Yard hydrants have gone by many names: frost-free hydrants, freeze-free hydrants, yard hydrants, water hydrants, and outdoor hydrants. All of these refer to the same piece of plumbing. A yard hydrant is part of your plumbing that allows you to have water to an outdoor location. The greatest benefit of a yard hydrant is that it will drain itself when turned off so the pipe won’t freeze during any harsh weather conditions. Proper installation is key to having a long lasting hydrant that doesn’t cause problems.
Yard hydrants attach to a pressurized water line from either a private well or a public water supply. The water lines need to be buried deep enough to prevent them from freezing. The frost line varies from 0 to 8′ depending on the maximum frost depth in the region. The bottom valve assembly on a yard hydrant cannot withstand freezing temperatures. It may crack or burst if frozen causing an underground water leak, which is a massive headache to fix. This valve piece is where the water shuts off. Below it, the pressurized waterline is ready to dispense water when opened. Above the valve piece, is the drain hole where the excess water drains out when the hydrant is not in use.
The most common yard hydrant brands are Woodford, Merrill, and Simmons. Each hydrant brand has unique features and different appearances. There are 3 major parts to all hydrants:
The top casted piece of a yard hydrant can come in many shapes and sizes, yet all serve the same basic purpose. They have a handle that when pulled up, will lift either the rod or the wet pipe (depending on the style of hydrant) allowing water to flow through the valve, up the vertical pipe and out the hydrant head.
The head also has an outlet for water to flow through. Some hydrants will have this outlet threaded so that a garden hose or other attachment can be hooked up others and some hydrant will have just a smooth outlet. This is something to look out for when selecting a hydrant for your home or farm.
The last thing that you will find on all hydrant heads is a way to make adjustments to the hydrant. Some hydrants will have flow controls that can be set so you can find the ideal flow of water. Once you have it adjusted, you can keep that as a preset on your hydrant. Many have a packing nut that can be adjusted if the rod in the hydrant comes out of alignment. If there is a small amount of leaking or dripping, you can often adjust the packing nut to alleviate that issue. These features will vary across brands.
The vertical pipe coming up out of the ground and the cast piece that makes up the “head” of the hydrant, should stand empty when the water is turned off. This stand pipe is most often made of galvanized steel. There are specialty hydrants that have pipes made from brass or stainless steel, however these will cost significantly more. It’s usually not worth the extra cost to buy a specialty hydrant, unless you have corrosive water or soils that would be detrimental to galvanized pipes.
There are two basic styles of valves, o-rings and plungers. Some manufacturers opt for a series of 2 or 3 o-rings that when seated into place will shut the water off. The more common approach is to use a rubber plunger attached to a rod to plug off the incoming water. The hydrant brands that use an o-ring style setup tend to have a little bit better flow through the hydrant. However, the o-rings wear out much faster than plungers and are harder to replace. O-rings can rip and tear. They sometimes end up stuck down in the valve body, making it impossible to install new ones. The styles that use the plunger are less likely to have the entire plunger piece stuck down at the bottom when trying to repair. This style is generally equipped with a steel rod that goes down and attaches to the plunger. Over time these rods can fail due to corrosion.
How long will my yard hydrant last?
There is no yard hydrant on the market that will truly last forever. When standard hydrants reach the end of their life, they need to be dug up and replaced.
There is one way to ensure that you can easily repair and replace your hydrant when it breaks – install a Hydrant Assist Kit. A Hydrant Assist Kit is a simple, but effective system that takes your yard hydrant to the next level. It does two amazing things. It extends the life of your hydrant by removing the soil contact from the vertical pipe. And, it allows you to repair or replace the hydrant from the surface in seconds without needing to dig.
If you are thinking about installing a hydrant, or are simply repairing or replacing your old hydrant, check out our “All About the HAK” page to find out more about how to upgrade your hydrant!
If you enjoyed this blog, we will be posting one every other Friday. Check back in two weeks for our next topic: Where are yard hydrants used, and where should they be avoided.