Regular vs Frost Free Outdoor Faucet: Everything You Need To Know

regular vs frost free outdoor faucet

When selecting an outdoor faucet for your home, understanding the difference between a regular and a frost free spigot is crucial. This article delves into the specifics of regular and frost free faucets, detailing their characteristics, usage, installation, and mechanics. It also provides a comprehensive guide to help determine the best option for your needs, taking into account factors like climate, usage, and maintenance.


What Is A Regular Outdoor Faucet?

regular outdoor faucet

A regular outdoor faucet, also referred to as a hose bibb, garden faucet, or spigot, is a plumbing fixture that controls the flow of water outside of a building. Regular spigots are suitable for mild climates where the temperature does not drop below freezing as they lack built-in mechanisms to prevent freezing and can burst if the water inside them freezes.

  • Key characteristics: Regular faucets are recognized by their simple design, consisting of a metal body, a spout, and a handle or knob. They are typically made of brass, stainless steel, or other durable metals to withstand outdoor conditions. The design is straightforward, with few moving parts, making them easy to use and maintain.
  • Use and purpose: The primary function of a regular outdoor faucet is to provide an accessible water source for outdoor activities. This includes watering gardens, filling pools, cleaning outdoor areas, and supplying water for various outdoor projects. They are a staple in residential homes for their utility in everyday outdoor chores.
  • Installation: Installing a regular outdoor faucet involves attaching it to an external wall of a building and connecting it to the main water supply line. The installation process may require drilling through the building's wall, soldering pipes, and ensuring a watertight seal at the connection points. Proper installation is essential to prevent leaks and ensure easy access to the water supply.
  • Internal mechanism: The internal mechanism of a regular outdoor faucet typically includes a valve stem, seat, washer, and handle. Turning the handle rotates the valve stem, moving the washer against the valve seat to control the flow of water. This mechanism is effective but can be prone to wear and tear, thus needing periodic replacement of the washer and other components to prevent leaks.

How Does a Regular Outdoor Faucet Work?

The operation of a regular outdoor faucet is focused on the movement of its handle, which is connected to a valve stem inside the body of the faucet. When the handle is turned, it moves the valve stem, which in turn either lifts or presses down a washer against the valve seat to control water flow. This simple mechanical action allows for the regulation of water, from fully stopping the flow to allowing full passage.

Pros and Cons of Using Regular Outdoor Faucets

One of the primary advantages of regular faucets is that they are commonly less expensive than frost free models, making them a budget-friendly option for many homeowners. Their straightforward design also makes them easy to operate and repair, with common issues like leaks often fixable with basic DIY skills. Parts for regular faucets are widely available and interchangeable across different models and brands, facilitating easy repairs and replacements.

On the flip side, a pitfall of a regular outdoor faucet is that in colder climates, these faucets can freeze and burst if not properly winterized, leading to potential water damage and costly repairs. To avoid freeze damage, they must be manually drained before winter, which can be cumbersome and easily overlooked. Unlike frost free faucets, regular models do not have built-in mechanisms to prevent water from freezing in the pipes, necessitating additional steps for winterization.


What Is a Frost Free Outdoor Faucet?

outdoor frost free faucet

A frost free outdoor faucet, also known as a frost free hose bib, faucet, or spigot, is designed to prevent water from freezing in the pipe during cold weather, reducing the risk of pipe bursts. It features a special mechanism that prevents water from remaining in the exposed section of the faucet, reducing the risk of freezing and bursting.

  • Key characteristics: These faucets are distinguishable by their elongated stem that extends into the home's interior, keeping the actual valve mechanism well inside the warm, insulated part of the structure. They are typically made of heavy-duty materials like brass or stainless steel to withstand the elements and prevent corrosion.
  • Use and purpose: Frost free outdoor faucets are intended for use in regions that experience freezing temperatures. They provide a reliable outdoor water source throughout the year without the need for seasonal winterization. These faucets are ideal for homeowners who need regular outdoor water access during the colder months, for tasks like filling animal water troughs, watering plants in a greenhouse, or any other winter outdoor water needs.
  • Installation: The installation of a frost free hose bib requires it to be tilted slightly downward towards the outside, ensuring that water drains out of the stem after each use. This process involves cutting through the home's exterior wall and may require more extensive plumbing work compared to a regular faucet, as the pipe extends further into the home to prevent freezing.
  • Internal mechanism: The design of a frost free faucet includes a long stem (or shaft) that connects the handle on the outside to the valve seat located inside the house, well beyond the reach of freezing temperatures. When the faucet is turned off, the water remaining in the stem drains out, preventing any remaining water from freezing.

How Does a Frost Free Spigot Work?

A frost free spigot works by ensuring that the water does not remain in the portion of the pipe that is exposed to the outside cold. When the faucet is closed, the valve inside the house shuts off the water flow, and the water remaining in the pipe section leading to the outside drains out. This mechanism prevents water from staying in the exposed pipe section, thereby eliminating the risk of freezing and bursting.

Pros and Cons of Using Frost Free Outdoor Faucets

The key and identifying feature of frost free spigots is that its design eliminates the need for seasonal draining or insulation, saving time and effort in cold climates. By preventing freeze-related bursts, these faucets can save homeowners significant repair costs and water damage. A unique advantage of this type of outdoor faucet is that it is capable of providing consistent outdoor water access, even in freezing conditions, enhancing convenience for various outdoor activities.

However, getting an outdoor frost free faucet entails a higher initial cost, compared to regular ones. Frost free faucets are more expensive than regular faucets due to their complex design and construction. In addition, they may require professional installation, especially in homes where existing plumbing system needs significant modification. Due to their specialized design, repairs might need professional assistance, especially if the problem lies within the extended stem or internal valve.


Regular vs Frost Free Outdoor Faucets: Buying Considerations

When deciding between regular and frost free outdoor faucets, it's essential to weigh several factors. These considerations will help you choose a faucet that not only meets your immediate needs but also offers long-term satisfaction and reliability.

Purpose and Application

Regular outdoor faucets are typically sufficient for regions with mild winters. They are best for general outdoor tasks such as gardening, cleaning, and filling pools. However, they are not designed to withstand freezing temperatures and can lead to pipe damage if not properly winterized.
Frost free spigots are engineered for cold climates where temperatures drop below freezing. They are crucial for homeowners who require access to outdoor water throughout the year, preventing the inconvenience and potential damage caused by frozen pipes.

Design and Ergonomics

The design of the faucet impacts not only its appearance but also its functionality. Regular faucets have a simple design and are easy to operate but may require additional steps for winter preparation. Frost free faucets, with their elongated design, prevent water from remaining in the pipe exposed to the cold, thereby eliminating the risk of freezing. Ergonomics is about how user-friendly the faucet is. Frost free spigots often feature handles designed for easy operation, even with gloves on, which is a significant advantage in cold weather.

Repair and Maintenance

Regular faucets may need more frequent maintenance, especially in preparation for winter. Tasks include shutting off the water supply, draining the faucet to prevent freezing, and covering the faucet with insulation. These faucets are generally easier and cheaper to repair due to their simple design. Frost free outdoor faucets require less seasonal maintenance but are not immune to wear and tear. They can be more complex to repair, often necessitating professional help, especially if the issue lies with the internal valve mechanism deep within the wall.

Material and Price

The material used in the faucet affects its durability and resistance to weather conditions. Brass and stainless steel are popular for their strength and resistance to corrosion and frost. Plastic, while less durable, is more cost-effective and resistant to corrosion but may not withstand extreme temperatures. Price is a significant factor in the decision-making process. Regular outdoor faucets are generally less expensive both in upfront cost and installation. Frost free faucets, while more costly initially, can offer savings over time by reducing the risk of water damage from freezing and bursting pipes, which can be an expensive and inconvenient problem to fix.

Factor Regular Outdoor Faucet Frost Free Outdoor Faucet
Purpose and Application Suitable for mild winters; ideal for gardening, cleaning, and pool filling Engineered for cold climates to prevent pipe freezing; necessary for year-round outdoor water access
Design and Ergonomics Simple design, easy to operate; requires winterization Elongated design prevents water from freezing in the pipe; often has ergonomic handles for use in cold weather
Repair and Maintenance Requires more frequent maintenance, especially for winter; easier and cheaper to repair Less seasonal maintenance but more complex and potentially costlier repairs if internal mechanisms fail
Materials and Price Made from durable materials like brass and stainless steel; less expensive upfront and in installation Also made from durable materials but generally more expensive; can save on long-term repair and damage costs


Outdoor Faucet Maintenance: Guide, Tips, and Advice

Maintaining outdoor faucets is crucial for ensuring their efficient operation and longevity, especially in regions with fluctuating temperatures and harsh weather conditions. Proper care and timely repairs can prevent common issues such as leaks, freezing, and water damage.

How To Fix a Leaky Outdoor Faucet

To fix a leaky outdoor faucet, start by identifying the leak source, which could be the handle, spout, or base. Before making any repairs, turn off the water supply to prevent water from flowing out during the process. Then, use the appropriate tools to disassemble the faucet, removing the handle and packing nut to expose the valve stem and washer. Inspect these components for wear or damage, and replace any compromised parts with suitable replacements from a hardware store. After installing the new parts, reassemble the faucet and turn on the water supply to test for leaks.

How To Properly Install a Frost Free Spigot

Installing a frost free spigot correctly is vital to avoid water damage and ensure it operates effectively during the winter months. During installation, it is important to refer to applicable plumbing codes in the country, such as the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) and the International Plumbing Code (IPC). Ideally, choose a frost free spigot that is appropriately sized for the wall thickness and suited for the local climate conditions. The spigot should be installed at a slight downward angle to ensure that water drains out after each use, preventing freezing. Use Teflon tape or plumber's putty on the threads to prevent leaks.

How To Replace Frost Free Faucet

If a frost free faucet is damaged or malfunctioning, it may need to be replaced. Start by turning off the water supply and draining the existing faucet to avoid spillage. Unscrew and carefully remove the old faucet from the wall, then insert the new frost free faucet into the opening, ensuring it extends into the heated interior space to prevent freezing. Secure the faucet in place and apply sealant around the exterior to prevent water ingress and heat loss.

How To Cover Outdoor Faucet For Winter

For regular faucets, taking preventative measures before winter is crucial to prevent freeze damage. The first step is to drain the faucet and any attached hoses to remove all water, preventing freezing. Insulate the faucet with a cover or foam insulation to protect it from freezing temperatures. Also, check that the faucet and surrounding pipes are leak-free, as even minor drips can lead to freezing and damage.

How To Protect Outdoor Faucets

Protecting outdoor faucets year-round is vital for their durability. Regularly inspect faucets and hoses for leaks, cracks, or signs of wear. Use protective devices such as hose bib locks and shut-off valves to prevent unauthorized use and conserve water. Additionally, install backflow preventers. This product prevents contaminated water from flowing back into the clean water supply, in accordance with regulations such as the ASSE 1019 and ASSE 1052. These protective measures help in ensuring a safe and functional outdoor faucet system throughout the year.



Are frost-free faucets worth it?

Yes, frost-free faucets are worth it in climates where temperatures drop below freezing, as they prevent water from freezing in the pipe, reducing the risk of burst pipes and water damage.

Do the frost-free outside faucets ever freeze?

Frost-free faucets can freeze if they are not installed with a slight downward slope or if residual water is not drained out, but generally, they are designed to prevent freezing when installed and used correctly.

How do you winter-proof an outdoor faucet?

For regular faucets, winter-proofing involves shutting off the water supply, draining the faucet, and covering it with an insulated cover. For frost-free faucets, ensure they are properly installed with a downward tilt to allow water to drain out. What happens if an outdoor faucet freezes?
If an outdoor faucet freezes, the water inside can expand and cause the pipe or faucet to burst, leading to potential water damage and costly repairs.


The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.