DEF Freezing and DEF in Cold Weather
The Polar Vortex is sliding down over the country. Have you taken precautions to prevent DEF freezing in the increasingly cold temperatures swiftly approaching? We have tips and guidelines to help you with DEF in cold weather.
Understanding DEF and SCR
Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is a non-hazardous solution, which is 32.5% urea and 67.5% deionized water. DEF is sprayed into the exhaust stream of diesel vehicles to break down dangerous NOx emissions into harmless nitrogen and water. NOx is an element in exhaust that has been blamed for acid rain, smog and raising the overall greenhouse gas levels of the planet. DEF is not a fuel additive and never comes into contact with diesel. It is stored in a separate tank, typically with a blue filler cap. This system is called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). SCR and DEF have been used for decades in other commercial and agricultural applications.
DEF should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. The ideal storage temperature for DEF is between 15ºF and 77ºF (-9ºC and 25ºC). It should not be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time as the urea will decompose. When possible, DEF packages and bulk storage should be kept indoors in temperature-controlled environments. Use the right container. DEF is mildly corrosive, and should be stored in containers of HDPE plastic or stainless steel.
Check the expiration. The storage life of DEF varies. The urea is vulnerable to degradation from sunlight and higher temperatures. In favorable storage conditions (proper container, away from direct sunlight, temperatures between 15 and 77°F), DEF can maintain its qualities for about 12 months.
Be Good to DEF
Handle it like fuel. Per EPA guidelines, vehicles using DEF must include sensors to continually analyze the quality of the DEF being consumed. These sensors will trigger a fault code whenever an imbalance is detected. Most commonly, this results from a higher percentage of water as a result of foreign matter, condensation or rainwater in the DEF storage container or during transfer. The quality and integrity of DEF must be maintained for proper machine operation. It must be protected against evaporation and temperature extremes, and kept free of contaminants.
When Does DEF Freeze?
DEF, because of the urea, doesn’t have the freezing point of water. The urea mixture has a much lower freezing point of 12°F/-11°C. This solution doesn’t break into just urea and just water, either. The solution freezes at the same rate, and also thaws at the same rate. This means that at no point does the DEF freezing cause the solution to become over concentrated or diluted. DEF will begin to slush and then freeze. There is no harm to the product which means that the urea solution is still safe to use if it has been frozen.
DEF Freezing and Expansion
Though it is safe to use again once thawed, expansion from freezing could cause problems. Since DEF is a mixture of deionized water and urea, it reacts somewhat like water in that it does expand when frozen. DEF freezing usually causes about a 7% expansion. It is important to note that DEF freezing is usually taken into account when creating the packaging and tanks that are supposed to hold DEF. DEF packaging and tanks allow for expansion. However, one must be aware of the expansion of DEF when filling. When storing equipment overnight or longer in temperatures that could result in DEF freezing, it is important to make sure the DEF tank on the equipment is not completely full or that it has an appropriate heat source. This will allow for expansion and help prevent cracking of the storage reservoir.
How to Prevent DEF Freezing?
DEF freezing was taken into account by the OEMs prior to creating the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems. Therefore, the SCR systems are designed to provide heating for the DEF tank and supply lines; however, if the vehicle is shut down and exposed to freezing temperatures, then it is likely that the DEF will freeze. Diesel owners do not need to worry about DEF interfering with their vehicle, however. If DEF freezes when the vehicle is shutdown, startup and normal operation of the vehicle will not be inhibited. In most cases, the SCR heating system will quickly thaw the DEF in order to return it to liquid form and resume normal operation.
Can Anything Be Added to Prevent DEF Freezing?
Many want to know if anti-gelling or freeze-point-improver can be added to the DEF mixture to prevent freezing. DO NOT put additives into the urea solution because DEF must remain pure. The quality of DEF is extremely important for proper performance. Adding any additives would damage its ability to perform correctly and could even result in damages to the SCR system. No additives are approved for DEF at this time.
DEF Tote Heaters from Powerblanket®
Powerblanket has a solution for DEF freeze prevention: Powerblanket DEF Tote Heaters maintain optimal heating conditions for temperature sensitive materials. Powerblanket DEF Tote Heaters are temperature specific for the Diesel Exhaust Fluid to protect from freezing and maintain optimal temperatures.
- Distribute heat evenly around the tote
- Fully enclose and heat the tote and pump housing unit
- Designed to be durable and weather resistant
- Easy access to fill with a removable top
- Simple plug and play operation, temperature is automatically regulated
- Safely heat and protect a wide variety of chemicals and materials
- 330 and 275 gallon versions feature an easy to access flap to the pump
- Heated wraps for customized DEF bulk storage tanks available upon request
- Include a frame to easily enclose and heat pump and hose
“Upon the implementation of using our new DEF system to stay compliant with EPA regulations, Powerblanket provided an effective and energy efficient freeze protection system with its DEF Tote Heater System. We installed the unit and forgot about it, knowing our product is being protected, which gives us peace of mind.”
— Jerri Brumfield
“DEF Freezing”. Victory Blue. 7 December 2016. govictoryblue.com/2013/10/23/def-freezing/
Discover DEF. 8 December 2016. www.discoverdef.com/def-overview/faq/#def