Frost Proof Water Hydrants vary in quality and price, cheaper models may break down when the ground is frozen solid and can’t be replaced easily.
One thing for sure if you live in the Northern climates and depend on outside water hydrants to keep livestock and other outdoor water needs flowing, a broken or frozen hydrant in the middle of a January deep freeze is not going to be good.
Farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture producers need dependable water hydrants that won’t fail them throughout the seasons.
Like many products, those imported cheaply made products might look good in the store, especially with a low price, but what price do you pay when they fail?
People who depend on a 365 day outside water supply, have depended on American made water hydrants from Merrill manufacturing since 1949.
The parts that you can’t see on the inside is what sets them apart from other cheaply made copies.
For example a stainless operating rod is used inside to operate the foot valve. Others use thinner steel or soft brass rods that either rust out or simply wear out.
Higher quality rubber seals and gaskets are used on the inside to extend the operating life. The top is made to remove and not twist off the inside so that the hydrant can have the valve seal replaced from the top without digging the hydrant up.
When the cheaper models fail they are sometimes difficult to repair and often end up needing to be dug up and replaced. This can be a real problem if you are at -10+° or have poured concrete around the hydrant.
The metal used is thicker and the lever mechanism is made to operated more easily even with gloves.
Cheaper models become difficult to turn on, a challenge for younger kids doing the chores or for some females as they tend to their livestock or horses.
You are likely to find more Merrill hydrants being used in commercial parks and RV parks than any other hydrant on the market, which speaks volumes of the product they make.
Merrill does make plain label hydrants for other companies, meaning the color might be blue or green at the top instead of red, but the distinctive “D” shape handle will tell you it’s a Merrill.
Another American Made Hydrant is not as well known or as popular as the Merrill hydrants but quality wise it also can’t be beat.
The use of stainless in the operating lever system connected to a stainless steel rod inside, makes the 401 Frostless Hydrant a perfect fit for commercial grade applications.
It was designed by an Amish plumber who was frustrated by the failure rates of other water hydrants.
Being that the Amish children and women are so much a part of the chores and workings of the Amish farms, and tending to their horses, he developed and easy to use lever system.
The 401 Frostless Hydrant can also be upgraded to an all stainless heavy walled outside pipe in place of the traditional galvanized pipe.
The cast head is also powder coated to protect it from exposure.
This is an important feature for those who live along coastal areas or for marine applications where salt water spray creates so much havoc on outside metal parts.
These stainless fitted hydrants are also very well suited for commercial and industrial, applications as well as municipalities where chemical and other corrosive exposure will not allow the standard galvanized pipe to be used.
The 401 Frostless Hydrant is Amish made and not distributed out to the general public mainstream, but it can be purchased on line at Cottage Craft Works .com an online store that specializes in bringing quality made back to basics Amish products to the general market place.
Cottage Craft Works also sells the Merrill hydrants as well as other American made quality products used in the Amish communities.
Hydrants are sold as 2’, 3’, or 4’ bury. Other depths can be custom ordered. These bury depths are designed for geographic areas historical frost depths.
While the 2’ will work in the extreme southern states, the 3’ bury is often used throughout the Midwest and the 4’ bury is used in more of the Northerly states. A 4’ bury and even a 6’ bury may be required for extreme northern climates.
There’s really no magical line that the hydrant has to be buried to a certain level in order to function. The industry standard provides for 3’ above ground working height and the bury part below ground.
Hydrants can be buried deeper with less above ground or shallower to allow more above ground to reach over a fence or etc.
The deciding factor is that the foot valve must be buried deep enough in your zone to ever prevent it from freezing.
The foot valve must also be buried in gravel and or in a gravel to allow the water to drain back down and out a weep hole on the side of the foot valve. If adequate drainage is not available such in hard clay soils the water may not drain down quick enough to prevent freezing in the pipe above the frost line.
Consideration will also need to be given to how often the hydrant will be used in freezing temperatures.
Hydrants used only once per day compared to multiple times during the day may need less of a drain field around the foot valve, such as the size of a 5 gallon bucket. A larger drain field may be needed if the valve will be used more frequently.
Some drain tile covered in gravel back from the hydrant in the same ditch as the water supply line is one way to extend the drain field.
Back flow water should never be allowed to re-enter a well, cistern or other drinking water source.
You can do your own test before installing the hydrant and filling a similar length of ¾ pipe with water to pour that amount into the bottom of the hole to see how quickly it absorbs.
Hoses or shut off valves should never be left on the hose bib in freezing temperatures. Doing so creates the loss of air flow for the water to naturally drain back down when the foot valve is shut off.
During a heavy freeze a pipe filled with water can easily split down the side, or crack the top of the valve assembly.
The price point for the Merrill hydrants will run approximately $75 more than the cheaper hydrants carried in most chain stores.
The Amish 401 hydrant will run approximately another $75, ($100 for all stainless) It will also need to be shipped, with reasonable over sized charges for even the 3’ size. Sizes 4’ and up have to be truck freighted and can get expensive. A 4’ bury with 3’ plus the head above the ground makes an almost 8’ long package parcel that won’t ship UPS.
Considering the potential for failure in the cheaper models, especially with what might be at stake, any additional amount is probably well worth the extra investment.