Protect Your Water Tanks From Freezing: Know The Dangers And How To Manage Sub-Freezing Conditions

Posted on: 17 February 2015

If your facility utilizes steel tanks to store filtered water, then you should recognize the dangers posed by freezing temperatures. Unfiltered water can freeze, of course, but filtered water actually makes the problem more acute by removing impurities that can inhibit freezing. Below is more information on the damage that can be done by frozen water tanks and how to prevent them from freezing in the first place:

How frozen water can damage your tanks

Water freezing inside of steel tanks can create a variety of problems ranging from minor to serious:

  • Impeded flow – the volume and pressure of water flow will be reduced if ice forms inside tanks. This can create downstream problems for your operations if you aren't able to compensate by other means.

  • Burst interior piping – just as the pipes in your home can burst in freezing weather, the internal pipes inside tanks can also burst open if they freeze. This can lead to a complete shutdown of your tank until internal repairs are made, and water contamination becomes a possible problem, as well.

  • Popped seams – welds and rivets can separate when placed under extreme pressures caused by expanding ice. Separations may not even be noticed at the time, but as soon as normal operations are restored, the problem may manifest itself by causing leaks.

  • Structural failure – the most serious and dangerous consequence of freezing within water tanks is the possibility of complete structural failure and collapse. If ice forms on the outside of the tank, it can cause the tank's weight load to shift outside permissible limits or create too much of a burden on the superstructure. This may lead to a sudden collapse which can cause significant property damage or injuries.

How to manage a potential freezing situation

When freezing weather strikes, it will take vigilance, hard work and sometimes outside expertise to manage the process successfully. Here are some strategies that can help during and after the freeze:

Water circulation

One of the most basic, yet vital, things you can do to prevent your water tanks from freezing is keeping water circulation consistent. Circulating water is much less likely to freeze, and artificially imposing extra circulation on the system will help prevent ice from forming. This may involve running pumps that fill or drain the tank at times other than when necessary. In addition, be sure to take that into consideration the need to dispose of excess water for the sake of maintaining circulation. Of course, with a product such as filtered water, this may increase your expenses, so consider the financial ramifications as well.

Auxiliary water heating

Another method of preventing water freeze-up inside tanks is to provide a source of auxiliary heat to the water. Generally-speaking, the simplest way to handle this is to heat the exterior of inflowing pipes; you can utilize propane-powered exterior heaters that are kept shrouded around pipes, or electrical heating cables can be wrapped around pipes. Be sure to exercise due caution when applying heat to components, so you don't cause damage to your systems.

Monitor automatic valves

Water tanks that are filled under the control of automatic valves are susceptible to malfunction during periods of freezing weather. These valves can stick in the open position, and this can lead to accidental overflows and ice accumulation as a result. Consider transitioning valves to manual control whenever possible, and maintain a regular schedule of monitoring them for problems.

Inspect the tank

Once temperatures climb back above freezing levels, it is important to conduct a thorough inspection of your tank, its valves, pipes, and related control systems. Hidden damage can occur without your direct awareness, and it should be dealt with promptly to correct problems that may soon arise. Most importantly, if you find damage to the structural components of your tank, be sure to consult a qualified engineer to determine if it is safe for continued operation.

If your filtered water tanks have already been damaged from freezing, then you can purchase new ones at a company like PFC Equipment, Inc.