How Does a Yard Hydrant Work?

A yard hydrant is plumbing equipment attached to a pressurized water line from either a private well or a public water supply system. It also goes by different names: frost-free hydrants, freeze-free hydrants, yard hydrants, hydrants, and outdoor hydrants.

The most significant benefit of a yard hydrant is that it will drain itself when turned off, so the pipe would not freeze during any harsh weather conditions.

In terms of appearance, a yard hydrant has three significant parts.

The Head

This part comes in many shapes and sizes, yet all serve the same essential purpose. It gets used in the control of water flow. The handle is simply lifted to start the flow through the valve or pulled up. When the lever gets lifted, water flows up the pipe and out of the hydrant. Water drains back down the tube and into the ground underneath the frost line when the lever gets lowered.

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 hook up to others, and some hydrants will have just a smooth outlet. So again, this is something to look out for when selecting a hydrant.

The last thing that you will find on all hydrant heads is making 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.

The Vertical Pipe

The vertical pipe coming up out of the ground and the last piece that makes up the “head” of the hydrant should stand empty when the water gets turned off. This standpipe gets often made of galvanized steel, brass, or stainless steel. The material to be used is determined by how corrosive your water or soil is.

Valve Assembly

There are two basic styles of valves, o-rings, and plungers. The hydrant brands that use an o-ring style setup tend to have 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 it. This style generally gets equipped with a steel rod that goes down and attaches to the plunger. Over time these rods can fail due to corrosion.

Uses of Yard Hydrants

Yard Hydrants get typically used for irrigation on home lawns and gardens, farms for plants or watering livestock, filling field spray equipment, cleaning tools, and equipment.

They are most popular on big farms since water gets needed throughout the year. With a yard hydrant, you can effectively get water to various places no matter the temperature outside. Thus, saving the need to lug water from one end of the farm to another for animals and plants to get water.

They can also get used in campgrounds, rural areas, car washes, factories, and recreational areas like parks.

How Do You Install a Yard Hydrant

Installing a hydrant in your yard is a great way to add a handy water source where you need it.

The beauty of a frost-proof water hydrant is that it drains itself every time you shut off the water, preventing water from freezing inside the faucet in winter.

The drain valve at the bottom of the hydrant’s standpipe must be buried to ensure the frost-proof function works, below the frost line, the depth to which the ground freezes in winter.

It varies by climate, so check with your local building department for the recommended depth in your area. 

Tools Needed.

  • stake
  • trencher
  • sleeve pip

Materials needed.

  • gravel
  • concrete mix
  • PVC pipes and fittings

The installation process

  1. Mark and Dig the Trench

To mark the trench guideline, the proper color to use is white paint. Start at stake for the hydrant and move in a slow, even fashion toward the wall of the source. 

Make the line as visual as possible, ending about 6″ to 8″ before the edge of the water source. First, turn the trencher on at the ignition; then grab the rope cord by the handle and crank it just like you would a lawnmower until the engine starts. Next, lower the digging arm, release the brake and begin digging the trench.

  1. Measure the Depth of the Trench

Gently work the throttle and allow the trencher to self-propel as you follow the white guideline to dig the trench. It’s a good idea at random points to stop searching and measure the depth of the canal. Here the desired depth is about 21″. 

Continue digging the trench from the opposite end, working your way toward the middle, where the two separate grooves will meet. Finally, use a shovel to complete the canal. Do it to the base of the hydrant location and the foundation of the building with the water source.

  1. Connect the Water Line

It is time to put the water line from the outside to the inside to be connected. Whenever you are going through concrete or cinder block, it gets recommended to put on a sleeve pipe (a sleeve pipe is simply a larger pipe through which you can slide a smaller line).

  1. Drill Through the Brick

Position the bit of the rotary hammer on the brick and begin drilling; do not twist or rim out the bit. Instead, maintain a steady pressure, pushing the bit into the wall until it punches through to the inside.

  1. Connect the PVC Pipe to the Galvanized Pipe

The first length of the PVC pipe is ready to be pushed through the foundation into the hole. The goal is to get the pipe connected to the galvanized pipe in the house. The first step is to turn off the water and drain the place; then join the PVC to the copper pipe with a ball valve; there will be two male adaptors on either end of a threaded ball valve. Shut off the valve when this gets finished, so the rest of the house has water.

  1. Run the Water Line to the Hydrant

Now that the stub pipe has come through the foundation, it is time to run the water line to the yard hydrant. You can do it piece by piece. The connections made in the hole but are running the line outside the spot get recommended. Do all the links in the open, where it is easy to work and place the pipe in the hole.

  1. Connect the Sections of PVC Pipe

Working beside the trench, first apply the purple PVC primer to a coupling and the adjoining ends of two sections of PVC pipe. Next, rub PVC cement on the coupling and one-quarter of the pipe and connect the two. Do the same for the other section of the line, then slide it into the collar, completing the connection of the two tubes.

Repeat the prepping steps for the pipe exiting the house and the completed line, then connect the two.

  1. Slide the Line into the Trench

Give all the joints a few minutes to dry, then slide the entire line into the open trench. Wrap Teflon tape around the threads of a PVC male adaptor and attach it to the female end of the hydrant.

Next, apply PVC primer and cement to a 90-degree elbow and the unattached section of PVC pipe. Slide the elbow onto the pipe. Make sure the tube is even with the base of the hydrant, grab the other area of the line, cross the two and cut the overlap with a PVC saw. Prime and cement the two ends of the pipe. Along with a coupling, slide the assembly together. Place it in the trench. For the hydrant to drain correctly, dump a bag of gravel into the open pit.

Before mounting the hydrant, rub a generous amount of primer and cement on the exposed elbow and the male adaptor; then attach the hydrant. Lastly, fill in the pit with the dirt removed from the trench.

For additional support, pour a bag of concrete over the top and add water to the mix.

  1. Turn on the Water, and Fill in the Trench

The last step is to turn on the water at the main supply. Once the water is on, and all the joints look good, backfill around the hydrant and the entire trench. Next, begin filling in the canal at the base of the hydrant. Work in a slow, even fashion to the opposite end of the channel.

How To Fix A Leaking Yard Hydrant By Yourself

There are a few models out there. So search on the side of the head of the hydrant. It should say who the manufacturer is. There are some universal rebuild kits out there. Go for the color of the head of the hydrant.

Shut the water supply off going to the hydrant or isolate it from the water supply. Next, open the handle on the hydrant and bleed off the pressure.

You can grab a pipe wrench and adjust it to fit the head of the hydrant and turn the hydrant head and remove it. If you have a stubborn one, you can use two pipe wrenches on the hydrant head and one on the standpipe.

Work them against each other to give you some more force. If that does not work, you can use a torch to heat the hydrant head. Hopefully, that will allow you to loosen it and remove it.

Once loose, turn it by hand and remove the hydrant head by wiggling it. Slide it upwards. Once the head of the hydrant gets pulled out, look at the bottom. You will see the rubber and the end of the plunger.

It is what seals to stop the flow of water. They get a rip or tear in them, or they get hard. That is what causes a leak.

Next, we can grab a small pair of vise grip pliers and snap them onto the brass piece next to the rubber as the rubber is attached to the brass piece. Then we can turn the vise grips one way and turn the hydrant head the other way.

Finally, you outside should be able to remove the brass and rubber from the plunger.

Once the old one gets removed, you can grab a wire brush. Brush the threads and apply some anti-seize. With anti-seize on the threads, you can un-package the new rubber. Thread it onto the plunger. Once it is hand tight, grab a vise grip plier and snug it up.

With the rubber installed on the end of the plunger, grab the wire brush. Brush the threads on the top of the standpipe. Once the threads are clean, apply some soft set thread sealant.

With sealant on the threads, make sure the handle on the hydrant is wide open. Then, start to thread it back onto the standpipe. When the hydrant head is hand tight, use a pipe wrench and snug it up.

Next, we can remove the square set screw under the handle. It is what adjusts the lever position. With the screws removed, grab a11mm wrench and channel lock pliers. Remove the nut and then the bolt out of the top of the hydrant handle.

With that removed, lower the handle and brass parts that go on the side. Once those are out of the way, slide the brass piece off. that had the square set screw in it. With that removed, grab the channel lock pliers and loosen, removing the packing nut.

With the packing nut removed, grab a pick or a flat screwdriver. Remove the two o-rings down inside. Once removed, hold the two o-rings in the rebuild kit. Slide them both onto the plunger rod and down into where the old o-rings were. Once in place, slide the packing nut back into position and start it by hand. Next, give it a ¼ turn or so more to snug it up.

Next, slide the brass piece on that had the square set screw in it. Grab the two side brass pieces for the handle. Reinstall the handle into the brass pieces and slide it upward into the top of the hydrant. Grab the new 11mm bolt and slide it through the hydrant head and handle. Start the 11mm lock nut on the other side. Next, take the 11mm wrench and channel lock pliers and snug it down. Don’t tighten it too much as it will pinch the handle making it hard to move.

Next, lift the handle and start the new set screw into the brass piece. Move the hydrant handle to about 30 degrees off our standpipe and tighten that square set screw. Turn the valve that supplies water to the hydrant and test it. If it does not shut off entirely or fully open, you can shut the water off and re-adjust that set screw. Suppose it does not wholly shut off and turn the water off going to the hydrant. Drain it off, then close the hydrant handle. Tighten the set screw and re-test it.

It will have it working perfectly. When you open it, there is full pressure. When shut, there are no drips or leaks. There should be no leaks after attaching a hose, packing nut, and the hydrant head threads onto the standpipe.