If you live in an area with frosty winters, you know the agony of exploding pipes and the pain of preventative maintenance to stop the issue before it starts. Particularly cold cities tend to experience a high rate of plumbing calls in the winter (Minneapolis plumbing companies, for example, do a brisk business in the cold months) from panic-stricken homeowners; don't let that be you!
The best home maintenance tasks are the kind that reduce your overall home maintenance. Installing a freezeproof faucet is a case in point. This faucet's function is no different from a standard sillcock (a.k.a hose bib, outdoor spigot), yet its clever design saves you from having to turn off the water supply to the faucet and/or put on those silly insulated covers every fall, and you no longer have to worry about the faucet or its supply pipe freezing in the winter. That's one summer-to-fall maintenance item you can permanently erase from your checklist. However, you still have to remove, drain and hang up your hoses.
How a Freezeproof Faucet Works
Also called freezeless or frost-free faucets, freezeproof faucets look like regular sillcocks on the outside (where the handle is) but have a long pipe on their back ends. The pipe extends 4 or more inches into the house-where it's relatively warm in winter-and connects to the water supply line. The clever part is where the faucet's valve is located: On standard sillcocks, the valve is inside the main body, just behind or under the outdoor handle. On freezeproof faucets, the handle turns a long stem that runs inside the pipe going into the house. At the house end of the pipe is where the valve actually controls the water flow. When you turn off the water at the handle outdoors, the water inside the pipe automatically drains (thanks to gravity) out through the spout, so there's no water left to freeze inside the pipe. Freezeproof faucets come in a range of lengths to accommodate different installation configurations as well as varying levels of protection (see Are They Really Freezeproof?, below).
Most freezeproof faucets include an anti-siphon device (it's under a little plastic cap above the handle) that prevents contaminated liquids (old hose water, lawn chemicals, etc.) from being sucked back into the water supply. If the water flow from the city stops suddenly, it could create a vacuum that pulls the water the wrong way (not likely, but possible).