View Full Version : Frozen outside frost-free hydrant

Aug. 1, 2011, 03:55 PM
I've got a friend who put an outside frost-free hydrant in about 8 yrs ago and it's been freezing on her for the last few yrs. She's tried packing manure around it, wrapping fiberglass insulation around it. Finally for the past 2 yrs she went to heat tape but she only uses that for a few hrs before she plans to use it to fill the outside water trough.

She's planning on replacing the hydrant this year and wonders if there isn't some way, maybe a box or something she could have made up to 'house' the pump from the elements. Winter here in western NY can be brutal with wind chills down to the single digits and into the minus range.

I suggested that maybe she could get a 6"+ wide PVC pipe to go over the pipe part of the hydrant (it stands about 3'), and fill then with fiberglass insulation. Also to make sure the outside PVC pipe is buried down a bit into the surrounding ground, maybe a foot or so, so that ground heave doesn't heave it. She's thinking maybe even a bucket over the head of the hydrant.

So, COTH members, any ideas or suggestions? Surely many of you have outside hydrants exposed to the elements and live in COLD climates and said hydrants have lasted longer than a few years. Bring them on and I'll pass them on to her. Since we are currently in summer she has plenty of time to get a new hydrant in and plan for this upcoming winter. :) :) :)

Aug. 1, 2011, 04:11 PM
It prob needs to be deeper. Sounds like it isn't below the frost line. They way they work is the water drains back down them into a shallow pit of gravel under the hydrant. If that is not below the frost line it just freezes. So sounds like she needs to dig it up and replace it with a longer one that will go below the frost line.

Wrapping the actual pipe that sticks up won't do much. There should not be any water in that if the hydrant itself is working, ie draining.

Another hint for when she replaces it. Put a shut off valve somewhere before it so if something does happen, she can shut the water off to it to work on it. And be sure she can get to the shut off valve! (Duh)

Aug. 1, 2011, 04:16 PM
My advice (from the south where we know little about real cold) is first when she replaces it, make sure she's got plenty of rock for drainage around the bottom of the frost free pipe/spigot assembly. They stay frost free because when you turn off the water, they drain back the water from the spigot and down the pipe out the bottom, the pipe doesn't freeze, because there is no water in it TO freeze, but if you have drainage issues under it, where the water goes, it will stay in the pipe and freeze up. I had one that did fine, except you can't leave the hose hooked up, it didn't have the ability to drain the hose and pipe and would freeze solid. So with that in mind, a quick release hose adaptor, plenty of gravel in the bottom, and a nearby plug for those days when it freezes anyway. here is a link to a site that describes a how to for installation.


Frank B
Aug. 1, 2011, 04:20 PM
Sounds like it's not deep enough and/or the drainage bed is inadequate -- or nonexistent.

Installation Details: (http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex641)

Aug. 1, 2011, 05:07 PM
Ditto don't leave a hose hooked to it in the winter. It won't drain.
When I "need" to leave a hose on one I either use a short piece or put a splitter valve so one side is not used. Then I just open it to let air in and let the hose drain out its end and the hydrant drain itself.

Aug. 1, 2011, 05:19 PM
Replace it with one long enough to have the bottom drain below the frost line.

We cut any one plastic bottle end off so we can put the bottom end in it, then cut holes on the bottom of the plastic bottle, set it all in the bottom of the hole and put gravel all around the bottle.
We like best narrow antifreeze bottles, they seem more steady, but any will work.

Just in case, we have also slipped a cut innertube over the hydrant top to a bit underground, added some insulation or wadded up newspapers loosely in there and wired and taped it right under the handle, to add a bit more insulation to the pipe, for those very cold days the water freezes before it quite has time to drain.
When we have an extra length of clay chimney pipe, we have used some of those to protect the hydrant pipe also.

I don't remember having any of our properly working hydrants ever freeze.
First, I would think if one freezes, it is not draining, either the hose is still attached with suction and won't let it drain, or the drain is stopped up.

Pennywell Bay
Aug. 1, 2011, 05:28 PM
Mine sometimes freezes. I use heat tape for a few minutes and am back in action.

Aug. 1, 2011, 07:09 PM
Sounds like the drainage has become clogged over the past few years to me. We had one that did that, the base sat in water and developed a pinhole leak so we had a geyser everytime the hydrant was turned on. When we dug it up we had a decent sized pit, which filled up with water and held it quite nicely. no perc at all, so DH opted to use the natural lay of the land and give it a surface drain about 25 feet downhill. Works like a charm.

Aug. 1, 2011, 08:21 PM
I agree with earlier posters. Make sure the drainage well is deep enough and that everything is draining properly. Don't leave hoses connected. One additional suggestion, leave an old absorbent cotton rag near the hydrant and use it wipe out the inside of the spigot after you disconnect the hose. Sometimes on really cold days the little dribble of water which would normally drip off the spout freezes instead. Things work a bit better if you can wick the last remaining drops out of the spout before they solidify.

Aug. 1, 2011, 09:00 PM
Some really great ideas here folks and I thank you. Last fall I had a company redo a hydrant in my barn (21 yrs old) and I recommended them to my friend. Most of what was recommended here is what they already did for me-deeper, more gravel etc. Now I do leave a short ~3' hose on the end of my indoor hydrant through the winter because I wash feed tubs several times/day and I didn't have a problem with that BUT the nozzle end of the short hose was open never shut.

Interestingly, the fellow that did her excavation and a lot of site work, like water and electric trenches etc, was the same guy that did mine. She had trouble the very first winter with the outdoor hydrant and made him change it but now he won't even return her calls.

I'll wait a few days to make sure all thoughts are in on this issue and then send her the comments.

Aug. 1, 2011, 10:45 PM
In addition to drainage, you also want to run a good bit
of water through a frost hydrant in winter. The water
is warmer than the air in winter and warms the pipe as
it passes through. If you only run a couple gallons, the
pipe may be so cold that the water draining back will
freeze before it has a chance to drain.

We found that out the hard way one winter. Both of
our hydrants are inside (unheated) barns, but only
one of them is used to fill the 250 gallon tank. The
other one froze up and had to be thawed out before
we could use it again. You either have to get out a good
bit of water each time you use the hydrant or you need
to put heat tape around the pipe and plug in for an
hour or so before you expect to run water through
the hydrant.

I'd also suggest a good quality hydrant; we have a
Campbell and a Woodford. The Campbell is always
causing trouble, the Woodford hardly any. Guess
which one was cheaper to purchase originally?

A final suggestion to anyone who needs to use a
hose with their frost hydrant in winter. Get a
set of quick disconnects for the hydrant and the
hose. I like the Gatorlock brand best. They are
very durable (others freeze up or crack) and
are easy to operate. With a herd of nearly 40 horses,
we run a lot of water daily in winters with up to
-20F and the Gatorlocks make connecting the frost
hydrant to the hose to fill the stock tanks easy.