We all know that frost and freezing temperatures can damage outdoor faucets and pipes, so we should really cover them up in winter. But do outside faucet covers really work?
Outdoor faucet covers are made of Styrofoam or a similar material, and are effective at stopping your outside spigot freezing down to a couple of degrees below zero. However, at freezing temperatures below this they may not work as well.
Let’s look at outdoor faucet covers in more detail – considering if they work well or not, how to use them, and whether we need to buy them or can make them ourselves…
Do Outdoor Faucet or Spigot Covers Really Work?
In general, outdoor faucet covers work pretty well at their main job: preventing water faucets and pipes and from freezing in the winter. Because the faucet is exposed to outside temperatures, it’s a vulnerable point in your water system, so it needs to be protected from the cold.
However, they do have their limitations. The typical faucet or spigot cover is a simple device, normally made from something like Styrofoam, and its job is to trap warm air around this weak spot. It is fine up to freezing temperatures, but is not incredibly effective if it dips a couple of degrees below freezing.
If you live in a zone that doesn’t see harsh winters, then a faucet cover will see you through the winter. What about super-cold places? If you have an outdoor spigot, the chances are it’s a frost-proof design, and you’re also more likely to have an easy-to-reach sillcock valve (more about these later). The combination of these two things plus a faucet cover should help.
Remember that although preventing frozen pipes is the cover’s main role, it can also help in other significant ways. It acts to prevent annoying winter draughts creeping into your home. It can also keep bugs at bay by stopping them wriggling in around the faucet.
Do you have young kids? A cover makes playing with that exciting faucet far trickier. You’re less likely to end up with soaking patio furniture, a high water bill, or a wet pet if the kids can’t easily turn on the hose. Plus, if kids are turning the hose on and off, you have no idea if there’s water in it: this can be a shock if there’s a freeze and your hose is filled with water…
Faucet covers work brilliantly in protecting your home from draughts, bugs, and water fights.
What’s The Best Type of Outdoor Faucet Cover?
There are two main types of outdoor faucet cover, and both are cheap and easy to install. Both types are designed to fit tightly around the base of the faucet, forming a seal. So, if correctly fitted, both types do the job well.
There’s the insulated bag type of cover, often called a faucet sock. Or, you can get a rigid cover made from thermal foam, which has a flexible gasket around the edges.
The softer “sock” variety is good if your faucet is a tight fit or in a fiddly space, as it’s easier to slip on. The more rigid Styrofoam edition sometimes comes with an extra plastic case over it, to protect the cover itself. This makes this an extra-tough type of cover.
Easy Lawns reviewed three popular outdoor faucet covers. All three are available on Amazon, and each one costs less than $10. Both of the styrofoam designs come in two-packs for an excellent bargain (keep a spare cover, or split a pack with your neighbor). The top-rated one was the sock design, with the reviewers liking the ease of fit.
At What Temperature Should You Cover Outside Faucets or Spigots?
Cover your faucets before the thermometer dips below freezing. Ideally, choose a time between the end of needing your hose and the first frost. Add “covering the outdoor faucet” to the list of yard jobs that you do before the winter kicks in.
So, we’d suggest doing all those jobs that require a hose pipe in the late fall. Wash down the barbecue, grill, and patio furniture before winterizing them in the garage or shed. Give the deck and driveway a good wash to keep them clean over winter, clean the windows, and generally do those outdoor tasks that need more than a bucket of water. Once these are done, it’s time to retire your outdoor faucet until the spring.
This should be part of your winterizing ritual wherever you live. If you live in a zone that rarely freezes, don’t be complacent. It’s even more of a shock to the system if there is a sudden cold snap, and houses built for warmer climates aren’t always as well insulated.
In the spring when the risk of frost is over, you can remove the covers and store them safely until late Fall. If properly cleaned, dried, and stored each year, a faucet cover should see you through several winters. Not bad for just a few dollars.
How Do I Cover My Outdoor Faucet? (Step By Step)
Covering an outdoor faucet is a simple job. You just need covers for your faucet and pipes, and a knowledge of your exterior pipe system. Here’s what you need to to:
- If you have a hose attached to your outdoor faucet, start by removing it. Drain the hose, then store it away for the winter.
- You may have a sillcock valve that shuts off your outside water supply. If you have one, shut off the valve and drain the water from this part of the system.
- Cover the faucet with the slip-on faucet cover.
- Cover exposed exterior pipes with insulation tubing to help prevent them from freezing. You may have seen people use things like old towels to insulate their pipes. Don’t, as these soak up water, so you’re basically wrapping ice around your pipes. You need a proper insulated cover, which you can easily pick up at places like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Do I Have To Buy An Outdoor Faucet Cover or Can I Use a Homemade One?
Now, we’re all for making your own kit here at Take A Yard. However, because commercial faucet covers cost very little, are easy to install, and should last you several winters, we’d recommend buying one over making your own.
The big risk with homemade covers is that the material and seals will trap water, making the potential problem of freezing water worse. But, what if you suddenly see that frost is forecast and you don’t have time to pop down to Home Depot or wait for an Amazon delivery?
Here’s a short YouTube video from Dave’s Homestead, which shows you how to improvise a faucet cover before the “big freeze”. He shows you how to make a quick faucet cover if you’re caught unawares by the weather and haven’t had the chance to buy a commercially made cover.
The solution Dave uses is a pile of thin plastic bags from a grocery store, wrapped around the faucet. Because insulation works by trapping warm air, you add several thin bags, one at a time, to trap multiple layers of air. Secure them by wrapping duck tape around the bags as close to the wall as you can get.
Dave emphasises that this solution is for emergencies only. “It ain’t pretty, and it don’t replace one of those styrofoam ones you buy for five or ten bucks”. But, it will do the job if you get caught out by sudden freezing temperatures and have to improvise. Then, go indoors, warm up, and order yourself a proper faucet cover (and some pipe insulation while you’re at it).
We recommend always having a faucet cover ready for the winter, wherever you live. Even if your faucet claims to be “freeze-proof”, it will still benefit from an additional cover.
We also know there are seasonal jobs to do around and outside the home as the weather and temperature changes – and covering your outdoor faucets should just be another one of those things we add to the list.
It’s a good idea to make a note to do this every fall – before the thermometer dips below freezing – and then you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.
We have a couple of outdoor faucets, and one really cold year we left one of them uncovered all winter – and the faucet and pipe froze for over a month. That darn thing has never been the same since as I think the hose is damaged underground. You live and learn. 🙂