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Some VERY basic questions about automatic waterers

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  • Some VERY basic questions about automatic waterers

    I recently bought a place with automatic waterers out in the fields.
    I have never lived/boarded/worked at a place with them before (apparently I live under a rock) and I have some embarrassingly simple questions about these things.

    1. I opened them up and turned the water on inside, and they are working fine now (water comes out, the leveling system, after some tweaking, shuts it on/off automatically). Do I need to do anything for the winter/heated mode, or does that happen automatically? If action is required, I don't see any switches, but there are junction boxes in each so I guess the next step would be to turn off the power and open those up?

    2. I cannot find any brand/manufacturer info on them. I googled auto waterers and found many pics and brands, none of which looked exactly like mine, so I'm thinking mine are just really old? When these need service, who would I call? The manufacturer? A regular plumber?

    Thanks for any info.
    I don't want to ignorantly destroy these things--they are so cool and I do not miss my water schlepping at all!

  • #2
    Being all metal and having a balancing system for water level and heaters underneath sounds like older Nelsons to me.
    If they're Nelsons, open the unit and remove the bowl. Under the bowl is a round cage the bowl rests in and under that behind the cage towards the back of the unit is the heating box. The heating element is under the cage, but the rectangle metal box behind it is the thermostat and on/off for the element. That thermostat turns on the heating element once the temps drop below 40 degrees inside the waterer. To check to see if it's working properly, bring an ice cube outside to the waterer. If you're standing at the front of the waterer (where the spigot is inside) then on the left side of the heating box should be what looks like a very short bit of metal tube that comes out and ends bluntly. It looks like something you'd attach a pipe to, but nothing is attached to it. Hold the ice cube up against that end of that and watch the heating element under the bowl. (remove the bowl) Within 2-4 minutes it should turn on and get hot, you should see a red glow. If it's daylight and bright outside and you can't see the red, drip some water on it and listen for the sizzle.
    If the heating element does not turn on, look in the barn for the electrical box and check the breakers. Sometimes waterers not in use have the breakers turned off. Flip the breaker back over.
    If it is a Nelson, they last pretty much forever. I have friends who have had them longer than I've been alive and I'm not considered young.
    Do keep an eye on them right now...if they were off for a long time and just turned back on they may drip a bit. Old gunk gets in the lines and can cause dripping. That's a very easy fix, just do a search under my user name on here and "Nelson" and there's a long post detailing how to stop drips.
    Good luck, hope this helps!
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!


    • #3
      I have Nelson automatic waterers in my stalls and pastures...so here's info that I know about mine. I hope it helps. You might also want to check out the videos/instructions on their website. It might help even if yours are a different brand.

      - Heaters are turned on at the breaker box in my barn - mine are clearly marked, I turn them on when the temps are supposed to be below 32F.
      * If not marked on your box, then try turning them on 1 at a time and then feel the heater under the bowl to see if it is starting to warm up
      * My heaters come on for a few minutes and then turn off for a while - they continue this pattern while turned on - on again, off again

      - I have to turn off the heaters again at the breaker box when it warms up, it is not advisable to leave the heaters on while the temperature is above freezing

      - One bit of advice, make sure you clear out any debris under the bowl that might be close to the heating unit (dust, hay, cobwebs) to prevent a fire hazard
      * We clean ours out really well every fall and during days that we use them, we check them daily

      - You should also try to keep the heater unit from getting wet (i.e., don't let the water run in it without the bowl in it.)

      - I empty the bowls daily just before turnout and so my horses always have fresh, cool, clean water

      You're going to LOVE having the waterers. It was a big expense when we built our farm, and I have never regretted it. It would be a MUST have if I were to build again. Enjoy!


      • #4
        They do sound like older Nelson waterers. We installed them on a previous farm we built. Loved them!

        If you can't figure them out, then definitely call an electrician or plumber who can decipher them for you. They do require a bit of maintenance to keep them running optimally but they'll last for years if you take care of them.

        FYI, you can put the "bowls" in the dishwasher to disinfect/clean them.
        You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts!