What Is The Effect Of Cold Temperatures On Whole House Water Filtration Systems?

by admin on March 20, 2014

Snow in the SpringtimeThe city of Zumbrota will NOT be responsible for water services that freeze after February 26th.

In order to prevent service freeze-up, every Zumbrota water customer is urged to take the temperature of their water and continue monitoring it for the next TWO MONTHS.

If your water temperature gets below 40 degrees, you should immediately start running a continuous pencil-width stream of water from a faucet.

Officially, spring starts today.  But in our home city and state of Zumbrota, MN, winter seems intent on making its last stand as snow, sleet and freezing rain dots our forecast.

As if the nasty forecast isn’t enough, residents in our city also received the following letter from the city of Zumbrota, excerpted above, warning residents of the risk of pipes bursting.  It also let us know that we, the homeowners, are responsible for any bursting.

Those that have lived through a burst pipe will heed this warning closely.  A burst pipe can all but destroy a portion of your home while costing upwards of thousands of dollars to repair.  So like any other good resident, I followed this advice when I found my water was below the temperature threshold.

But, wouldn’t you know it? My water pressure seemed to completely disappear.  As I run my water through a whole house filtration system, I started to wonder, “what effect does the cold, and the cold weather survival tips we’re asked to adhere to, have on filtration systems?”

Is The Question Unanswerable?
Since testing the temperature of the water in our home and seeing that it fell below the temperature guidelines put forth by our city, we’ve been running the tap constantly and our water pressure has dropped by half.

Pentek Big Blue 10 Inch Filter Housing

Big Blue Filter Housing, Similar To The One Described In This Post

At first, I thought maybe it was due to so many people in town running their water all the time. What we found out through trial and error, though, was that when we bypassed the filtration units in our home (we have two Big Blue housings with a sediment and carbon filter), our water pressure was normal again.

Strangely, after working within this industry for the last several years and even getting certified by the Water Quality Association, this is the first time I’ve seen such an issue come up.  And if it’s happening to me, it’s certainly happening to some of our customers.  So, I started doing a little research.

I looked into the water temperature guidelines for our filtration system and saw an indication that water below 40 degrees should not be run through the system.  As noted above, our water is colder than that.  I also found the following article, published by Axeon, stating that if feedwater temperatures in reverse osmosis systems drop below 50 degrees, a 50% drop in production is likely.

Initially, these two points seem to support the notion that cold water can lead to flow problems in whole house systems if they are reverse osmosis systems.  But for me, and for the customers I speak to daily, it’s still not quite enough.

Reaching Out For The Official Word:
Below, see a conversation string between myself and one of our biggest suppliers.  My purpose in reaching out was to get a definitive answer to my question, once and for all.  [Please note that I have left our supplier anonymous, pending permission to use his name.  Once granted, I will update this post with his name and title]

JoAnne Cluth:
The city I live in is recommending that all residents track the temperature of water in their homes. If our water temperature is below 40 degrees, we are being told to run the tap 24 hours a day. If we don’t and there are issues with the water lines outside our homes freezing up or cracking, the city will not be held responsible.

So, we have been measuring the temperature of our water and running the tap constantly. However, our water pressure dropped by half.  So, I started doing a little research today.

The low temperature rating on the whole house filtration system and water filters I am using is 40 degrees and our water is colder than that. So, what effect does cold water have on whole house filtration systems?

I did find one article that talks about the effects on RO systems, but not on non-RO.

Can you tell me or lead me to other articles or information that will address how feedwater temperatures below 40 degrees will affect water pressure in a non-RO whole house filtration system?

We would like to be able to address this issue with customers who call in with questions regarding water pressure issues in colder weather climates.

Tier1 5 Stage Reverse Osmosis System

Reverse Osmosis Systems, Like This Model From Tier1, Will Be Affected By Colder Temperatures

My experience and the research I’ve just completed has produced no explanation for the phenomenon you described.

One of our engineers suggested that you remove the water filter cartridges and run the system without them to see if the flow is normal.

I checked with the utility to see if they experience lower flows from cold water, but they said there is no evidence to confirm that water temperature has an effect on the water flow through a water filtration system.

Now, the contact above is one of our top suppliers and one of my go-to sources for information.  If he is telling me there is no evidence to suggest that cold temperatures impact water flow through a filtration system, I can assure you, he’s done his research.

That said, this did leave me with two additional questions: Why does flow slow down in reverse osmosis systems with colder temperatures and why do filtration systems give a 40 degree rating?

Once again, I received a great response back:

The reason for the 40°F temperature minimum is that plastics such as polypropylene, commonly used in filtration housings, become more brittle at temperatures near freezing. To prevent catastrophic failure of the housing, we recommend that the temperature be kept above 40°F. 

Reverse osmosis membrane technology, on the other hand, is affected by water temperature. The membrane is affected by temperature in that it changes the rate that water is able to pass through the membrane layer.

Spring Is Here

Believe It Or Not, Spring IS Here!

To Be Continued…
From the research I conducted, which included reaching out to a trusted source within the industry, cold water resulting from cold weather should not affect water flow in a non-RO whole house system.  However, this doesn’t let cold water off the hook as it can cause catastrophic damage to filtration housings, especially those built from polypropylene.

A reverse osmosis filtration system, on the other hand, will see its water flow impacted by cold water.

So why did my whole house filtration system experience such low flow rates? Sometimes, life is about accepting the unknown.

I’ll continue to seek the answer to my question and leave it now to those reading this post.  Have you ever experienced low water flow from a whole house system during cold weather seasons?  If so, share more about your experience via a comment below.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dean March 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm

This is something that I have recently learnt as well. I did not know that the temperature of the water could cause any problems with water filtration devices, but with reverse osmosis systems, the colder the water, the more viscus, or thicker it becomes, and can reduce the production by 50%. Which was quite interesting, as I did not even consider that, but makes sense when you think about it.


Brian Colinsworth October 29, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Good to know this cold winter weather won’t affect my new water filtration system!


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