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Draining a frost free hose bib

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  • Oct 11th, 2019 3:40 pm
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Draining a frost free hose bib

First house with outside faucets. Our old place we had irrigation that was hooked up the county water, so we had no outside taps on the house

Anyway, we moved in last December, and I made sure to get written in the offer that all the sprinklers were blown out and all outside spigots were drained

Now I am doing this for the first time, and I either did it right, which seems very simple, or I missed something big and it needs to be redone

1. I turned off the water inside the house. All my connections are PEX and in the furnace room. The line to the outside hose has its own shut off like the rest of the pex lines. So I turned it off
2. I removed the hose completely for winter storage
3. I turned the hose bib open. But not a lot of water came out. To test I went back and turned the shut off back on, and turned on the hose bib. Water like usual

My question is, after I turn the water off and I turn the spigot outside open, shouldn't the entire length of PEX drain that feeds the hose bib, or does just the small amount in the frost free part drain out. I know they are supposed to be sloped for drainage, buts its inside a finished wall so I cant see the pitch. I assume it is since whenever I used it in the summer to fill up a watering can (with no hose attached) that when I shut it off, some water still came out, which I assume is the water left in the pipe.

I know the pex In the wall is within the heated part of the house, but Id still prefer to have the entire line drained, just not the hose bib portion. Is the water caught due to a vacuum in the line, and if so, how do you break that vacuum for the water to drain. The pex run to the outside is at least 30 feet.

Or is it just supposed to be that way, and water stays in the line? I know for our camping trailer water wouldn't drain out of the lower drain points until you opened a valve for the air to be let out, and then it drained out

We had one of our coldest winters in decades last year, and as far as I know there was no frozen pipe in the wall. Im sure if there was id see water damage by now.
Last edited by WikkiWikki on Oct 10th, 2019 1:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
18 replies
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Jan 25, 2007
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Paris
Frost free taps turn the water on and off inside the house so when they turn off they are supposed to drain out what left, and the “live” water is only on the warm side.
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Jerico wrote: Frost free taps turn the water on and off inside the house so when they turn off they are supposed to drain out what left, and the “live” water is only on the warm side.
so the live water that's inside stays there then even if I open the valve. There must be some sort of valve that only opens when there is pressure I guess, since with no water pressure, it wont allow whats left in the line to drain

So it really is that simple then to drain? I thought getting the water out of the entire line would be needed for the winter, even if it is inside
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Paris
WikkiWikki wrote: so the live water that's inside stays there then even if I open the valve. There must be some sort of valve that only opens when there is pressure I guess, since with no water pressure, it wont allow whats left in the line to drain

So it really is that simple then to drain? I thought getting the water out of the entire line would be needed for the winter, even if it is inside
The warm side is just like any other pipe where water can stay in all winter. I assume you mean one of these?
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[OP]
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Jerico wrote: The warm side is just like any other pipe where water can stay in all winter. I assume you mean one of these?
Yes like that. I get how they work, I just thought if you open the tap, that the water in the line in the wall would come out. as well. Maybe thats how the regular outside taps work then, where the water line goes right up to the wall. But it must have to have water pressure for that water to come out.

If it is this simple then its done. I left the tap half open if any water is left in there it will drip out
Newbie
Aug 14, 2019
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I like to turn on the tap on and then shut it off from the inside. This will drain more water out of the outside end as it's Capillary action? Like siphoning gas with a hose. Then shut off the outside part.
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The entire line won't drain, because your indoor shut off is in the basement and outdoor faucet is higher, so gravity does its thing and keeps water in the line.

I have standard outdoor taps, and the indoor shutoffs have a bleeder screw that when open allows air into the line and allows it to drain outside if its done right, or inside if the slope is wrong. You'd need to add a similar valve in your furnace room, and a bucket to drain the line (but personally don't think its needed with a frost free tap)
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cliff wrote: The entire line won't drain, because your indoor shut off is in the basement and outdoor faucet is higher, so gravity does its thing and keeps water in the line.

I have standard outdoor taps, and the indoor shutoffs have a bleeder screw that when open allows air into the line and allows it to drain outside if its done right, or inside if the slope is wrong. You'd need to add a similar valve in your furnace room, and a bucket to drain the line (but personally don't think its needed with a frost free tap)
Wait, isn’t it the other way around? Shouldn’t the frost-free hose bib be installed with a slight downward slope to outside? If not, water would potentially sit on the outside.

I know with my frost-free hose bib, when I shut off the water and disconnect a hose, for instance, the water that remains in the stem drains out automatically with gravity.

Is that not how it’s supposed to be?
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My inside line is higher than the bib. I assume it is since in the furnace room it goes up on the ceiling and then across into the finished basement ceiling. Where it goes down I'm not sure
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I had a buddy who had two frost-free spigots freeze on him and split open. So they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be.

I have them too but I still shutoff the water from the inside and open the outside tap to drain the line.
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mrweather wrote: I had a buddy who had two frost-free spigots freeze on him and split open. So they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be.

I have them too but I still shutoff the water from the inside and open the outside tap to drain the line.
But does the actual line drain, or just the frost free spigot? My spigot drained, but the line inside the house did not, since there is no water pressure to push it out. Normal taps where the line goes right to the tap, you can usually drain the entire water line back to the shut off

When it was drained last fall before we moved in, maybe this is all was done as well. Not sure.
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mrweather wrote: I had a buddy who had two frost-free spigots freeze on him and split open. So they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be.

I have them too but I still shutoff the water from the inside and open the outside tap to drain the line.
But by leaving the valve open, haven’t you’ve essentially eliminated the benefit of a frost free bib? (Since the valve closes on the inside of your house).

A frost free hose bib with a shut off valve creates 2 barriers (or fail safes), and by leaving one open you lose that benefit.

Case in point. My interior shut off valve had a leak. I found out because I opened the bleed valve in the winter (as I routinely do), and a lot of water came out (would be nothing or a couple drops if OK). It wasn’t a problem because the flow of water was stopped at the closed frost free bib, which is located inside the house. I have since replaced the shut off valve.

The same thing happened to my brother with a regular hose bib and the slow leak was barely noticeable until he randomly went in his backyard in the dead of winter and saw the hose bib all frozen over. He was lucky it didn’t crack or burst.

You can technically forget to winterize a frost free hose bib and it should be ok, so it seems rare that your friend has 2 fail on him (and I assume he also winterized and closed his shut off valves?) if they were installed properly (pitched toward outside so no water remains in the stem). Your friend was extremely unlucky or perhaps it wasn’t installed properly?
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onlineharvest wrote: But by leaving the valve open, haven’t you’ve essentially eliminated the benefit of a frost free bib? (Since the valve closes on the inside of your house).

A frost free hose bib with a shut off valve creates 2 barriers (or fail safes), and by leaving one open you lose that benefit.

Case in point. My interior shut off valve had a leak. I found out because I opened the bleed valve in the winter (as I routinely do), and a lot of water came out (would be nothing or a couple drops if OK). It wasn’t a problem because the flow of water was stopped at the closed frost free bib, which is located inside the house. I have since replaced the shut off valve.

The same thing happened to my brother with a regular hose bib and the slow leak was barely noticeable until he randomly went in his backyard in the dead of winter and saw the hose bib all frozen over. He was lucky it didn’t crack or burst.

You can technically forget to winterize a frost free hose bib and it should be ok, so it seems rare that your friend has 2 fail on him (and I assume he also winterized and closed his shut off valves?) if they were installed properly (pitched toward outside so no water remains in the stem). Your friend was extremely unlucky or perhaps it wasn’t installed properly?
Mine are open, but saying that, I will shut it. They say you should usual leave valves half open, not fully closed or fully opened. To allow water that may go down to at least get out, but I dont think thats for frost free ones

I know last January or February I accidentally opened mine when i was shoveling. My arm hit the knob and then some water came out. Freaked my out since it was =30 out, and my mind automatically went to worst case scenario. But it was probably there from the previous owners maybe not draining it all the way. It wasnt a ton of water, and the reason it flowed was because it was in the wall of the house

Reading more I have winterized it all I can, main shut off is off, the spigot is draining, and the water in the Pex line in the wall is either there because of lack of pressure to push it out, or a vacuum in the line that I cant break anyway since the PEX line has no drain on it. It seems some of these frost free valves have a rubber at the end with a spring, so with the house pressure, it opens this valve to let the water through, But without any pressure that spring wont activate, so the water sits in the line in the house
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WikkiWikki wrote: Reading more I have winterized it all I can, main shut off is off, the spigot is draining, and the water in the Pex line in the wall is either there because of lack of pressure to push it out, or a vacuum in the line that I cant break anyway since the PEX line has no drain on it. It seems some of these frost free valves have a rubber at the end with a spring, so with the house pressure, it opens this valve to let the water through, But without any pressure that spring wont activate, so the water sits in the line in the house
That rubber cap is a backflow preventer - stops water from flowing back into the house plumbing from the hose, in the event you shutoff the water and drain the system with that tap open, your "dirty" hose water won't contaminate your plumbing system.

Right, on your line - you need to either have pressure, or let air in behind it to drain the line. Think of a straw full of water, put your finger over the top end and the water stays in it, even when you take it out of the cup - same thing is happening with your pex line.
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cliff wrote: That rubber cap is a backflow preventer - stops water from flowing back into the house plumbing from the hose, in the event you shutoff the water and drain the system with that tap open, your "dirty" hose water won't contaminate your plumbing system.

Right, on your line - you need to either have pressure, or let air in behind it to drain the line. Think of a straw full of water, put your finger over the top end and the water stays in it, even when you take it out of the cup - same thing is happening with your pex line.
And since I cant get air in, unless I of course hook something up to my Pex line to allow that, that water will sit in there. Wonder if thats something a person should do. See them on copper lines, but pex I never have
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WikkiWikki wrote: And since I cant get air in, unless I of course hook something up to my Pex line to allow that, that water will sit in there. Wonder if thats something a person should do. See them on copper lines, but pex I never have
Are you saying your shut off valve doesn't have a bleeder cap? While I don't think they are necessary for a frost-free bib, they still do install them (not sure if it's code, shut off yes, bleeder valve though?).

You introduce air into the line between the shutoff and hose bib valve with the bleeder, and drain out any remaining water.

I haven't seen a shut off in a person's home with PEX that didn't also have a bleeder valve - which is why I assumed it was a necessary component of the shut off valve. No water sits in the frost-free stem (because it's sloped outside, and it terminates inside your warm house anyway), and with the bleeder valve, no water (or very little) sits between the shut off and frost-free stem.

I didn't change out my faulty shut off, a plumber did. Took him like 10 seconds to do so I don't think it's complicated when working with pex connections, if you wanted to change it.

If yours is installed correctly (downward pitch), it won't be a problem anyway. Now, if it was installed incorrectly, of course water can pool within the stem situated outside and it will lead to problems whether you winterize correctly or not.
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onlineharvest wrote: Are you saying your shut off valve doesn't have a bleeder cap? While I don't think they are necessary for a frost-free bib, they still do install them (not sure if it's code, shut off yes, bleeder valve though?).

You introduce air into the line between the shutoff and hose bib valve with the bleeder, and drain out any remaining water.

I haven't seen a shut off in a person's home with PEX that didn't also have a bleeder valve - which is why I assumed it was a necessary component of the shut off valve. No water sits in the frost-free stem (because it's sloped outside, and it terminates inside your warm house anyway), and with the bleeder valve, no water (or very little) sits between the shut off and frost-free stem.

I didn't change out my faulty shut off, a plumber did. Took him like 10 seconds to do so I don't think it's complicated when working with pex connections, if you wanted to change it.

If yours is installed correctly (downward pitch), it won't be a problem anyway. Now, if it was installed incorrectly, of course water can pool within the stem situated outside and it will lead to problems whether you winterize correctly or not.
Correct, no bleeder valve. Why would the builder put that in :-) I would like to get the water out as a precaution. But is it needed? Since its like any other Pex line in the house that could freeze with no heat. But then again, there are none that I am aware that are in the wall like this one would be. Or maybe its not even in the wall at all, but the celing (the majority of it)

I think I will see (if I can) where it goes. Maybe it is fed through the entire ceiling like the rest are to other fixtures in the house, and the last bit is just a vertical run from the ceiling. Hard to tell. Be nice when a house is built they give you pictures or blue prints of where runs of things are before drywall goes up

House is 12 years old, and we are the 3rd or 4th owner, so unless they had some magic way to drain the entire line, there have been no issues so far. And from the previous owners, I can tell they didnt know much about how a house works. I cant find anything more to drain frost free bibs besides what I did, shut off the main line, open the spigot to drain the spigot part, and done. None of anywhere I read dealt with a bleeder valve, etc
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WikkiWikki wrote: Correct, no bleeder valve. Why would the builder put that in :-) I would like to get the water out as a precaution. But is it needed? Since its like any other Pex line in the house that could freeze with no heat. But then again, there are none that I am aware that are in the wall like this one would be. Or maybe its not even in the wall at all, but the celing (the majority of it)

I think I will see (if I can) where it goes. Maybe it is fed through the entire ceiling like the rest are to other fixtures in the house, and the last bit is just a vertical run from the ceiling. Hard to tell. Be nice when a house is built they give you pictures or blue prints of where runs of things are before drywall goes up

House is 12 years old, and we are the 3rd or 4th owner, so unless they had some magic way to drain the entire line, there have been no issues so far. And from the previous owners, I can tell they didnt know much about how a house works. I cant find anything more to drain frost free bibs besides what I did, shut off the main line, open the spigot to drain the spigot part, and done. None of anywhere I read dealt with a bleeder valve, etc
Well, I found out it's not necessary in your case according to the building code:
7.6.1.9. Protection for exterior Water Supply

(1) Every pipe that passes through an exterior wall to supply water to the exterior of the building shall be provided with,

(a) a frost-proof hydrant with a separate shut-off valve located inside the building, or

(b) a stop-and-waste cock located inside the building and close to the wall.
A frost-free hose bib and internal shut off is the code. You only need the bleeder valve it seems if you have a regular hose bib. So although I still see plumbers put in shut off valves with a bleeder valve when changing regular to frost-free hose bibs, it must just be the standard ones they carry and there is no use in carrying two types, perhaps?

There are no issues because if you disconnect any hose and it's properly installed with a downward pitch outside, closing the hose valve is all you really need to do. :) You don't even really need to close the shut off valve to winterize the system, but I do anyway. And leaving a frost-free hose bib open in the winter doesn't make sense to me, nor can I find any plumbing resource online that suggests that (every single one I've seen is just simply remove any hoses, let water drain out naturally - if installed correctly! - and that's it). I also drain the water between the shut off and hose bib because (1) I'm anal, and (2) the valve exists in my setup.
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onlineharvest wrote: Well, I found out it's not necessary in your case according to the building code:



A frost-free hose bib and internal shut off is the code. You only need the bleeder valve it seems if you have a regular hose bib. So although I still see plumbers put in shut off valves with a bleeder valve when changing regular to frost-free hose bibs, it must just be the standard ones they carry and there is no use in carrying two types, perhaps?

There are no issues because if you disconnect any hose and it's properly installed with a downward pitch outside, closing the hose valve is all you really need to do. :) You don't even really need to close the shut off valve to winterize the system, but I do anyway. And leaving a frost-free hose bib open in the winter doesn't make sense to me, nor can I find any plumbing resource online that suggests that (every single one I've seen is just simply remove any hoses, let water drain out naturally - if installed correctly! - and that's it). I also drain the water between the shut off and hose bib because (1) I'm anal, and (2) the valve exists in my setup.
So basically, its simple to do, which I did all I can do. I just started the thread to see if I missed something, because it just seemed "to simple"

Last year, the line was probably full, and I didnt know anyway. I just checked that the shut off was off when we moved in December. When I saw it closed, I assumed the entire line was empty. And being December, I didnt want to monkey with something that was already done

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