damage.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to turning off your outside water for winter:
Step 1: Locate and Close Shutoff Valve
The first step is to find the shutoff valve for the hose bib. This is generally located inside the basement, crawlspace, or utility room near the location of the hose bib. If you have multiple outdoor hoses, then you’ll need to locate the shutoff valve for each one.
Turn the valve clockwise until it won’t turn any further. If it’s a ball-type valve, turn the handle perpendicular to the line.
Step 2: Remove and Drain Hose
If you haven’t done so already, make sure to remove the garden hose(s) and let any water inside drain out. Also, detach the spray nozzle if there is one.
After draining, coil up the hose(s) and store indoors away from direct sunlight over winter.
Step 3: Drain Water from the Hose Bib
Now turn the faucet on the hose bib and let the remaining water inside the pipe drain out. Leave it open for a few minutes to be sure everything has drained out.
Step 4: Bleed Valve
When the hose bib has finished draining, go back inside to where the shutoff valve is located. Below the main shutoff valve you may find a ‘bleed valve’. This is a valve for draining any remaining water left in the pipe.
If you have a bleed valve, place a bucket underneath it and allow the water to drain into it. Then close the bleed valve.
Not all houses will have a bleed valve, so if you don’t find it, skip this step.
Step 5: Leave Hose Bib Open
Leaving the hose bib open during winter ensures that any water that finds its way inside your pipes will drain out harmlessly. If your shutoff valve were to leak or malfunction for some reason, then you’d still be in good shape.
And that’s it! You’ve successfully winter-proofed your outside water supply for winter.