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How to Protect Your Water Filter System from Freezing

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A home filtration system is a great investment for getting the best drinking water you can at home, and protecting you and your family against waterborne contaminants. Depending on where you live, however, you may face some limitations on where you can install a system, in order to keep it safe from the elements. Exposure to extreme heat or cold is one of the fastest ways to destroy a new water filter, so today we will cover some of the routine maintenance to carry out on your filter system, and some of the things to avoid subjecting it to in the first place. Cold temperatures pose perhaps the biggest risk to any system that involves water, as water expands when it freezes. Following these tips will help to protect your investment from freezing damage, and protect your home from costly water damage.

How to Protect Your Water Filter System from Freezing

Overview of the risks of frozen water filter systems

If a water filtration system freezes, the results are predictable. The water inside your system will expand, and almost invariably cause system damage to the filter housing, and its constituent filter components. Different filters work in a variety of different ways, but being frozen and then thawed out will be detrimental to all of them. Sediment filters rely on their labyrinthine internal structure to trap physical particulates as water flows through the polypropylene or polyester media. This delicate matrix will be badly damaged by the formation of ice crystals, which will tear through the pathways needed to obstruct the flow of sediment.

Carbon filters work through chemical adsorption, and also relies on its huge surface area to attract contaminants. Ice formation will similarly damage the carbon matrix, opening large channels through the carbon, which future water will channel along, rather than flowing evenly through the carbon. Membrane-style filters such as reverse osmosis elements are very sensitive, and freezing will devastate the fine, porous surface, turning it from a viable filtration media to an expensive piece of cylindrical plastic.

How water filter systems can freeze

The most obvious culprit behind freezing water systems is outdoor installation. In most parts of the United States, installing any sort of filtration system outside is ill-advised, as it will simply not be functional during the winter months, and will likely be harmed or even destroyed if operated during the winter. Customers who live in Southern California, Florida, or Southern Texas may be able to get away with outdoor installations just fine, but if you live in a region where the weather ever dips below freezing, then an outdoor installation is a ticking time bomb.

If you need filtered water for an outdoor setting, such as for a barn, utility shed, workshop, or something similar, then you have a couple of options: you can produce the water indoors, and then transport it to the site, or you can add a heating element to your shed or workshop, and then hook the filtration system up there, with the heat it needs to function through the cold months. You can see the range of water filtration systems available at All Filters, for example–all of these systems are designed for indoor operation only, and any outdoor installation would require professional guidance.

How to properly insulate water filter systems

If you are installing a water filtration system inside a home or other climate-controlled area, as is always advised, then no insulation should be necessary. As long as the ambient temperature of the room the filter is installed in never drops below around 40°F (4.5°C), then it should operate fine, regardless of any insulation. If you must install a unit outside for some reason, then insulating the unit may provide some protection against the elements, but you should consult with a professional plumber or installer to make sure that the system can handle the temperatures it will be exposed to.

Heating Solutions

If circumstances dictate the need to put a water filter system in a non-climate controlled area, then there are a few workarounds you might consider. Utilizing space heaters to create a pocket of warm air is an option, or simply renovating your space to include central heating or a radiator. If you are serious about water filtration on site, then you need to bring the environmental conditions to the location, rather than trying to do the impossible.

Environmental Control

If using an external heating supply is too difficult, you may need to consider setting up your filtration system elsewhere, and transporting the water to the place you intend to use it. Or, you can attempt to set up an artificially warm environment temporarily through the use of space heaters or insulation to run a temporary filtration job on site. Just make sure that you don’t leave any water filtration equipment out in the cold after you have finished, or the resultant ice formation will destroy your system.

System Maintenance

Wherever you end up installing your system, you won’t get the best performance out of it unless you regularly service and maintain the system and its filters. Routine maintenance includes keeping an eye on system pressure and flow rate, regularly changing the filters, and cleaning out the housings as need dictates. Most filtration systems need filters replaced every 3 months to a year, depending on the filter type, system configuration, target contaminants, and regional water quality. Sediment filters should be changed more frequently than carbon or membrane-style filters, generally speaking, but you should get to know your water and your system, and service your equipment as your use case demands.

Practical Tips for Extreme Weather Conditions

If you have installed your system in a safe, climate-controlled area, then hopefully rough weather won’t throw your water filtration plans for a loop. However, freak storms, heavy rainfall, flooding, or sudden temperature changes can still cause problems. Listen to your local news for any city advisories about flooding or city water back-ups, as water being pushed back through the dispersal system can foul up RO membranes or other filters. In such cases, you may want to temporarily disconnect your water filter, until conditions return to normal.

Special considerations for very low temperatures

If you live in an area where the temperature is routinely below freezing, then you may need to take special precautions. As long as the inside of your house stays above the freezing point, then your pipes and water fixtures (including water filtration systems) should be ok, but if the cold creeps into your living space, then you may need to speak with a local installer about basement or undersink heating options. Freezing water and water filters simply don’t mix, so if this is your situation, speak to an installer or heating expert before moving forward.

Emergency measures if the system starts to freeze

If, despite your best efforts, you find your system at risk of freezing, unhook the system immediately, drain all water, and store in a warm, dry place. Fix whatever problems caused the filter’s exposure to such low temperatures in the first place before attempting to re-install. Frozen water inside your system will not only damage the filters beyond repair, but can also crack the housing or break hoses, leading to costly water damage to your kitchen or basement.

Installing Water Filters in High-Risk Areas

When installing water filters in areas with a high risk of freezing temperatures, abnormal weather or meteorological conditions, or other environmental hazards, you need to recognize that you are taking a risk with your investment. Despite all of your efforts to watch and safeguard the system, if it is subjected to freezing temperatures for any significant period of time, the system will be destroyed, or at the very least, significantly damaged. Find another solution, rather than risking costly property damage.


Water filters are always a good investment, but like any investment, they require proper care and attention, and observance of a few basic rules. Don’t install your system somewhere that is routinely exposed to big temperature shifts or extreme weather conditions. Water filters are household items, not outdoor appliances, unless very special and specific precautions have been taken. If you absolutely need to set up a filtration system in cold conditions, speak to a water dealer or plumber to figure out the best path to success.

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