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Does Cold Weather Affect Appliances?

How Does Cold Weather Affect Washing Machines?

How Does Cold Weather Affect Refrigerators?

How Does Cold Weather Affect HVAC Systems?

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How Extreme Cold Affects Your Appliances

5 min readUpdated Apr. 04, 2024Terry MehilosLaundry Appliances
cold weather appliances

The biting cold of winter can wreak havoc on your home appliances, from washing machines to refrigerators and HVAC systems. Freezing temperatures pose unique challenges, but with proper preparation and maintenance, you can safeguard your appliances against the harsh effects of extreme cold weather. Discover how to protect your valuable investments and avoid potential surprises brought on by Old Man Winter's icy grip.


  • Freezing temperatures can damage appliances, particularly those in basements, garages, or against outside walls, but preventive measures can mitigate the risks, such as keeping the indoor temperature above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Washing machines are vulnerable to extreme cold as water in hoses and pumps can freeze, leading to potential damage to the water inlet valve and causing leaks when the temperature rises, so it's advised to disconnect water lines when not in use and insulate hoses.
  • HVAC systems are generally designed to handle cold temperatures, but excessive snow or ice buildup can trigger emergency shut-offs, risking frozen pipes and water damage, hence precautions like building a protective barrier and ensuring proper airflow are recommended.

Old Man Winter can be harsh, and he ushers in the coldest months of the year, along with ice and snow in many parts of the country. When the temperatures dip below freezing, how does it affect your appliances? Is there anything you can do to prep for it?

Here’s what winter weather can do to your appliances — and what you should do help prevent problems.

Does Cold Weather Affect Appliances?

Yes, especially those in basements, garages and on outside walls. But don’t worry: There are several steps you can take to help prevent freezing temps from taking their toll. Southerners aren’t completely in the clear, either. While it doesn’t happen often, the South sometimes does get hit by snow and ice storms. Better safe than sorry.

First thing’s first: If you’re headed out on vacation or for the entire winter, don’t turn your heat all the way off, cautions the U.S. Department of Energy — just turn it down. The ideal temp depends on where you live and how drafty or energy-efficient your house is, but a good rule of thumb is no lower than 55 degrees. That can help reduce your energy bill sufficiently and also keep your pipes from freezing during extreme cold.

Here are a few other appliance-specific tips from the Sears experts to help you weather extreme temps.

How Does Cold Weather Affect Washing Machines?

Your washer is all about water, which is why it’s so vulnerable to extreme cold. Hoses fill the tub before a cycle, and pumps drain the water when it’s done. The drum spins your clothes, getting excess water out before you pop the load in the dryer.
If your washer is indoors but sits against a poorly-insulated, outside-facing wall — like in the garage or in your basement where the temperature drops below freezing — you might find yourself with ice instead of water in those hoses and pumps. That can cause the water intake valve to break, and you could have water everywhere when the temp warms up.

How can you prevent this from happening? Here are a couple ways.

  • Disconnect your water lines from the wall and only connect them when you’re actually running a load.
  • Wrap your washer’s hoses with pipe insulation. (You are insulating your water pipes, too, right? Because you should be.)

How Does Cold Weather Affect Refrigerators?

Barring a complete loss of power and heat during extremely cold weather, the refrigerator in your kitchen should be safe and protected from the elements. But if you have a second fridge or freezer in the basement or garage, here’s how to prep it for frigid temps.

  • Use a space heater. Use a space heater in your chilly garage or basement on very cold days. Just don’t ever leave it on overnight or when you’re not home.
  • Disconnect or insulate the hoses. If you have an ice maker and the appliance is connected to a water supply, your hoses can freeze just like those in your washer. The garage temperature needs to be kept above freezing (32°F) or the water components — water lines, water valves and the water reservoir — may become damaged. If unable to maintain a temperature above freezing in the garage, then disconnect the water line, and drain the reservoir. Water can be reconnected during the warmer seasons.

How Does Cold Weather Affect HVAC Systems?

Your condenser (outdoor) unit should be OK. Units are actually designed to deal with cold temps, snow and ice, so regular winter weather generally isn’t a problem.
However, if your HVAC unit gets encased with ice and snow, it can trigger an emergency shut-off. If the HVAC unit is not maintaining the desired indoor temperature, it should then switch over to the secondary heat or emergency heat (electric heat strips). Especially if you’re not around to notice the heat’s off, you could find yourself with frozen, broken pipes and serious water damage as a result.

Here are a couple things you can do to help prevent that.

  • Build a firewall. Heat pumps and outdoor units should be placed where there is a minimal chance of the unit getting covered by snow or snowdrifts. In areas that do get a lot of snow, the condenser should be placed on a platform to raise it above normal snow accumulation. During higher than normal levels of snowfall, the area should be kept clear. Consider building a fence or a literal wall around your unit so snow can’t drift to cover it. Just make sure to allow for enough airflow on all sides.
  • Clear the area. Shovel around your HVAC unit. Also make sure your gutters aren’t leaking water onto the unit, which will then freeze.
    With a little pre-season prep and some mindful monitoring, your appliances should make it through winter just fine.

If your appliances are in need of repair, our appliance repair experts can help get them back in working order. [Schedule a repair](/blog/how-extreme-cold-temperatures-affects-your-appliances# scheduler) appointment today.

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