To convey water from one place to another we have an underground pipe and an outlet-a freeze proof water hydrant. This is related to your garden projects and water source for your animals.
Although it may seem like a major project, it is easy (if you have a backhoe), and the installation will save you labor and misery in years to come. Otherwise just carry pails of water, freeze your fingers and watch the tongues hang out of your livestock.
The lead in picture is an installed, insulated water hydrant next to my rabbit empire. I also have installed a new insulated hydrant next to the house, on the north side, this last fall before the ground froze up. I have another insulated hydrant to install behind my Solar Green House, on the north side, this year when I hopefully put up the lath shade structure, plus deer proofing for outside plants.
To get started you will have to have a source – this being a well pump, pond irrigation pump-but not a roof drain irrigation system as we have talked about in the past. The hydrant, sold in all farm stores, hardware stores, and such, vary in size from 2 foot (bury depth) to over 8 feet (bury depth). They work on pressurized city water systems as well as your home pressure systems efficiently, and reliability is very good. An average hydrant costs about $40.00 USA dollars.
You may bury it to connect to a water line without insulation, but after experiencing some severe freezing after long periods of rain and listening to the Old Timers talking about 1978-79 winter where it got to –40 below F.; it was frozen to 4’ deep. It was bad for people who lost home water supplies, and watering livestock. Most of the pipes had to be replaced and that was a big expense and chore. I now sink all my hydrants and water lines below 4’ deep and insulate the hydrant as cold travels down the pipe too. However some readers live in warmer climates and may not need to go so deep.
Contractors who put up houses, and those you have hired for dig out water lines will cut corners unless you supervise. Specify below the frost level in the extreme, and for our Romanian and Finland readers, where it really gets cold: Go Deeper.
Picture # 1 is what you need. You will see the basic hydrant, two metal pipe connectors that connect to a plastic poly pipe. 1 water pipe clamp, several plastic cable ties, a roll of pipe insulation. (Actually these are from the summer water play tubes for children in the pools. They are plastic tubes with a ¾” hole down the center and 4” across- much bigger than you can get at a hardware store from Frost King products.) Also a PVC 4” diameter section of pipe cut to run the length from the handle shut on/off on the hydrant to where the tiny 1/8” drain hole is at near the end of the hydrant pipe. Do not fit a drain hose in the hole- it will clog up. You will need a small pipe wrench, pipe Teflon tape, paint, or tar to reinforce the rust prevention of the hydrant pipe. A Philips medium screwdriver, Teflon plumbers tape, a propane torch, plastic electrical cable ties, silicon grease, a galvanized street elbow ¾” and a brass ¾ poly pipe connector to the street elbow.
To get started, paint the pipe. Let it dry; paint it again. Modern galvanized pipe has no lead base and is prone to rust out faster than the old pipes you could depend upon for 40 years.
Picture # 2 shows the street elbow that is ¾” male and female thread. Now wrap the male thread with Teflon plumber’s tape twice and smooth. Screw it into the hydrant base. Get a good grip on the hydrant and use the small pipe wrench to hold the street elbow fitting and screw it in tight. If you have a 6” mounted vice in your necessary garage shop- use it. Then take the ¾ brass water connector for the poly pipe, wrap the male threads with Teflon plumber’s tape, and tighten in securely to the street elbow. Put a piece of tape on the hole to keep dirt out while we are moving it about.
Before we slide the insulation over the pipe and tie it, check the ease in the lever action. Sometimes the rubber ball inside the pipe that shuts water on or off gets hard to slide up and down with the lever and the internal shaft. This is remedied by placing the hydrant in a vice, (again, a necessity in the workshop) and removing the head assembly. Do not worry it is easy to reassemble. Coat the rubber ball with silicon grease (NOT sealer) you will buy from an automotive store that sells it in tubes to make the distributor shafts easier to rotate. You can also find silicon grease in hardware stores in the plumbing and electrical section under dielectric silicone grease. Coat the rubber ball, slide the assembly down the pipe and wrap Teflon tape around the threads and tighten up, You are back in business. You can also do this to installed hydrants that are sticking. You just need two pipe wrenches.
Now wrap the insulation around the pipe, secure with the plastic electric ties. Slide the 4” or even a 6” PVC pipe from the bottom- Oops! You might have to remove the bottom end street elbow for room. Then reinstall the street elbow. Make sure you have a tight fit inside the pipe. Use extra pieces of pipe foam insulation if necessary. Fill the PVC pipe to the sides tight. If you have problems sliding the PVC pipe over the insulation I have found that silicone spray works well.
Now the hard part. You have already determined where the source connection is going to be made. Let us assume you keep a record of where the pipes are underground- if not, start a map book, as over the years you will otherwise forget.
You will be required by law and common sense to call “Miss Utility” (in the phone book), the free service that checks for underground electric wires and if you sweet talk them they can connect to a pipe, and mark where the pipes are too. Girls take note!
In picture # 3 you will note that digging 12” wide and 4’ deep piles up the dirt. Also there is rock shale, sand and fill dirt. The rock shale is the bad stuff as it will cut through plastic pipe, but the poly pipe is in my opinion the best, easiest and longest lasting pipe you can use. A 100’ roll cost about $40.00 US dollars. Use at least ¾” pipe for maximum water flow.
Note in Picture # 4 the shale at the beginning of the picture and the sand at the end. This was a 40‘ run. The black plastic poly pipe is enclosed in some old aluminum rain guttering, old larger plastic well pipe and such to protect it from abrasion. You could use the 4” solid irrigation plastic drainpipe too. Be sure to pack sand around the pipe as you place it in to prevent future moving rocks worries, If you have an outside leak it will bubble up anyway so you can easily replace a section, which if you could afford metal pipe would be difficult to splice in. Usually the leaks come from improper connections.
If you have about $16,000.00 USA dollars and want a good digging tool you might consider the BX 24 mini tractor from www.Kubota.com Tractors- key word BX24. It has a front bucket and a mini backhoe. Look on Utube for clips. I have been lusting for this for a couple years. I am always digging and it is a pain to have to wait for somebody when you need him or her- quick. (Diane take note).
Now the easy part again. You will need a propane hand held torch. This is to heat the poly pipe before you slide it on the hydrant connection and maybe a “T” connection at the source. If you buy a better torch with automatic piezo electric light up, it will run about $35.00 US dollars at the hardware store- maybe more. www.HarborFreight.com item # 91061, offers one at #14.99 USA dollars.
Now take an old 3 or 5 gallon bucket and cut a hole in the bottom. The hole ought to be just enough to slide up over the PVC pipe. Or as shown in picture # 5- I used a plastic bag.
What we do first is to end the diggings where you want the hydrant. You will need a 20, or so pound bag of gravel, probably from your garden center. A small concrete block is good to rest the base of the hydrant on and since it is a metal connection it will not shatter like a plastic fitting I broke yards back before I knew anything. Line up the enshrouded hydrant with the bottom pipe for ease of connection with the poly pipe. Note if the handle is aligned for what angle you want. If not just adjust the bottom pipe accordingly; I usually forget this part. Now set the hydrant on the block. Run the polly pipe to the connection with enough slack so it will fit entirely over the metal pipe. Slip your water pipe stainless steel clamp on the poly pipe a few inches back- you will use this later.
Now take the end of the poly pipe, and the self-start propane bottle torch to briefly fire the inside and end of the Polly pipe for 3 seconds. Be careful of your hand, as the pipe becomes very HOT. This softening of the poly pipe by the torch will allow the poly pipe to slide securely up and over the metal pipe making a good seal. Now slide the clamp over the poly pipe up to the near top of the metal pipe and cinch it up. You will have a good watertight seal.
Move the assembly back into a vertical position. You will want the hydrant raised enough to get a 5-gallon bucket under the spout, add a couple more inches. Pour the gravel over the base of the hydrant so that the sand and dirt will not get in the small drain hole. Slide the bucket down to cover the gravel.
Now, fill in the hole. See pictures # 5 and #6, which show the connection and the end product.
You can also install these longer length hydrants in unheated buildings, such as your chicken house, bee house, goats etc.
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