How to Keep Water Storage from Freezing Outside: Useful Tips

Being from Idaho, I learned that keeping water storage from freezing outside can be a daunting task, particularly in areas with low temperatures during the winter months. When the container freezes, it can damage it and make the stored water unusable, resulting in a scarcity of water supply. However, there are various effective methods to prevent water storage from freezing, such as insulation, heating, and draining.

In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, taking precautions to prevent water from freezing in storage tanks, cisterns, and pipes is critical to ensuring a steady supply of water throughout the winter months. Insulating your water storage container is a cost-effective way to prevent freezing, while adding a heat source such as a heater or a heat tape can help keep the water from freezing in extremely cold temperatures. In addition, draining the container can be an effective way to prevent freezing if it is not in use.

In this article, we will discuss these methods in detail and provide useful tips to help you keep your water storage safe and functional during the winter season. It is essential to choose the right prevention method based on your specific needs and circumstances. By taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure a continuous supply of water and avoid damage to your container.

To learn more about how much water storage you should have see our water storage calculator and then check out the best water storage container ideas to help make your water storage planning easy.

Understanding the Science behind Freezing Water

Before we dive into the different ways to keep your water storage from freezing, it is essential to understand the science behind freezing water. Water freezes at 32°F (0°C), and the lower the temperature, the faster it freezes. When water freezes, it expands, and this expansion can cause pipes and tanks to burst.

Insulating Water Storage Tanks

Keeping water storage containers from freezing during winter is essential to ensure that they remain intact and in good working condition. Proper insulation is key to preventing the water inside from freezing and causing damage to the container. In this section, we’ll talk about why insulation is so important and suggest some insulation products that are suitable for water storage containers.

Why is insulation important? Well, insulation helps to maintain a consistent temperature inside the container by preventing heat from escaping. When temperatures drop below freezing, water can expand and cause containers to crack or burst. Proper insulation also helps to prevent bacterial growth and other issues that can arise from fluctuating temperatures.

Types of Insulation Products

There are several different types of insulation products available that can be used to insulate water storage containers. Some of the most common types include:

Foam Insulation

Insulating water storage containers can be an important task to keep your water safe from freezing temperatures. Foam insulation is a commonly used product to insulate containers due to its ease of use and effectiveness in providing insulation. It can be sprayed or injected into the container, creating a barrier that prevents heat transfer and keeps your water at a consistent temperature. 

It is important to choose a foam insulation product that is specifically designed for use with water storage containers to avoid potential contamination from foam breakdown. Make sure to carefully read the product labels and choose a foam insulation that is safe for use with potable water to ensure that your water remains safe for drinking.

My favorite insulation for my water tanks (like our 55 gallon drums) is this roll of reflective waterproof foam.

Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass insulation is a decent option for insulating water storage containers. It comes in rolls or batts and can be cut to fit the shape of the container, making it a versatile choice. However, avoid exposing it to the weather which can reduce its effectiveness.

Fiberglass insulation is effective at preventing heat transfer and keeping your water at a consistent temperature. However, it can be a bit tricky to install and may require additional materials such as tape or staples to keep it in place. Be sure to read the installation instructions carefully and take your time to ensure proper installation, as any gaps or spaces can reduce the effectiveness of the insulation. 

With a little effort, fiberglass insulation can be a great way to protect your water from freezing temperatures.

Reflective Insulation

Reflective insulation is a relatively new option that utilizes a reflective material to bounce heat back into the water storage container. This type of insulation is highly effective at preventing heat transfer and maintaining a consistent temperature for your water. However, reflective insulation can be pricier than other types of insulation, and may require the assistance of a professional installer. 

It’s important to weigh the benefits against the costs to determine if reflective insulation is the right choice for your water storage needs. 

An effective option is a water heater insulation blanket. Here is a good one that you can buy on Amazon.

If you do decide to go with reflective insulation, make sure you use the proper installation method to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Heating Outside Water Storage Tanks

Adding heat sources to your water storage container is a crucial step in preventing water from freezing during the cold winter months. Here are two popular methods for adding heat to your container:

Using Tank Heaters

Tank heaters are a popular choice for keeping water storage containers warm. These heaters are designed to be placed directly in the water and can heat the water to a specific temperature. Tank heaters come in different sizes and shapes to fit a variety of container sizes and shapes. It’s important to choose a tank heater that is the right size for your container and has the appropriate power source (e.g. electric, propane, etc.) for your needs.

One highly recommended tank heater is the HiTauing Aquarium Heater (see above picture). This heater features rapid heating, two temperature control systems, intelligent water sensors and over-temperature protection, and an explosion-proof quartz glass design. It seems to work great and comes in 5 different sizes depending on the size of your water tank. Check the price of this heater on Amazon!

Using a Submersible Water Tank Heater

Using Floating Deicers

Floating deicers are another effective method for adding heat to your water storage container. These deicers float on the surface of the water and use electricity to prevent ice from forming. Floating deicers are typically less expensive than tank heaters and are easy to install.

One recommended floating deicer is the K&H Pet Products Thermo-Pond Floating De-Icer. This deicer is designed for small to medium-sized containers and is energy-efficient, using only 100 watts of power. It features a durable design and a thermostat that maintains a consistent water temperature.

When deciding between a tank heater and a floating deicer, consider the size and shape of your container, your budget, and your power source. Tank heaters are generally better suited for larger containers and require a power source, while floating deicers are more affordable and better suited for smaller containers. Additionally, some tank heaters may not be safe for use with plastic containers, so be sure to read the product instructions carefully before purchasing.

By using tank heaters or floating deicers, you can ensure that your water storage container stays warm and prevents water from freezing during the winter months. Choose the option that is best for your needs and budget, and enjoy peace of mind knowing that your water will be safe and accessible even in the coldest weather.

Burying Emergency Water Storage Underground

Burying emergency water storage underground is an effective way to keep water from freezing in extremely cold temperatures. This method involves digging a hole in the ground and placing the water storage container inside it, covering it with soil to insulate it from the surrounding air.

One of the benefits of burying water storage containers underground is that it provides a stable and consistent temperature, which can help prevent freezing. Additionally, burying the container helps to protect it from damage caused by weather or other external factors.

bury water storage tank underground to prevent the water from freezing

When burying a water storage container, it is important to choose a container that is specifically designed for underground use. These containers are typically made of durable materials that can withstand the pressure of the soil and the weight of the ground above.

It is also important to properly seal the container to prevent any contaminants from seeping into the water. This can be done by using a sealant around the lid or by choosing a container that comes with a secure locking mechanism.

One potential downside to burying water storage containers underground is that they can be difficult to access in an emergency situation. However, this can be mitigated by installing a system of pipes or hoses that allow the water to be easily retrieved without having to dig up the container.

Overall, burying emergency water storage underground is a viable option for those looking to keep their water from freezing in cold temperatures. It is important to choose a container designed for underground use, properly seal the container, and ensure that it is easily accessible in an emergency.

Keeping Water Moving to Prevent Freezing

When temperatures drop below freezing, water in your storage containers can freeze and become unusable. One way to prevent this is to keep the water moving.

Here are some methods to keep water moving:

  • Use a Pump: A pump can circulate the water in your container, preventing it from freezing. If you have a large container, you may need a more powerful pump.
  • Install a Faucet: Installing a faucet at the bottom of your container allows you to drain a small amount of water each day. This will keep the water moving and prevent it from freezing.
  • Add a Bubbler: A bubbler is a device that pumps air into the water, creating small bubbles that keep the water moving. This method is effective for smaller containers.

Personally, I have found that adding a bubbler to my smaller water storage containers has been the most effective method in preventing freezing as long as the outside temperature stays above single digits. Here is a good air pump option on Amazon that allows you to drop the bubbler and hose down into a smaller water tank.

By keeping your water moving, you can ensure that it remains usable during the winter months.

Protecting Water Storage from the Wind

Protecting your water storage containers from the wind is an important aspect of preventing freezing in cold weather. When exposed to strong winds, water containers can lose heat quickly, causing the water to freeze. Here are some tips for protecting your water storage containers from the wind:

Choose a sheltered location

Place your water containers in a location that is protected from the wind. Look for a spot that is shielded by a fence, a wall, or even natural barriers like trees or bushes. If you don’t have a sheltered location available, consider creating a windbreak by stacking hay bales or other materials around the containers.

Use tarps or covers

You can protect your water containers from the wind by covering them with tarps or other covers. Make sure the cover is securely fastened to prevent it from blowing away. You can also use insulating covers specifically designed for water containers to provide extra protection against the cold.

Consider wind deflectors

Installing wind deflectors around your water containers can also help prevent wind exposure. You can purchase pre-made wind deflectors or make your own using materials like PVC pipe or wood.

Secure your containers

Make sure your water containers are securely anchored or weighted down to prevent them from being blown over by strong winds. This will also help prevent any damage to the containers.

Personal Example

I have experienced the damaging effects of strong winds on water containers. I once had a container blow over and crack due to strong gusts of wind. Since then, I have made sure to anchor my containers and use covers or wind deflectors to protect them from the wind.

By following these tips, you can protect your water storage containers from the wind and prevent freezing in cold weather. Remember, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure your water supply remains safe and accessible in any weather conditions.

Adding Water Additives to Prevent Freezing

Another way to prevent water storage from freezing is to use water additives. These are products specifically designed to lower the freezing point of water and prevent it from turning into ice.

Some common water additives include:

  • Propylene Glycol: This is a non-toxic and food-grade product that is commonly used in the food industry. It is safe to use in potable water storage and can lower the freezing point of water by up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Calcium Chloride: This is a salt-like product that is often used as a de-icer on roads and sidewalks. It is safe to use in potable water storage, but it can be corrosive to metal containers. It can lower the freezing point of water by up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ethanol: This is a type of alcohol that can be added to water storage to prevent freezing. It is safe to use in potable water storage, but it can be expensive and is not as effective as other additives. It can lower the freezing point of water by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

When using water additives, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and use the appropriate amount for your container size and type. It is also important to regularly monitor the water quality to ensure that it remains safe for drinking.

It is worth noting that while water additives can be effective at preventing freezing, they can also alter the taste and odor of the water. If you plan to use the water for drinking or cooking, it may be necessary to treat it further or use a filtration system to remove any unwanted taste or odor.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

Q: How can you prevent water from freezing outdoors without using electricity?
A: There are several ways to keep water from freezing outdoors without electricity. One method is to use an insulated container or wrap the container in an insulating material. Another method is to place a floating object, such as a ball, in the water to prevent the surface from freezing. Adding salt or alcohol to the water can also lower the freezing point and prevent it from solidifying.

Q: Can a tennis ball prevent water from freezing?
A: A tennis ball can be used as a floating object to prevent water from freezing on the surface. However, it does not directly stop water from freezing.

Q: Does vinegar prevent water from freezing?
A: Vinegar does not prevent water from freezing. In fact, it has the opposite effect and can lower the freezing point of water, making it freeze at a lower temperature.

Q: Can you add salt to water to keep it from freezing?
A: Yes, salt can be added to water to lower the freezing point and prevent it from solidifying. However, adding too much salt can be harmful to plants and animals that rely on the water source.

Q: How much salt is needed to prevent water from freezing?
A: The amount of salt needed to prevent water from freezing depends on the temperature. A general rule of thumb is that one pound of salt per three gallons of water will lower the freezing point by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s important to use caution when adding salt to water, as too much salt can be harmful to the environment.

Colton Blair

I'm Colton Blair, co-owner of EZ-Prepping with my wife Kaycee. I value the safety, protection, and well-being of my family above all else. Finding easy and practical ways of prepping for emergencies or unexpected disaster has become very important to me.

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