This winter has been radically different in Connecticut compared to last season. The temperatures have remained mostly mild, with out any snow fall with the exception of a freak fall snow storm that wreaked havoc across the region in October. There have however been some very brief cold snaps where the mercury has dipped into the teens and even the single digits over night.
As everyone knows water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in Connecticut homeowners start removing the summer accessories and making their homes ready for winter in the fall. One task is to bring in the garden hoses. Not everyone bothers to store their hoses as can be seen in the photo from a recent home inspection.
Since this home has a private well, the buyers had requested a well flow test be performed as part of the home inspection. The test is done by attaching a flow gauge to a hose bibb on the exterior of the house. The gauge is set and water run through for at least an hour monitoring the gauge and recording the information.
In setting up this particular test as I already mentioned the hose was still attached to the spigot. It was also full of now frozen water. This valve was a “frost free” type which is intended to not require a second valve down stream to shut off the water during the cold months. The design has the valve seat well inside the home where it is supposed to be warm, thus preventing freezing.
When I began the test I noted the pressure began to fall off as soon as the valve was opened. Odd, but not entirely strange, a washer could be running I thought. The agent arrived at just about that time and opened the door to the house. She almost immediately hollered there was water on the floor.
The pipe in the valve had apparently frozen and burst. Going down under the stairs I found water cascading down from inside the wall where the valve was located. I also saw the remnants of an old valve sitting on top of the foundation wall. Turning the valve off outside stopped the flow of water, thus confirming my assessment.
The assumption with these frost free valves is they are freeze proof. I certain the labeling was checked with a dozen attorneys before these ever hit the market.
The main reason the one in this house burst was the hose was left attached to the hose. Also the area where the valve is located is outside the conditioned space and not insulated.
The freeze proof valve must be installed in a way to drain off the water inside the long pipe of the valve. This is usually accomplished by a gasket installed behind the valve on the exterior or the plumber can build in a slight pitch. Since the hose was left on the spigot, the valve could not drain.
While the homeowner is not pleased about the water on the floor, my client was quite happy the problem was discovered now by me instead of by him after moving into the house.
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