Tips for the Big Thaw – Pt I

If you happened to catch My Stable Life yesterday, you’ll know that we are already starting to battle frozen waterers out here in Saskatchewan. So between today and tomorrow, I thought I’d bring you some of the best tips we’ve come across for keeping auto-waterers in tact during the coldest months. And by all means, if you have other suggestions for keeping the H20 flow going in winter, please let me know!

Sadly, most maintenance problems of auto-waterers can be traced back to poor installation. And let’s just say that some auto-waterer models work better in specific climates than others do. But of course, sub-zero temperatures and bone-freezing windchills do nothing to help the situation either. So let’s start with an ideal installation. The following tips are, in a nutshell, some great suggestions for waterer installs.

Please note, I am aware that there are many different types of waterers out there available for purchase, however my friends at Ritchie have a great installation diagram that I borrowed to help you better visualize the intricate maze underground:

1. Many companies recommend that a trench of at least 8 feet is dug where you want your auto-waterer to be. The horizontal water line should be at least 1 foot below the normal frost line depth in the earth.

2. The water shut off valve should always be installed close to the waterer for easy access.

3. The water line should be protected by thermal tubes or pipes that come right up to the earth’s surface  and allow for an air pocket around the water line to protect and insulate it from frost. Insulation should not be added inside the tubes as this also provides a path for frost. Ensure the tubes / pipes also reach at least 1 foot below the normal frost line. The tubes should be free of mud or water that may freeze and nothing should be touching the waterline inside the pipe. Ensure the water line is centered directly in the middle of the protective tube or pipe, because anything touching the waterline can cause your waterline to freeze.

A cement pad, as seen here will prevent the earth directly around the waterer from eroding under the pressure of horse's hooves.

4. A concrete platform that provides a thick step around the perimeter of the unit is wise. This is because animals stand directly on top of the earth immediately surrounding the waterer and a cement pad will prevent that earth from eroding over time.

5. Electrical installation should be completed and maintained by a certified electrician, according the codes in your local area.

6. If you live in a cold winter climate, like we do, electrical tape can be wrapped around the water pipe to help warm things up as Mother Nature threatens to cool it all down. Keep in mind, this is much easier to do in the summer months.

Tomorrow, My Stable Life will return for advice in worst-case frozen waterer scenarios. Stay tuned!

Comments

  1. I read your blog about the frozen waterer the other day and felt thankful we have never experienced this. That was until this morning! We have Nelson waterers and one of the bowls of water was frozen solid. I checked the breakers and the other waterers – all was fine. I trudged through the snow with buckets of water for the horses while my husband took the waterer apart to find the cause. He tried rewiring to bypass the thermostat – nothing (so we knew then it was not the thermostat). Looks like the element has quit working and needs to be replaced. It will take a few days for the part to arrive so we have set up a trough and heater for the horses in the mean time. To keep the water lines from freezing we have hung a trouble light in the unit base. I now think having some extra parts on hand would have been wise – especially in preparation for winter.

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