Frost-free Hose Bibbs (Bellingham Real Estate Inspections)

Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. Home Inspector Lic #207

Frost-free hose bibbs are nifty devices.  For the most part, they end the worry about outside faucets freezing in winter. At least they do the job here in Whatcom County's maritime climate, where it never gets too frigid.

I have seen problems with the devices but that is, usually, due to a lack of common sense on the part of a homeowner or a builder. In the case of the homeowner, if hoses are left on the faucets during the winter, expect both the hoses and the faucets to freeze.  In some instances, if a builder has run a long supply pipe to a hose bibb through an uninsulated wall, the pipe in the wall might freeze.

Clients often wonder how a frost-free hose bibb operates. It is fairly simple. When you turn the water off with the handle at the front of the hose bibb, that turns off a valve that is farther inside the assembly (back by the threads at the left side in the photo). So, as long as the device is installed properly and it tilts forward so excess water will run out the tilted spigot, then the water supply is protected since it is back in the wall in a warmer part of the house -- basement, crawl space, garage, etc.


Do you want to know if your hose bibbs are frost-free? There is an easy way to find out. Take the hose off. Then turn on the water for a few seconds; turn it off again.  If there is a distinctive flow of water out of the bibb (draining) when you turn the water off, then you have a frost free hose bibb. If, on the other hand, once you turn the water off, if the flow stops almost immediately, then you probably do not have a frost-free model. This video provides an example of a frost-free hose bibb draining.

In most cases, if there is a vacuum breaker (that round or octagonal button at the top) then you have a pretty modern hose bibb and it is probably frost-free. However, in fact, the vacuum breaker is a backflow preventer -- designed to keep gray water from entering the potable system. For example, let's say you fill the backyard fish pond and leave the hose down in the water. The vacuum breaker protects against that icky pond water coming back up into the dishwasher, the freezer ice-maker, the drinking water.

Quite often, vacuum breakers will leak. If that occurs right after you turn on the hose bibb, and then it stops leaking, then you probably do not have too much to worry about. But, if the leak is ongoing or looks like this one in the video below, then plan on repairs. Often repair is as simple as removing the cap and replacing the internal vacuum breaker parts. Other times, you might have to call in a plumber.

That gauge on the hose bibb checks water pressure. It puts back pressure on the hose bibb and, in part, that is a reason for this big leak. However, if you think about it, this same scenario may occur in everyday use. If you have a hose on the bibb and a nozzle/sprayer at the other end of the house, for washing the car, every time you turn the nozzle off, that hose bibb will begin leaking profusely. Time for repairs! By the way, if your outdoor faucets do not have backflow preventers, you can buy the screw-on kind -- they go between the hose bibb and the hose -- at hardware stores.



Posted by

Steven L. Smith

If you enjoy nostalgia and music of yesteryear, click on Elvis' gold record to visit This Day In History. To explore The Stories Behind The Music blog posts click on the electric guitar. 








Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Christine Farkas 09/21/2012 09:11 AM
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Washington Whatcom County Bellingham
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Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Steven -- not only a great explanation of the frost proof faucet, but great short videos to help people understand the explanations.   

Aug 23, 2012 03:37 AM #1
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Very instructive post Mason!  Grandpa has taught you well.  Where is the Nutster?  Croakster has asked about him, but I have no information.

Aug 23, 2012 06:29 AM #2
Sussie Sutton
UTR Texas Realtors - Pearland, TX
UTR TEXAS Realtors - Rep for buyers and sellers.

I am so glad that you posted this today! I was suppose to call the plumber to come replace our outside faucets. I rarely freezes here but now I can be proactive and buy these type faucets and get her done.

Aug 23, 2012 07:15 AM #3
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Steven, glad you found this helpful.

Jay, good to hear from you. I have just been so darn busy that I am not spending as much time in the rain. Duh, you know that. Nutsy is still working for me and he is half-way to a master's degree in political science. I think he probably has a job waiting in your neighborhood.

Sussie, If they do not attach to the house, you might also like the outside yard hydrants. Maybe I will do a post on those too.

Aug 23, 2012 07:25 AM #4
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Steve, So good to see you back in the rain. Good post too ;) Hope all is well. 

Aug 25, 2012 08:23 AM #5
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Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspector
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