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Tell me about water tank de-icers

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  • Tell me about water tank de-icers

    We recently switched from boarding to renting a barn. The turnout paddocks have the big rubbermaid water tubs (130 gallon?), but no heating elements. I'm in north-central Ohio, so I need something that will keep the water from freezing, since I still turn them out almost every day, even in winter. I was thinking the ones that go through the drain hole would probably be best so they can't mess with it.

    Any specific brand recommendations or problems to watch for with the drain plug type?
    Is it ok just to run an extension cord from the barn to the tank?? It's not far, but I'm worried about having a cord exposed to all the elements. It would have to cross over part of the gravel drive, so would get driven over periodically too.

  • #2
    Assuming you are paying electric separately from rental of the barn.
    If not, ask owner about doing this.
    Running de-icers will increase the bill.

    The drainplug heaters should work for you.
    If not, a sinking de-icer is best as floating ones tend to become toys.
    Even with a sinking heater, you need to run the cord through PVC or conduit so horses don't chew cord or unplug your heater.

    You need a HD outdoor-rated cord & length could be an issue as the longer the run, the less power at the end.
    Crossing a driveway, cord would be safest run through conduit - not flexible, as that could be crushed by vehicle weight - and buried.
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
    Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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    • #3
      Cover the tanks with plywood, cut a hole for a 5 gallon bucket (remove handle)--you will be able to get by with a much smaller watt deicer. I would dig a shallow trench and run the cord through PVC pipe and cover the pipe (trench would only need to be 4"-5" deep) if vehicles will be driving over it. I started with a "through the drain plug" deicer my first winter at my present location--due to minerals in the water, it quit after 4 months, so I changed to drop in sinking heaters that were encased in aluminum--much better and I get years out of them. I find that API deicers last the longest, followed by the Farm Innovator brand, both which are safe in Rubbermaid tanks. API deicers's cords are encased in a wire wrap to deter chewing. Pictured is a 110 gallon tank set up that only requires a 500 watt deicer to keep the ice from forming. I live in WY, so deal with really cold temps as well.

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      • #4
        Heating water can be EXPENSIVE so definitely talk to barn owners.

        I hate the plug heaters. Thought I'd like them, but no. It's a pita to install and then remove in the spring, they tend to leak, and they're difficult to clean around. And my tank pawer was always bending them. I far prefer these K&H heaters:

        https://www.chewy.com/kh-pet-product...tank/dp/148400

        Check the map for what size you need. They're more efficient, so you usually need less juice.

        You might consider a smaller tank for winter. Less water will cost less money to heat.

        And definitely put that outdoor rated heavy duty cord in something protective across the driveway span.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Simkie View Post
          Heating water can be EXPENSIVE so definitely talk to barn owners.

          I hate the plug heaters. Thought I'd like them, but no. It's a pita to install and then remove in the spring, they tend to leak, and they're difficult to clean around. And my tank pawer was always bending them. I far prefer these K&H heaters:

          https://www.chewy.com/kh-pet-product...tank/dp/148400

          Check the map for what size you need. They're more efficient, so you usually need less juice.

          You might consider a smaller tank for winter. Less water will cost less money to heat.

          And definitely put that outdoor rated heavy duty cord in something protective across the driveway span.
          I have switched from a 110 gallon tank set up (this year) to a 37 gallon tank, doubled up, covered with plywood, and with a bucket as a drinking baffle, and can get by with a 250 watt bird bath deicer. Can't wait to see how much such a small heater will impact my electric bill...I do have to check the tank twice a day, but the hydrant is right next to the tank through a 3 rail fence, so easy peasy to top off with a 3' piece of hose.

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          • #6
            Dinky donk, I fear I'm having trouble actually understanding what you're doing. Are you simply suspending a filled 5 gallon bucket in the big tank or do you cut the bottom out to allow water from the whole tank to flow into the bucket? Sorry I'm so slow on the uptake with this.

            I'm in Zone 6 technically. I've got 3 paddocks with Rubbermaid 100 gal tanks fitted with plug heaters. I really like them and they've worked for years. But then, we only use them in winter, preferring smaller tanks in the summer that can be dumped every day. Pretty sure the plywood cover would become a chew toy with my lot. But I remember there was a company that made an insulating blanket for tanks. Does anyone have info on those? Thanks in advance.
            They don't call me frugal for nothing.
            Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks for all the advice so far! I'll definitely talk to the owners and make sure they are ok with me using a de-icer and the associated electricity. I could always do the heated 16 gallon muck tub/buckets if I needed to, but I'm trying to keep the amount of labor required in the winter to a minimum.

              Sounds like the drop-in ones with a protected cord are are better option than the drain plug ones.

              Tearing up their (very nice) gravel drive to put in some conduit isn't an option, but I might have the option to use some paddocks on the other side of the barn to avoid crossing the driveway with the cord.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by frugalannie View Post
                I'm in Zone 6 technically. I've got 3 paddocks with Rubbermaid 100 gal tanks fitted with plug heaters. I really like them and they've worked for years. But then, we only use them in winter, preferring smaller tanks in the summer that can be dumped every day. Pretty sure the plywood cover would become a chew toy with my lot. But I remember there was a company that made an insulating blanket for tanks. Does anyone have info on those? Thanks in advance.
                I've never seen an insulating blanket for a large trough, but I did find this video on Youtube of a guy that made an insulated trough himself by putting a smaller one inside a larger one and filling with spray foam.
                https://youtu.be/EVSexzP6ZT4

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by frugalannie View Post
                  Dinky donk, I fear I'm having trouble actually understanding what you're doing. Are you simply suspending a filled 5 gallon bucket in the big tank or do you cut the bottom out to allow water from the whole tank to flow into the bucket? Sorry I'm so slow on the uptake with this.

                  I'm in Zone 6 technically. I've got 3 paddocks with Rubbermaid 100 gal tanks fitted with plug heaters. I really like them and they've worked for years. But then, we only use them in winter, preferring smaller tanks in the summer that can be dumped every day. Pretty sure the plywood cover would become a chew toy with my lot. But I remember there was a company that made an insulating blanket for tanks. Does anyone have info on those? Thanks in advance.
                  OOPS!! Yes, bottom of 5 gallon bucket needs to be removed (jigsaw). Smaller tanks mean water is consumed faster and replaced more often making water consumed much fresher. Doubling up your tanks (plastic/rubber) acts like a thermos bottle, and less heat is lost. I've been putting the plywood cover on my 110 gallon tank set up since 2012, and edges have been gnawed a little (I have donkeys, beavers of the horse world) but not to where I've had to make a new one.

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                  • #10
                    Thanks DinkyDonk. Got it now! I wonder how plywood with that rigid foam insulation glued on the underside would work? You'd probably want it to stay above the water line. Hmmmm. Off to my laboratory (garage) to kluge around a bit.
                    They don't call me frugal for nothing.
                    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

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                    • #11
                      Just be sure your horses drink out of troughs with electric heaters.
                      We had a few that would not drink with one in there, would just stand there, while most others didn't care, drank away.

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                      • #12
                        I use the kind that float in the tank. I kind of clip the cord so it stays out of the way but make sure it will reach the bottom of the tank if the horses did drink it down that low. I did go with an oversized heater in the troughs. What I've noticed is with the warmer water the horses do drink a lot more. While it's a bit of a pain having to make sure I keep them full, it's also good because I don't have to worry about them colicking from dehydration.
                        If at first you don't succeed, get back on the horse and try it again!

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                        • #13
                          We actually use the "plug" water heaters and are quite happy with them. Once we install them, they are in year-round. When we roll up the extension cords each spring we use duct tape to stick the heater cord to the side of the water tank and tuck/attach the plug under the lip of the Rubbermaid tub. Of course, this is all on the side of the water tank that is snugged up against the fence. If it starts to loosen in the summer we just re-tape it. Duct tape lives on the golf cart anyways.

                          It can be a pain to scrub if you let it get too green. But we try to flip our tubs before it reaches that point anyway. Sometimes we forget if a horse changes pastures, leaves, etc.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by frugalannie View Post
                            Thanks DinkyDonk. Got it now! I wonder how plywood with that rigid foam insulation glued on the underside would work? You'd probably want it to stay above the water line. Hmmmm. Off to my laboratory (garage) to kluge around a bit.
                            I do "double tanks" (Tuff Stuff tanks because they nest well) with a layer of blue construction foam between them to stop heat loss from contact with the ground. I have thought about insulating the plywood top, but haven't done it because I'm old and lazy...3" "L" brackets bolted to the cover to help hold it in place (5 on my 110 gallon set up) and a few concrete pavers or retaining wall bricks on top of the plywood to keep the wind from picking up the cover and sending it to the next state.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I LOVE my plug heater. I find it easy to install & I do take it out in spring. I bought a heavy duty one with a thermostat, it's about to start its 5th winter & I've had no trouble with it. It is designed to fit a Rubbermaid trough & that is what it's in, so no leaks. It reliably gives me 100 gal of ice free water & the horses drink more.
                              ​​​​​​
                              I specifically did NOT want anything that can be pulled out of the tank bc young horse will totally do just that - "oooo, where does this fun string lead & look at all the fun splashing when I pull it!" - but he has never bothered the plug heater.

                              If it does die, I'll replace it with the same thing. I do like the concept of passive solar covers but they would also not survive said young horse. Just ask the plywood on his side of the shed. I also wouldn't like taking it off to clean it - with the plug heater, I can dump & scrub like normal. I do everything myself, so it's all about making LESS steps of work for me.
                              Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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                              We Are Flying Solo

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