Heating water troughs without electricity?

Have any of you ever heated a water trough through winter without electricity? Solar panels, insulated etc?

I have a pasture across the road that I need to be able to utilize by next week. Problem is, there is no way to get electricity to the field.

I live in northern Michigan and the temps can get into the single digits

Any thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! pictures always help too :slight_smile:

Years ago we had a couple of these propane tank heaters, but they were silver and square, these are newer ones, first one that came up on a search:

http://www.qcsupply.com/270308-trojan-66b-lp-gas-stocktank-heater.html?utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=productfeeds&gclid=Cj0KEQiAn8i0BRDur-HV1PCTy4UBEiQAPuFr9GqMiSOKgU4l2OMy_ws9Rss1DngNQY3rGnaRbh1RV8saArnd8P8HAQ

They were not near that expensive, so if that is what you choose, look around for other models and prices.

We quit using them when we found out we could just rig up a very small copper wire with tiny holes in it and connect it directly to the propane tank.

The copper tube, the end with the holes inserted in the tank, would bubble up and that water moving kept it from freezing, but it sure did stink from the propane.

Cattle didn’t seem to mind the smell at all.

You don’t want solar panels to create electricity for heating water - instead you want passive solar thermal design that uses the sun to directly heat the water, and add insulation to keep it from freezing overnight.

Here are some ideas for you:
http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/tools/solar-stock-tank-zmaz10onzraw.aspx

http://www.ranchtanks.com

http://www.builditsolar.com/Experimental/StockTank/SolarStockTankProto.htm

Good luck!

[QUOTE=Bluey;8478082]Years ago we had a couple of these propane tank heaters, but they were silver and square, these are newer ones, first one that came up on a search:

http://www.qcsupply.com/270308-trojan-66b-lp-gas-stocktank-heater.html?utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=productfeeds&gclid=Cj0KEQiAn8i0BRDur-HV1PCTy4UBEiQAPuFr9GqMiSOKgU4l2OMy_ws9Rss1DngNQY3rGnaRbh1RV8saArnd8P8HAQ

They were not near that expensive, so if that is what you choose, look around for other models and prices.

We quit using them when we found out we could just rig up a very small copper wire with tiny holes in it and connect it directly to the propane tank.

The copper tube, the end with the holes inserted in the tank, would bubble up and that water moving kept it from freezing, but it sure did stink from the propane.

Cattle didn’t seem to mind the smell at all.[/QUOTE]

I have three of the Trojan tank heaters. When the weather is just cold, they work great. Add a winter storm with wind and blowing snow, be prepared to spend a fair amount of time getting them going again. All of them are now sitting on the shelf collecting dust.

I come from Amish country and they use car batteries to power heaters. Actually, come to think of it, that is how I am powering my electric fence at the moment!

Sorry, with your Northern Michigan location, I would not bother with solar panels, since your sunshine is not powerful enough to be much help. Not like California or even the Great Plains States with high powered sunshine, more lumens in it. Michigan has sunshine, just not a lot of lumens according to my MSU Gardening Experts when I tried certain plants. Plants died because of ‘lack of sunshine’, not suitable to the area. Actually Michigan is in the sixth cloudiest state in the USA, not a good place for solar powered stuff.

My Grampa used a Propane tank heater years ago, I don’t think they had electric heaters then. It worked quite well for him and the baby pigs he was raising. The horses got led to the tank inside the barn several times a day for water, no tank in their pasture.

We are in mid Michigan, use insulated boxes over the tanks with covers, which still won’t prevent freezing in the wind and low temps of teens or single digits. We run the heaters at night (cheaper electric too), tanks totally covered as horses are in the barn at night. Heaters cost plenty to run, so are not plugged in during daylight hours, water stays open for the horses even with heaters off.

I don’t know if battery would work well or for very long, since an electric heater draws a LOT of electricity to keep water unfrozen. I hate watching the meter dials spin!!

No other real ideas besides the propane heater for you. You will want to protect the propane tank from horses, so they can’t rub or knock it over and set off an explosion with leaking gas.

Any chance of putting in a power pole with meter, outlet, so you could plug in a tank heater, fencer, on that pasture location? Not sure what it costs these days. Having power over there could be handy for other farm uses later on.

Some who have been here awhile may remember County; he mentioned that
he had set up a stock tank over a geothermal heat source. He dug a very deep
hole and put a fairly large culvert into it vertically, backfilled around the culvert
and put the stock tank on top of the culvert. Earth heat kept the water from
freezing. County lived in central Minnesota so definately not a warm location.

One possibility that would work here (west central Wisconsin ) would be to
buy a cast iron stock tank heater (they are listed on the local craigslist from
time to time) and use it. You immerse it in the stock tank and build a fire
within it using wood or charcoal to keep the tank from freezing. Propane is
likely easier and more reliable but this would work…

[QUOTE=Robin@DHH;8479588]

One possibility that would work here (west central Wisconsin ) would be to
buy a cast iron stock tank heater (they are listed on the local craigslist from
time to time) and use it. You immerse it in the stock tank and build a fire
within it using wood or charcoal to keep the tank from freezing. Propane is
likely easier and more reliable but this would work…[/QUOTE]

We had one of those for a few years! It was an antique, weighed a LOT, did the heating job with some attention during the day. We used it one winter when ice took the power out for over 10 days. No small generators back then, but horses had liquid water daily. We find it AMAZING how much more water horses drink when a situation requires more work to get them water! Having to haul water home from work in bottles daily, to refill the tank had EACH horse drinking 15 to 20 gallons DAILY. Honestly I have never seen them drink so much ever!!

That kind of heater with charcoal fuel or wood fired, will keep the water open, but does require closer attention to control the air flow on fire, getting more fuel in the heater before fire goes out.

No help with the water tank, BUT I do remember County. ENjoyed his posts.

Yes, County had a wealth of information that he shared.

There are insulated trough with solar heating options on line. Let me see if I can find a link.

ETA, MN Tigerstripes posted great photos below so I will stop looking for some.

My dad & I made a solar heated water trough several years back. It works great, I live in MN, so obviously it can get very cold and it consistently performs wonderfully. It’s -9 right now pre-windchill and it is unplugged and ice free.

We used the directions from the Mother Earth News, but beefed it way. Insulation is 3-4 layers deep all the way around, except on the front. There is a floating insulation layer on the water, plus a neophrene tube that goes down into the trough to prevent the wind from stealing heat from the surface of the water. I do have a sunken heater in the trough with the cord hanging out the back of the box in case I do need to plug it in. Which is maybe 2-4 times a month?

ETA - When I do need to plug it in, it’s due to wind freezing the surface of the drinking area. The only area I can have the trough is right in the wind “tunnel” area of the paddock. I’m experimenting with various ways to get rid of that problem.

ETA2 - In regards to lack of sun, we will regularly get a couple of weeks at a time with little to no sun. It doesn’t really cause issues due to how heavily the tank is insulated, by the time the water gets cold enough to worry about freezing, it’s time to fill it up again. I’ve measured water from the ground and it comes out about 45 deg F. Stays above freezing for a long time with as much insulation as we have around the tank. Esp with the drinking tube.

It cost us probably $500 to build and paid for itself the first winter.

I cannot figure out how to upload pictures to this site, but I made a public FB album with the pictures: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153850536048749.1073741847.546958748&type=1&l=53f8f205ed

Have you tried the drainplug heater in the Rubbermaid tank? We had a floater heater in such a tank, horse played with it before we went to insulated boxes and set the tank ON FIRE!! Water was low, tank burned to the water level, with neighbor seeing the fire in paddock and stopping to throw snow on the fire. Haven’t used the Rubbermaid tank with a heater in it since then!

We do use sinker heaters with cords out the back, horses can’t reach them. Insulated boxes are not as heavily insulated as yours, have a half cover on one end for drinking. We also used the Styrofoam sheets which don’t care if they get wet, Great Stuff Foam to fill in open spaces. No batting Fiberglass at all, pretty useless after getting wet once.

Thanks for your pictures, a pretty amazing job on the tank. I will show them to husband, who might steal a couple of your ideas. One of our boxes will need some fix-up work next summer. It has had a hard life, now about 9yrs old with some bad winters. I can see how box design would work so well in your harder cold, though he won’t be doing the solar panels. Really interesting with that round sleeve! Hats off to your ingenuity!!

No, I have never used a drain plug heater in a rubbermaid tank. We have almost always used metal tanks. When I was a kid we used a floater heater a couple of winters, but I remember having issues with the horses playing with them so we switched to the sunken heaters.

Thank you! Although the credit belongs to my dad more than anything. He took one look at the Mother Earth News article and was all, “That’s not nearly tough enough to handle a MN winter!” Then he went nuts upgrading it. I was a bit worried about the horses actually using the drinking tube, but they took to it right away.

I will probably reseal everything this next summer, it might not need it, but I don’t think it can hurt. The longer it can last the better as far as I’m concerned!

[QUOTE=poltroon;8478147]You don’t want solar panels to create electricity for heating water - instead you want passive solar thermal design that uses the sun to directly heat the water, and add insulation to keep it from freezing overnight.

Here are some ideas for you:
http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/tools/solar-stock-tank-zmaz10onzraw.aspx

http://www.ranchtanks.com

http://www.builditsolar.com/Experimental/StockTank/SolarStockTankProto.htm

Good luck![/QUOTE]

I had to laugh at the first link, this line:

“The solar-heated livestock waterer rarely requires an electric heater. If you get a little ice on the water overnight, it will usually melt later in the day.”

That is NOT going to work in northern michigan!

You might as well plan on just providing the horses with water twice a day. They will learn to drink when water is provided.

If you read MN Tigerstripes post above you will see that it is working in Minnesota quite well.

[QUOTE=saultgirl;8481272]

That is NOT going to work in northern michigan!
.[/QUOTE]

Two winters ago when it was regularly -20 (at least) before windchill, blizzard conditions, and just plain nasty weather all winter the trough worked great. The last couple of winters have been babies, but that one tested it to the max. You have to beef up those directions a good bit, but it is absolutely doable.

Bar Bar A auto waterers. I am in central Ohio and they are the bomb.

http://horsedrinker.com/

Up north in Timmins Ontario we used heavy duty sports balls in thick insulated tubs with 3/4 of the tub having a lid. We would often have to go out with a few tubs of hot water to break off the top layer of ice but they never froze solid