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Heated outdoor water troughs - electrical consumption question?

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  • Heated outdoor water troughs - electrical consumption question?

    Does anyone have a clue as to whether I am better off leaving the troughs plugged in 24/7 to keep the water at a constant temperature (bearing in mind the horses come in around 4:00 - 4:30pm and dont go back out into their paddocks until 8:00 am the next morning, so for 16 hours of the day, the troughs would be heating water that no one is there to drink ...) or do I shut them off and then fire them back up again the next morning, so the heaters now have to heat freezing or frozen water instead for 8 hours???

    Or do I go through the agony of draining the troughs each evening and re-filling them each morning and plugging them in then?

    None of the options seem great to me - all are labour or cost intensive the way I see it!


    True Colours Farm on Facebook

  • #2
    What type of heater are you using? The sinking, floating, and drain plug heaters are typically thermostatically controlled to only cut on when the water gets to 40 degrees or lower. Now, if its going to be below 40 for you all winter long then yeah, I'm not real sure what would be the best way to conserve the electricity.

    ETA: I just noticed you are in Canada. Hmmmmmm....yeah, not to sure how to help you.


    • Original Poster

      The screw in drain plug ones that go in at the bottom of the troughs and yes - from pretty well now til March, it is going to be WELL below the 40F mark!

      True Colours Farm on Facebook


      • #4
        The times we've had a heater fail overnight (it got unplugged) and the trough froze, plugging it back in in the morning as soon as it was discovered was not enough to thaw it. Even leaving it sit for hours, it never thawed. We had to hack the ice out and refill.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks skyy

          That answers THAT question then, as the unheated water trough that was left filled last night had about 3 inches of solid ice on the bottom and top and about 5 inches on the 4 sides and I had to whack that ice out of it before re-filling it this morning ...

          Only another 3 more months to go of this crap ...

          True Colours Farm on Facebook


          • #6
            My waterer's heater is inside, so to turn it on and off means dumping the 20 gallons night and morning. Huge waste of water, time, and effort. It gets plugged in in November and turned off in April. It's 450 watts and unfortunately it's "on" or "off" (no thermostat) but the cost is not awful--the barn's electric bill is about $60/month in the winter, about 2/3 of that is heating the tack room so only about $20/month to run the waterer heater.
            Click here before you buy.


            • #7
              Depending on the temperature I will turn it off during the day and back on at night. Trough is sitting in the sun, so gets some warming.


              • #8
                I *think* the floating water heaters may use less electricity than the drain plug types because the floating ones only have to keep the top of the trough from freezing. It seems to me that the drain plug types would have to use more electricity because you are heating an entire water trough rather than just the top layer of water.

                I'm guessing this because when I used a heated muck tub, it drew A LOT more electricity than my floating heaters and the water was pretty warm-almost too warm, in fact.

                I will admit that this is just my supposition-if anyone really knows the answer, please chime in!


                • #9
                  Ours is one of the round sinking heaters that I bought from Tractor Supply for about $23 5-6 years ago. It's still working and there is never ice on the water. It is thermostatically controlled and keeps the water at 45*. I never checked this, but that's what the box said and I have no reason not to believe it.

                  I was amazed the first winter we used this. I thought the elect. bill would be sky high, but we don't even notice it. We live in NC, which is not anything like ND, but every winter night will be freezing or below, so it does run at least 12 hrs. per day. Our days are usually above freezing so I don't know how much it runs then. Your climate will determine how much the heater runs and what the cost will be. I have NO complaints!

                  "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx


                  • Original Poster

                    Unfortunately I cant have anything that floats on top or has a cord that is accessible

                    One of my mares would have that thing in her mouth swinging around and around like a helicopter in 2 seconds flat once she saw it

                    NOT a good idea with her around at all!

                    True Colours Farm on Facebook


                    • #11
                      If you want to put more work into the job, building insulated boxes for the water tanks is what we do. The insulation layer reduces the need for as much power to run the heaters. The tanks have covers on half all the time, with the other half covered when horses are in the barn to keep heat inside the box.

                      And if horses are not using the tank for many hours ANYWAY, does seem that you waste a bunch of money keeping water liquid in the open air.

                      I have been only running my heater at night when the sky is clear and temps drop badly. Most commonly, I only plug heater in a for couple hours in the early AM, when I take kid to school, unplug when I do morning chores. Done before horses go outside, and that is totally sufficient to prevent any ice all day long.

                      Electricity is expensive here. Perhaps what a heater costs can depend on how well it keeps the tank unthawed using more power. I want to run it as little as possible. With a couple tanks to keep open all winter, there is a definate increase in the electric bill!

                      I also don't want the heaters running when horses use the tanks. Sometimes they leak voltage, cause a short, even new or almost new, to prevent horses drinking. So for us, if horses can drink from the tank, heater is ALWAYS unplugged. As previously mentioned, my tanks stay pretty ice free with that 2-3 hour daily, minimum running time for heater. Horses do seem to drink well without heater running, stay pretty consistant in how much the tank is drank down every day.

                      Building the box for tank is easy, used styrofoam for the insulation layer. Doesn't matter how wet it gets, no loss of insulation aid. You screw down the one side top cover, so horse can't reach the sinking heater and have the cord come out the box back side where they can't reach it.

                      Keeping the tank full works best, easy to reach the water. Larger quantity of fluid water stays warm longer, to stay unfrozen longer. I just lay the cover over the open half for night.

                      Photos of the box are in the middle of this page:


                      Box is old, 6-8 years at least. The pink is styrofoam on the inside of the top cover. Painted black boxes stay warmer, just never got done on that one.


                      • #12
                        How about one of those big blue tubs with the cord that's wrapped in metal coil? I use one of those (small one) for the dogs and cats, and I also have a 5-gallon "horse" one although I don't need it at my place. You could always get some fence staples and fasten the cord down to the ground or a fence post.
                        Click here before you buy.


                        • #13
                          If my horses come in for the night, I unplug the heater (floating).

                          I then COVER the tank (Rubbermaid) with a piece of plywood.
                          The water will still freeze...only the top...and not nearly as much.

                          First thing I do in the morning...before I hay and grain...is plug the heater back in.
                          In 15+ years of using this method I have never had to break though more than an inch or two of ice, and this is only on the top.
                          I keep a piece of 1x2 handy for this job!

                          On really cold/windy days (minus 15/20) I keep the top partially covered during the daytime, leaving open only an area large enough to drink out of.

                          My friend has built wooden boxes around their galvanized tanks, with rigid styrofoam to insulate them. The tops are partially covered - no insulation.


                          • #14
                            they just don't use that much electricity

                            I just leave them plugged in after the first night the tank has a thin layer of ice on the top and don't unplug them til spring. I tried leaving them in the tanks (I have the screw in drain plug kind) one summer and Junior crushed them playing in the water trough. Sigh.


                            • #15
                              The stock tank de-icers aren't like house heaters.. where you want to leave them running all the time because it takes so much energy to get them to a warm temp. They automatically shut on and off as the temp. changes so they are made to not use as much energy.

                              I'm in MD so it's not as cold but I installed mine 2 weeks ago (after the first time it froze the trough and my boys didn't have water for a night ) and I leave it on unless it's going to be over 45degrees.
                              http://www.clarkdesigngrouparchitects.com/index.html - Lets build your dream barn


                              • #16
                                My extraordinary fiance just put my water bucket on a switched outlet. I did leave it plugged it for most of last winter but that was only because it was a PITA to get to the outside plug. We revamped some wiring and put a new outlet in that is on a switch. The bucket is also in the sun. I will switch it off even if the days are in the 20s because the heat of the water combined with the southeast sun will keep it relatively ice free. Back on in the afternoon. My bill went up about $30 a month last year using it, hoping to shave that a little.

                                The cool thing about the switch he put the bucket on is that it is tied into my outdoor barn lights.... so if I FORGET to plug it in I will know the second it gets dark because the barn will be black. Otherwise, I would be having screaming fits in the morning!!!!
                                Gone gaited....


                                • #17
                                  How about putting it on a timer?
                                  "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                                  • #18
                                    Maybe adjust the amount of water you put in the tank when they go out in the mornings to what they drink in a day. Then there will only be a little to dump in the afternoon.

                                    Or just keep them plugged in. I agree that it takes a long time to thaw a frozen tub.
                                    Equine Retirement at


                                    • #19
                                      I am lucky in that my 100 gal heated trough is right next to the barn, so it is easy for me to cover it with 4 layers of bubble wrap at night and remove in the morning. I think doing this will save a lot of electricity as it is normally about 10 F down there in the morning.
                                      Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


                                      • #20
                                        Covering the tank and insulating around it will help a LOT. And locating it out of the direct wind and in the sun.