If the tank is metal, you clamp a piece of conducting type of wire to the side of the tank, and the other end of the wire to a ground rod inserted into the ground.
If the tank is like a rubbermaid tank (plastic), then you put the wire into the water (so any stray voltage will travel through the wire and into the ground, not remain in the water), and the other end clamped to a ground rod that inserted into the ground.
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There could be several reasons. Starting at the outlet where the heater is plugged in. You can buy a small plug in circuit tester for a few $$ at any H-D, Lowes, hardware. It has 3 LEDs on it and accompanying chart. You plug it in and see how the LEDs light up and then look at the chart. If it says all good then it is most likely the heater. There is always a horse in every paddock that likes to play in the water and they can damage the cord/heater. A hair line cut in the cord will allow some stray voltage to escape. Horses are much more sensitive to voltage then humans. The grounding prong on the heater plug maybe damaged. If it says bad ground then you have to start at the outlet and work back to the service panel. Or check at the service panel first and make sure the grounding wire on the supply line is attached. Turn off power at the breaker (use your circuit tester to make sure you switched off the right breaker) and check the outlet to make sure that the ground wire is attached to the grounding screw sometimes they come off or were not attached to begin with. And or the outlet has worn out over time and should be replaced. The supply line/wire to the outlet (underground?) may be damaged near the tank and leaking current into the ground. If the circuit tester says reversed polarity that means the hot and neutral wires have been reversed most likely at the outlet. Black wire always goes to the brass screw. These are very simple things to do but if you are not comfortable and or do not have an understand of basic wiring and working around just get the circuit tester. If it says bad ground and or polarity call an electrician. If not replace the heater. If you still have issues there maybe a problem with an exposed supply line and or other underground wires in the area that you may or may not know about.
For those who would like to educate and or learn about home/farm electrical this is a real neat website; http://www.thecircuitdetective.com/index.htm
Before the nanny police chime in I am not advocating anyone to take on something that they do not have a firm understanding of what they are doing. And the majority of people reading this are adults. At least they are of age to be.
I'm not stupid, really i'm not but how do you ground them?
Get a receptacle tester or outlet tester to verify the outlet is wired correctly, the heater may be switching off the L2 (neutral, should be the wihite wire) rather than the L1 (Hot leg should be the black wire)
So can I use the same type of plastic coated wiring that I use to attach the grounds to my electric fence? Then put one end into the trough, and the other end into the ground? If I do that am I covered.
Until you are sure you have it completely figured out, you may want to get a 3 prong cord heated bucket. Some people struggle with the electric trough heaters for months.. You don't want a colic while you are sorting it out.
This is why I nixed the idea of trough heaters - although I was stupid enough to buy a couple before deciding not to use them; ended up giving them away. Not one, but two neighbors had problems with horses getting shocked. Neither one was able to do the grounding-rod thing thanks to not only our heavy clay soil, but the fact that our neighborhood apparently sits on a large underground solid stone "ledge", & the rods would bend or break before they were apparently sunk deep enough to do the job.
The sad part was that once the horses got shocked - even though it was minor - they refused to go anywhere near the troughs for many, many months, & some of the horses were even leery of the buckets in their stalls.
Now, I am all for MacGyvering things when all one has is a tooth pick and a bit of tape. Yes, driving in a grounding rod and attaching to the tank should remedy the problem at the tank but not the electical that is causing it . The grounding issue is one of three things. The heater and or cord and plug, the outlet or the supply line. If it is not the heater or the outlet then it has to be with the supply line or another buried line in the area. The problem may be with a badly grounded or not grounded Breaker box. Or a loose wire in the breaker box. A loose wire in the Breaker box is not something you want nor a ungrounded or poorly grounded box. This can create serious to dangerous problems with EVERYTHING connected to it.
We have used various types of tank heaters over the years. The best IMO are the ones that look like small, 6” diameter, “plates” that just sit on the bottom of the tanks. The work in both plastic/rubber and metal. We get ours at Tractor Supply. Pretty indestructible so far, Stay away from the ones that just have a heat element and you have to put a cage around them and go through the drain hole in the tank. Good idea poorly executed. The plastic fitting always breaks even if horse don’t play in the tanks and the ones that do crush the flimsy cage and if it is a rubber/plastic tank they melt through.
To each their own.
heavy clay soil, but the fact that our neighborhood apparently sits on a large underground solid stone "ledge", & the rods would bend or break before they were apparently sunk deep enough to do the job.
Clay is 100 times a better conductor than sand
the rocky soil may require a radial grounding system
"...Where extremely rocky soil prevents the proper installation of driven rods, horizontal radials make an excellent lightning ground. Using #10 gauge non-insulated wire, install four or more radials in different directions buried at least 6 inches or more. Each radial should extend for least 30 feet. The deeper and longer the radial the better the ground. ..." http://rainmaster.com/lightning.htm
If the above suggestions don't help, try to locate a qualified electrician who is familiar with dairy barns to troubleshoot your problem. Ground loops are a big problem with them because it can cause the cows to be shocked through their teats. It also could be more than just the wiring in your barn. Nearby power transmission and/or distribution lines can cause them.
At the barn where I boarded, we discovered a serious grounding problem when trough heaters were added that had existed for years. We were lucky no horses or people had been severely injured or killed.
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My heater doesnt have a ground wire and there is nothing on the instructions etc that say I need one. But it said NOT to use a metal trough at all. And it says to also keep the water filled to well over the heater and use the big troughs not the small ones.
I never have problems with shocking.
But I also nixed using the heaters in the pastures - what I do is - I have very large troughs in the fields so if they freeze - usually they wont freeze all the way through and the tops just have to be broken. In 5 years I only had one winter where the troughs froze all the way through and I poured hot water on them and unfroze them.
But as a solution - I have a few troughs IN THE BARN with heaters and I will let horses drink from them but I also use them as a source of liquid water to fill the stalls if the pipes freeze or whatever. We all have different situations. I do not have hot water in my barn - SIGH.
Neither one was able to do the grounding-rod thing thanks to not only our heavy clay soil, but the fact that our neighborhood apparently sits on a large underground solid stone "ledge", & the rods would bend or break before they were apparently sunk deep enough to do the job.
I have shallow soil over bedrock. Grounding for the panel, and separate grounding for the electric fence, is done with grounding plates. You don't have to drive them deep -- just bury them as best you can. Available at hardware, home building and electrical supply stores.
Just wondering, how did you know your horses were getting zapped? And if you touch the water yourself, are you able to feel a zap? I plugged in my heater last week, in the middle of a cold (-19C windchills) spell, and i noticed that the horses didn't drink as much as I thought they should. I could not detect any zap and I did watch my horse take a drink without any problem. I kind of figured they were just eating a bunch of snow with their hay (it snowed about 2 feet!). The temps have since warmed up and I unplugged the heater, but they were still not drinking alot. As of last night the snow is all gone so I'll see how much they drink today. But I did wonder if there was a "zap", how I would know.
Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**
My neighbors stuck their hands in the water & felt absolutely nothing. But they knew something was going on when they saw all of their horses standing around in a group about 4 feet away from the troughs just staring at them. Once in awhile, one would step forward & start to take drink, but then pull back. Apparently the "shock" is just enough to be disturbing to livestock. Let's face it, many horses are even hesitant to drink water from a different source than home. A "shock" - even a light one - AT home? That must be a real puzzle to them.
I'm not very techno-savvy, but believe my neighbors eventually used some sort of meter that did show that some voltage was escaping into the water.