22 October Close up of frozen roof with icicles

How to Turn off Outside Water for Winter

Posted by PlumbWize

Winter can be a tough season for your pipes. This is due to the fact that water expands up to 10% more in volume when it freezes. So, if a pipe is full of water and the water inside of it freezes, the pipe can be subjected to pressure of about 3000psi, causing it to break or burst. The joints and valves can also break and overall, it can lead to costly repairs and replacements. Water supply pipes leading to outside faucets or hose bibs are especially vulnerable to this.

In this article, we will cover how to use the water shut off valve to turn off outside water and then drain it completely. 

Let’s get started! 

A row of houses in the winter time

Turn Off The Water for Outside Water Faucets or Hose Bibs During Winter

Most homes have at least one outside faucet or hose bib. Usually these water outlets are connected to hoses or splitters or can be part of an outdoor sink. The reason why these fixtures and their adjacent pipes are so susceptible to freezing over winter is because they are exposed to the outside and therefore, the home’s heating may not be enough. 

In the freezing sub-zero outdoor conditions, these pipes, if left with water inside over winter, are the most prone to breaking or bursting due to frozen water. This can lead to costly repairs or even pipe replacements. Therefore, locating the water shut off valve for these pipes can be a real lifesaver.

Do I Need to Turn Off Outside Water if the Faucets and Pipes Are Insulated?

It’s important to note that insulation can only help to keep your pipe close to the temperature of the water inside. For the pipes leading outside, the heat radiating from the home won’t be enough even when insulated. This is due to the fact that insulation only helps to keep the heat from escaping, but will not add any heat to the pipe. Therefore, outside water pipes can still freeze when continuously exposed to prolonged freezing temperatures. 

When Should I Turn Off Outside Water?

Depending on where you are located, it can be beneficial to turn off outside water around late October, before temperatures reach below freezing. All it takes is for pipes to be in freezing temperatures for around 6 hours for them to freeze; this is the amount of time it usually takes for the water in the pipes to lose whatever warmth it has contained and begin to freeze. 

A hose bib with the hose attached to it

How Do I Turn Off and Drain Outside Water for Winter?

If it’s time to turn off your outside water, then follow along these steps:

  1. Begin by removing the hose and/or splitter from your outside faucet(s).
  2. Locate your water shut off valve(s) which are typically in the basement. Sometimes each outdoor faucet or spigot can be connected to its own water shut off valve.
  3. Close the water shut off valve. This is usually done by rotating the handle to the right or in a clockwise direction. Make sure the handle is turned until it cannot turn any further.
  4. Go to the faucet or hose bib outside and open it to let out the remaining water. Leave it open for about a minute to be sure. 
  5. Now that the water between the water shut off valve and the faucet/hose bib is drained, close the faucet or hose bib.

And there you have it! You’ve just turned off your outside water. 

Is It Enough to Turn Off and Drain Just the Outside Water? 

If you’re planning on heading south for the winter and turning off the heat, then you’d need to make sure to drain all the water in the pipes of your house in addition to the outside water. To do this, you can turn off the main water shut off valve so that there is no water supply – then you can proceed to drain the water in the pipes. It might seem like a lot of work but it’s worth it; this will ensure you don’t come home to burst pipes and costly plumbing repairs. 

Preventative Care: Insulating Pipes and/or Water Fixtures

As we covered earlier, insulating your pipes is not a standalone solution in preventing them from freezing, however, it still provides plenty of other benefits such as:

  • Reduces the chances of freezing for vulnerable pipes located on the exterior wall of the home
  • Reduces the expansion and contraction of pipes when the temperature changes
  • Water in the pipes stay warm for longer periods of time
  • It’ll save you money on your energy bill!

Plumbing Solutions For Winterizing Your Pipes

Not all homeowners are able to prevent the bursting or breaking of pipes due to winter’s freezing temperatures. Maybe you haven’t been able to winterize your outdoor faucet in time and realized too late that the pipes have frozen. Perhaps you’ve gone on vacation for a while and haven’t been able to turn off the water in your home.

If you’re worried that your pipes have burst or are leaking because of situations like these, know that you will always have an ally in PlumbWize. We respond quickly to all kinds of plumbing emergencies and we’ve got your back 24/7. 

If you’re interested in insulating your pipes to reap the many benefits of this plumbing solution, we can do that for you too! We cover for all your residential and commercial plumbing needs. So contact us today and let us know what we can do for you.


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