prevent spigot freeze-up?


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Old 03-06-11, 11:17 AM
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prevent spigot freeze-up?

Out quite a distance from the main building(s) on our property is a seldom-used hose bib hook up sticking up out of the ground, which is basically a left-over fixture which used to supply (hosed) water to some outside worksheds which have long since been removed. It's a galvanized steel pipe sticking straight up 4 feet or so out of the ground, with a ball-valve shutoff at the top and above that two spigots (hose bibs), one right on top of the other. Out of concern for freezing during the wintertime, we decided to leave a spigot open with a hose connected and the water trickling out fairly good. Sure enough though the temperatures dropped far enough and long enough to freeze the trickling water, despite what we thought was a strong trickle enough to prevent it. As recent outside temps rised recently, we noticed the side of the spigot had cracked/burst because of the freeze, so just shut the ball valve closed until we repair. We'd like to keep the hose bib fixture, as though it's seldom used it does come in handy at it's location from time to time (although we can live without using it during freezing wintertime). Also we don't want to turn off the main supply as by doing so it will shut off other necessary plumbing in another building. We considered the idea of simply insulating the pipe and wrapping the hose bibs in insulation during the winter, but we aren't sure if insulation by itself will prevent freezing when temps drop to there lowest around here which is maybe 8 degrees. And of course we don't like to have to keep a hose running all winter in an effort to try to prevent the freeze-up. One option might be heat tape/cable wrapped on the pipe (and insulated) as we do have an electrical outlet in another building 50 feet or so away, but then we'd either have to be running an extension cord out along the ground, or digging and installing an underground electrical supply line just for the heating cable, neither of which seem like a very good idea either. Fortunately the crack/burst occured above, rather than below the shutoff valve. Not sure why, but I suppose its because that metal on the spigot was weaker than the pipe? Any comments/advice appreciated.
 
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Old 03-06-11, 12:27 PM
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Why not install an outside hydrant? Like this: http://www.plumbingsupply.com/images...ardhydrant.jpg Water is shut off below the frost line so no freeze issues. Also allows use year round.
 
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Old 03-06-11, 12:48 PM
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Actually we already have several of those yard hydrants installed on the property also. And we've been having freeze issues with some of them lately too (and not because we left any hoses attached to them). Not sure if it's because they were installed improperly (don't have any records of how deep they go, would have to dig them up to find out) or because of general maintenance neglect. Other than the labor installation and cost to purchase another such yard hydrant, the yard hydrant option would probably be the most practical. Seems though, proper installation can be rather involved, not only all the digging but have to worry about just the proper drainage bed, etc for it to work fine without the drain hole at the bottom getting plugged up, stuff like that. And I want to avoid having to call in expensive contractor/plumber to handle it.
 
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Old 03-07-11, 05:01 AM
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One thing that is overlooked in installing one of the hydrants is a gravel bed for it to drain into. The weep hole above the washer must have a clear area to drain. If packed with mud, the water will remain in the upright tubing negating the freeze proof feature. Just more information to chew on.
 
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Old 03-07-11, 06:26 AM
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Can you install a shut off at the source?
 
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Old 03-07-11, 11:00 AM
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Yes I suppose the ideal fix would be to install a shutoff at the source and then replace the old fixture with a (properly installed) yard hydrant.
But what if I don't get around to doing that until after next winter's freeze (or even the next!)? What might be a good way to simply insulate this old fixture from freezing? Like the idea of a tall airtight box (or something) lined with 4" thick styrofoam insulation that could be placed over the fixture. Would anyone with more sense than me think they could rely on that?
 
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Old 03-07-11, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by chandler View Post
One thing that is overlooked in installing one of the hydrants is a gravel bed for it to drain into. The weep hole above the washer must have a clear area to drain. If packed with mud, the water will remain in the upright tubing negating the freeze proof feature.
Yeah as I mentioned there's several hydrants that seem to have freezing issues and I need to inspect why. Possibly the weep hole issue you mention, maybe even if there is a gravel bed down there mud finally made its way to it and plugged it anyway. Or maybe the washer/stopper thingy is worn or otherwise deteriorated/damaged. I'll be needing further guidance on inspecting/troubleshooting the whole business. It'd be nice if whatever the problem that I won't have to be digging these things up, but Murphy's law will probably prevail.
 
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Old 03-08-11, 09:43 AM
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Idea of a tall airtight box (or something) lined with 4" thick styrofoam insulation that could be placed over the fixture? comments??
 
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Old 03-08-11, 10:08 AM
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sgull, there are two things needed when trying to keep something/anything from freezing. One, is some form of insulation to keep whatever heat is currently there from escaping and two, is to provide a source of heat to replace what does. A thick styrofoam box will help with the first, but there needs to be a source of heat for the second.

Now, if your box extended some distance into the ground, then at some level, mother nature would be providing some energy via the soil below. If you search on FPSF (frost protected shallow foundations) you will see examples of how to keep the frost at away.

The hydrant concept is probably the best as it simply avoids the water being where it can freeze. If you then add some rigid foam board over the top to deflect the cold and any surface water that soaks in, then you will have both concepts working for you. If you build a gravel drainage pit, remember, it needs soil below it that will take the water or a direction for it to drain off. My yard is pure clay and any holes I dig will simply fill with water and stay there, so I have to add a drainage channel every time.

luck
Bud
 
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Old 03-08-11, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Bud9051 View Post
The hydrant concept is probably the best as it simply avoids the water being where it can freeze. If you then add some rigid foam board over the top to deflect the cold and any surface water that soaks in, then you will have both concepts working for you.
Bud, thanks for the helpful reply. In regard to your comment as quoted above, are you suggesting that it would be best, after installing a hydrant, to then in addition add rigid foam board over the top? In case the freeze-proof aspect of the hydrant does not work or stops working because of an improper installation or malfunction allowing water to remain in the standpipe when the hydrant is shut off?
 
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Old 03-08-11, 01:04 PM
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It may be overkill, but while you are installing the new hydrant and drainage pit, it would be easy to cover the area above with foam board slopping away from the center. This would provide insulation and a water shed to reduce the amount of water the area below must deal with. Redundant solutions are a good remedy for difficult to fix problems.

Bud
 
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Old 03-08-11, 02:26 PM
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So you mean the sloping foam board would probably be installed down deep in the ground, right on top of the drainage bed? Or up closer to the surface of the ground, maybe buried just a little? Or somewhere in between? I'm just trying to envision what you're describing in regard to the foam board installation a little more specifically.
 
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Old 03-08-11, 03:21 PM
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If you search on FPSF you will see examples of foam board buried a few inches below the surface and then sloping deeper away from the area being protected. The foam will trap the heat from the soil below and keep the area around the vertical pipe somewhat warmer. Your frost probably isn't that bad, so it won't take much. IMO, up near the top would be better, just leave enough soil to grow whatever is planted up there.

Bud
 
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Old 03-08-11, 06:25 PM
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As I mentioned previously, several of our yard hydrants froze despite that they aren't supposed to. Today I dug down to the valve body at the bottom of the standpipe on one of them, it was about 16 inches down I'd say from the surface, buried in course gravel/rocks. I used a large sized weed burner propane torch on the standpipe for quite a while, (with the handle open on the top) figuring it should thaw the business if it's frozen. But water never did start running out. Most I could finally get was a splurging sound from the spigot opening as I moved the handle up and down, but still never any flow of water to come out. What the heck is the problem, ya think? It's one of those Woodford Iowa model y34 or y1 models. I remember this hydrant used to work fine before the last recent freeze we had here.
 
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Old 03-09-11, 12:07 AM
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It sounds like the freeze is farther back. Cover the standpipe, valve off, and let the heat you applied work its way back. Repeat again tomorrow. How deep are those pipes and how deep is your frost?

Bud
 
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Old 03-09-11, 09:46 AM
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Bud, as mentioned I dug down to the valve body at the bottom of the standpipe, which was at distance of about 16-18 inches below the surface. I assume the other standpipe burial depth for the other hydrants located on the property is similar. I can't be sure without continued digging how deep the actual supply line for the hydrant is, but I'd assume it too is about 16-18 inches down. The frost line in my area is 18" and local code plumbing requirement is 12" below that for water supply lines on private property (total 30" code requirement, but apparently frost depth 18"). And this winter we've had relatively unusually long periods of relatively colder than normal temps for this area. If the freeze if farther back in the line and I continue trying to thaw it, what do you mean by cover the standpipe with valve off exactly? Cover it with what, how? "Valve off" meaning spigot valve closed, (hydrant handle pulled down)? And you say to let the heat I applied work its way back? How can the heat I applied work its way back if I cover the standpipe, which means, with the method I was using to apply heat, that I'd have to take the heat (torch) away?
 

Last edited by sgull; 03-09-11 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 03-09-11, 01:35 PM
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Where you have heated the pipe, assuming copper or steel, there is no longer anything frozen. As long as you continue to heat the pipe the heat will be migrating back along its length toward what I am thinking is another frozen area. If you get tired for the night and want to take a break, throw a tarp over the hole you dug and cover as much as possible. This will reduce the heat loss and allow the heat that has worked its way along the pipe to remain there for awhile. In doing so, it will keep working and might thaw the problem while you sleep, thus the "spigot valve closed" so the water doesn't suddenly start flowing at night, unless you want it to.

Then repeat the heating process the next day to push the heat farther along. If the buried pipe is all metal, then heating from the ends will work for 10 or 20 feet away from the point you are heating. If the frozen area is farther than that, the plumbers may have to jump in with one of their pipe thawing tricks.

As a note, if the frost depth is the problem and you want more protection without burying the pipe deeper, some rigid foam board can be buried 6" to a food deep above any problem areas, a minimum of 2'wide. A toss up as to which solution is easier. The other old farm trick would be to place a row of hay bales over the pipe.

Bud
 
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Old 03-09-11, 04:02 PM
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The supply line to the bottom of the standpipe is all metal but I would be concerned about continuing to apply hot heat from the big torch down there for too long as it could get things so hot it could damage the rubber stopper/plunger thing down there on the end of the hydrant rod. Comment?
 
 

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