- Posted by hinged
If you live in a climate where temperatures stay above freezing all winter, ignore this post. For the rest of you, read up.
Over the years we have had a bunch of repair calls, usually on the first warm spring weekend for leaking, broken, gushing and otherwise damaged outdoor faucets. The damage, which occurs over the winter, is caused by an unusual quality of water. Its volume actually increases when it goes from its liquid state to its crystalline or solid state. In simple terms, ice takes up more space than water.
If you live in an older home with simple outdoor faucets, you hopefully know that late fall is the time to turn them off in your basement and leave the valves on the outside of your house open. This time of year you reverse the process. Turn the faucets outside your house off and turn the valves inside your basement on.
If you live in a newer home chances are all your outdoor faucets are frost free with an anti-syphon mechanism and you misguidedly believe that you can use them and ignore them all year long.
The frost-free part of the faucet is a long rod between the handle on the outside wall and the valve that holds back water, which is located on the inside of your walls. The whole assembly can be up to two feet long. The water is held back by the valve at the end of the rod, inside your house. The water doesn’t stay in the pipe on the outer part where it can freeze and damage the works. If installed correctly the only thing you should have done last fall is disconnect your hoses. If you leave hoses attached water can get trapped between the valve and the end of the faucet, freeze and damage the works. If you store your hoses neatly coiled on a rack that is above the faucet, this is almost a certainty. Leaving a sprayer on the end of the hose in the closed mode will also do the trick. The hoses will last longer if you disconnect them and move them to your basement, but if nothing else, at least DISCONNECT them in the fall. Its spring and if you left a hose connected, you may be lucky and the valve may still be working. If it turns on and won’t turn off you have a problem.
If you know how to replace the faucet yourself you’re probably not reading this blog. Simple answer for what to do when the valve won’t turn off, is to call a plumber. Since this is the first nice weekend of the year, unless you’re a member of Hinged, you may not be able to get anyone out to your house right away. Don’t panic, go down to your basement and turn off your water main. Connect a hose to your faucet with a sprayer set to the off on the other end and turn your water main back on. Problem solved temporarily or at least reduced to a drip until the plumber arrives.
The anti-syphon mechanism is basically a rubber flapper behind a spring that stops water from flowing backwards into your house if the internal water pressure should drop This simple device prevents contaminants from getting into your water supply.
There are two types of anti-syphon mechanisms in general use. Integral to the faucet and installed between the faucet and the hose. Eventually with the integral versions the diaphragm or rubber flapper will wear out and the mechanism will start to leak when the valve is turned on. Sometimes just tightening the cap on the top of the diaphragm will fix the leak. Of this fails you could try replacing the gasket under the cap, but most of the time the only course of action is to replace the whole assembly.
The installed between the faucet and hose version is easier to replace. There is usually a soft brass screw that is designed to shear off on installation and prevent removal. In many cases the screw or the whole mechanism can be removed with channel lock pliers. Worse case the screw can be drilled out and the anti-syphon device can be replaced without replacing the whole faucet.