Choosing the Right Garden Hose

What to look for and how to select the perfect garden hose for your needs

For many homeowners, buying a garden hose is something they do almost on autopilot - find a sale, pick one that's long enough, and looks and feels the best. It probably has something along the lines of "kink-free" on the packaging. Go home, and a few weeks later you're muttering to yourself about kinks as you roll the hose up. A few months later, there's a leak somewhere. When the duct tape repairs finally fail, it's time to buy another hose. The whole process can quickly become an annual springtime nightmare, but your friends at PlumbingSupply.com® are here to help put you on a more rewarding path. Knowing what hoses are made of, what their specifications mean, and how to store them will help you find a long-lasting hose that's perfect for your needs.


Selecting a New Hose

Construction

Spool of polyurethane hoseMost of the hoses we offer are made of polyurethane

Hoses are generally constructed of either PVC (vinyl), rubber, or polyurethane. Of these, vinyl is the least expensive, the least heavy, and has the shortest lifespan. It's best suited for light watering tasks in mild climates, but even in those conditions has a higher risk of kinking and damage. To combat these deficiencies, multiple layers are often used. The number of "plies" used is a rough indicator of durability: a 5-ply hose will be thicker and stronger than a 2-ply one. Keep in mind, however, that vinyl is usually near the bottom rung of quality, and an 8-ply vinyl hose may not necessarily outperform a 4-ply rubber or polyurethane hose. Some hoses use a combination of vinyl and rubber layers: these hoses are stronger, but still tend towards the lower end of quality and longevity.

In the past, rubber was widely considered to be the best material for hose construction. It is faily flexible which minimizes the potential for kinking and damage. Heavy duty / commerical grade models are tough and durable as well, and should hold up in a variety of climates, circumstances, and water pressure. However, they can be on the heavy side and hard to drag through your yard or garden. Rubber hoses don't leach dangerous chemicals which make some rated safe to drink from. Some are also rated for hot water which is great for draining water heaters.

Polyurethane shares some of the beneficial properties of both vinyl and rubber, yielding hoses that are free of toxic chemicals, very strong, flexible, and light. As with rubber, these hoses do not leach and can be rated to carry hot water. BPA and phthalate free, many polyurethane hoses are considered drinking water safe, depending on the lead content found in their connections. They are just as strong as heavy duty rubber hoses (if not stronger), weigh less, and are virtually kink free, which is why we believe they are the best all around hose you can buy. Many of our employees have owned them for years and still believe they are worth the extra cost because they don't need to be replaced every couple of years.

Whatever material you choose, one point of concern is the "burst pressure" of the hose: the maximum water pressure the hose can take. This is different across materials and designs, and usually ranges between 200-500 psi. Be sure to select a hose with a burst pressure at least 4x that of your usual water pressure, to safeguard against any extreme fluctuations in your water supply.

Connections

Example of good garden hose connectionA good brass connection with a collar will help extend hose life

What about the connections on the hose? For home users, there are two basic types of connection: the standard Garden Hose Thread (GHT, MHT/FHT) and quick connectors. There are likewise two main materials used in these connections: brass and plastic. While plastic connections are generally easier to tighten, they break easily and will probably not last as long as brass. Plastic connections can come in different designs and sizes, however, and may prove beneficial for those who have difficulty with brass connections, which are heavier and can be difficult to tighten. Should you purchase a hose with plastic connections, just keep their relative frailty in mind.

With brass connections, there are two types: formed/stamped brass, and cast brass. The former are thinner - and cheaper - than cast brass, making them easier to damage, but still more rugged than their plastic counterparts. Cast brass connections are thicker and more heavy-duty, and often have a hex or octagonal nut for wrench-tightening. For your best chance at avoiding leaks from a damaged connection, go for cast brass connections.

Quick connectors are a somewhat recent addition to the garden hose world, but have become increasingly popular thanks to their ease of use and improved build quality. By adding a special connector to the hose's existing connection and to whatever attachment is to be used (nozzle, sprinkler, power washer, etc.), you can quickly and easily swap out attachments without the tedium (and possible discomfort) of twisting off and tightening. Beyond being a convenient and time-saving option for anyone, quick connectors can also be of great benefit to those who have difficulty adding and removing hose attachments.

Whichever connection and hose type you end up choosing, try to find one with a collar at the spigot connection. Usually made of plastic, rubber, or coiled metal in higher end hoses, these help to prevent kinking and damage at that connection, which happens all too easily when pulling the hose to its maximum length.

Size

Longer hoses can be heavy and hard to maneuverDon't struggle with a heavy hose if you don't need the length!

And now we come upon the most obvious and seemingly straightforward choice to make when purchasing a new hose: its dimensions. Just get the longest one you could possibly need and you're set, right? While this sounds like it could almost make sense, it's not the route to take. The longer the hose, the heavier it is, making it more challenging to handle and store (especially for older folks and those with physical challenges). And that's not all: water pressure and volume are inversely proportional to hose length. The longer the hose, the lesser the pressure and quantity of water delivered. This is especially important to consider if you use attachments, as they require an appropriate volume of water delivered at decent pressure to function properly. If you only occasionally need a long hose, it's best to have two shorter lengths that you can join together when needed.

As for the diameter, most standard hoses' inside diameter measures 5/8", with 1/2" and 3/4" sizes also available. As you probably guessed, a smaller diameter means less water. 1/2" hoses are perfect for light hand-watering tasks where flow rate is not a large concern; the 5/8" size covers pretty much every home-based application, and can deliver nearly twice as many gallons per minute. 3/4" hoses are usually reserved for commercial applications, and can deliver nearly three times the amount of water that a 1/2" hose will.

Note: When connecting multiple hoses of different diameters, make sure that the largest hose is the one connected to the spigot, and the smallest is at the end of the line. This will help maintain water pressure at the terminal end.

Special Features

Drinking water safe hoses are great for kidsThirsty kids? Get a drinking water safe hose

Sometimes a regular old hose won't do: maybe you need hot water to flow through it, maybe you have kids that could use a safe and convenient drinking option while outside, or maybe you're concerned about watering your organic garden with a potentially toxic delivery system. Whatever the situation, we have a hose for you!

Our 5/8" hot water hose is rated to carry water up to 180°F, and has a burst pressure of 500 psi: an effective and safe (though non-potable) hot water option.

As mentioned above, rubber and polyurethane hoses can be approved for drinking water, as can some PVC hoses. Our Drinking Water Hose is made of UV stabilized, BPA and phthalate free PVC. In addition to being NSF certified, it complies with the 2014 Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and is made right here in the USA. Despite these attributes, it is always recommended that you at least flush out any standing water or debris from the hose before taking a sip.

Those who like to save space but are tired of rolling or winding up the hose may want to take a look at the coiled garden hose we offer. Available in lengths of 25, 50 and 75 feet, these 3/8" diameter hoses measure only 18", 39" and 59" respectively when "at rest" and are excellent for hand-watering plants or garden beds. Made in the USA of FDA grade polyurethane, they are drinking water safe and have high quality nickel/chrome plated brass connections. Their unique design reduces tangles and kinks, and they come in your choice of four attractive colors.

If you do need a longer, tougher hose for home or light commercial use, we recommend the Water Flexeel - it is the best all-purpose garden hose we've come across. Although it is a generous 75', it weighs only 9 lbs, making it easier to maneuver and use than many hoses that length. The larger 5/8" inner diameter is ideal for more heavy duty applications, and may be the perfect choice for parks, campgrounds, apartment complexes, or anywhere you're hand-watering large areas.


Caring for Your New Hose

Store your hose properly for the best performanceStoring your hose properly will extend its life

No matter what kind of hose you decide on, there are a few simple things you can do to help guarantee it's always working at its best, and won't fall apart prematurely.

It's important to always drain the hose after you use it: not only can mold or bacteria develop in stagnant water inside the hose, the extra weight can damage it and/or any storage device being used. During the summer, water left to heat inside the hose can put stress on the interior that could lead to damage and chemical leaching.

Store hoses indoors whenever possible: the sun will take its toll, and UV rays can weaken and eventually break down even the best hoses. Always keep them rolled up or stored on a reel to prevent bending, kinking, and other damage. Need something attractive to match your garden's decor? You'll be hard-pressed to find a more elegant selection of decorative hose holders than ours. And by keeping an eye on the condition of the washers in your connections, you'll avoid wasteful, annoying leaks.


So there you have it. While you may now have a bit more to think about the next time you purchase a hose, we believe it's all for the best. Why waste time and money continually buying new, cheap hoses that in the end only serve to frustrate? Invest in quality and durability, and you won't be disappointed.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. "Does the color of the hose matter?"
A. Not really. Some manufacturers will make different colored hoses to signify different features of the hose - for example, the hot water hoses we offer are red to indicate that the water running through them may be hot - but generally the color is simply a matter of personal preference. Many garden hoses are green, which may be useful for "hiding" the hose in the grass, but can easily be overlooked and run over with lawn mowers. Additionally, the idea that a lighter colored hose will help keep the water inside the hose from getting hot when lying in the sun is largely a myth as water will heat up in ANY hose if left lying in direct sunlight for too long.



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