Tank deicers

I thought I had a good system, but it’s failing me lately and I am opening this up for conversation.

I generally like the drain plug style tank deicers. This is the type I usually buy:

Farm Innovators 1,500W Drain-Plug De-Icer for All Rubbermaid Stock Tanks up to 300 gal. https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/farm-innovators-drainplug-deicer-for-rubbermaid-stock-tanks

However, for the second year in a row, the plastic snapped while installing it, rendering it useless. Plus, also for the second time, the exterior portion for the drain plug developed a leak after installation, I assume from getting slightly shifted. I don’t feel like I’m really cranking these things to justify so much breakage.

Is there another brand of drain plug style deicer you like?

Or, is there another style deicer you prefer?

I like these but I can’t find them in stock locally:


I have one. My only complaint is 16 gallons isn’t very much water as a source for multiple horses.

The local TSC has this brand, but the reviews are mixed. Are these worth it?:


I have a floating deicer that works well, but I can’t use it when my weanling is turned out because it becomes a toy. Also, the donkey is scared of it.

What about the sinking style? In the past I had more trouble with these at places I worked so I have avoided them. Plus, the cord is a prime weanling toy— any great ideas on protecting/securing a cord on a sinking heater so a mischievous youngster can’t pull it out of the trough?

Following for the same reasons.
My drain hole deicers quit in the most inopportune times, usually when it’s-10. The one I bought a couple months ago is already dead. Back to my ancient floating deicer, thank goodness it’s reliable, I have to make sure one of mine doesn’t fling it out.

ETA, I have a couple of the heated tubs and I had a couple horses stand in them and break the heating elements. If you do get one and a horse that will play in it, you might want to discourage it by putting up higher.

Also I don’t use them full time just when I had a horse in a pen temporarily or if there was something wrong with my main tank. I have no idea how long they last with constant use.

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More work at first, then pretty trouble free. We use insulated wooden boxes built to fit the metal tank. Plywood outer with sheet styrofoam insulation inside. Box has a half cover, screwed down. We use the sinking heaters. Make a hole in the back of box facing fence to thread the wire covered cord thru. This usually keeps cord away from horses, prevents horses getting at the heater, so heater lives longer.

Never used the drain plug heaters. Heaters die regularly over the years. I do not want to be dumping 100 gal of water that will freeze for horses wanting drinks, to replace a heater. Sinker heaters are no big deal to replace. Pull out the bad one, put in the new one, thread the cord thru the box hole, plug it in. We do pull the heater WAYYY under the covered side so even a diving horse can’t reach it. Heard stories about bored, diving horses that actually pulled up sinking heaters!

We do not use Rubbermaid heaters in winter. After setting one on fire with a floating heater, they just get used here in warm weather. Neighbor said it was a good fire! Water was low, so flames burned well on the sidewalls, above the 5+ft fence so he saw them! Fortunately the tank was FAR away from the barn, so it only burned the tank and some fence boards as horses gathered around to watch! Neighbor came in and threw snow on the fire to get it out. He called that evening to tell us the story. We were gone.

Insulated boxes reduce cost of heaters. We only plug in heaters at night when horses are in the barn. 2 benefits: one is cheaper electric at night. Second is no chance of tank ever being “hot” with electric off when horses are drinking. You can train them to NOT drink out of a tank real quick by zapping them with a bad tank heater!! Husband built the boxes, not a hard job. Or hire a carpenter to build boxes for you. Water stays unfrozen even in below zero days. Then heat water up again at night. Big savings for us, using boxes. Might take horses a day or two to get used to the boxes with water inside. Sometimes floating treats helps speed up the process as horses try to pick up treats, then learn water is good inside.


@Aces_N_Eights My blue heated tub is on its 6th season I think? But it isn’t in constant use either and there have been a couple seasons where I didn’t use it at all. Do you have the green ones or the blue ones? Casual observation, but I seem to hear and read a lot more complaints about the green ones breaking or malfunctioning than the blue ones… but they also may be because the green ones seem to be carried by more stores locally.

@goodhors You are really convincing me to try the insulated box idea. My only concern is my 12h donkey. I don’t want to make the water any harder for her to reach, plus she’s already very suspicious of water in general. She has been funny about this her whole life, though she manages to stay hydrated.

The older I get, the more fears I develop about tank heaters. I used to think the Rubbermaid troughs were safer than metal troughs when using electric, but I’ve recently learned that is not true! The metal troughs at least provide a route for stray electricity straight to the ground, instead of zapping anyone who touches the water.

I am already dealing with a stray voltage problem on my farm independent of the tank deicers. I am just having a hard time figuring out if it being caused by my fence energizer or if it is from the buried DIY electricity run by the prior farm owners; without digging up the whole place it’s hard to confirm. I honestly suspect it may be both. Plus the problem is inconsistent so it might be very bad one day, then not happen again for weeks. It’s been maddening.

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I have the green ones. The only ones I could get at my local feed store at the time. I did notice the other day when I was in there they are carrying the blue ones now. I wonder if they switched for that reason?

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I hate the plug heaters. One of those things I thought I’d love but the leaking and the process to install and remove…such a pain.

I use the K&H heater. They float or sink. They DO NOT have an auto shut off if the tank goes dry, so just know that. They have a graphic on their site to size the heater to your weather, which I like a lot–not every locale NEEDS 1500 watts.

I keep my pasture tanks outside the field & they reach through the fence to drink. That also makes it harder for them to eff with the heater.

Another option is to cover half or a third of the tank with plywood (or whatever) and put the heater on that side. You could set up that covered section outside of the fence, and the rest inside the fence. (Long side of the tank perpendicular to the fence line.)

What I’ve noticed, though, is there’s really only maybe a week or two every winter when I really need to heat the water in turnout during the day. Otherwise, breaking ice in the morning and removing it from the tank is enough. Given the eye watering cost of power here, I do that unless it’s really cold enough to freeze during the day. I use the 16 gallon tubs in the barn overnight (and unplug them during the day when horses are out, I keep meaning to put them on timers.)

So do think about if you really need to heat your water allllll winter. It’s awfully nice to not stress over the deicer and the cord and the electricity.


I have been told by my vets, and I believe, that horses are much happier drinking warmer water during the winter. That means that with all of the dry stuff that they consume, you have a better chance of not having an impaction colic. I don’t like those too much.

Yes, it’s expensive to run the heaters. It’s more expensive to deal with a colic, and even worse if you lose the horse. I’ll go for running the heaters.

I’ve been using a drain plug heater for several years. It’s worked well, but the PITA factor is very high. Install it every fall, and de-install it in spring. The attachment contraption plastic screw-in thing was awful to work with. Plus, if I needed to empty the tank with the heater installed, I had to pull the whole thing out and fully dump it. Also this summer I finally got smart and installed a faucet in place of the plug, and with a hose, a hose quick-connect, and gravity, draining and cleaning is a snap. I didn’t want to dismantle that system.

So on impulse, I bought a sinking/caged tank heater when I saw one at my local feed store several weeks ago. Installation was as easy as dropping it in the tank, plugging it in, and turning it on… after years of the DP heater, I appreciated that! I’ve used it several times, and knock on wood, it’s done its job well. The instructions say to plug directly into a GFCI outlet, but the cord is too short for my setup. I use an extension cord, specifically a 10-gauge 25’ 3-prong heavy-duty outdoor extension cord, and plug that into the outlet. The cord has a light at the end so I can see if I remembered to turn it on. So far, I’ve only had it on at night when temps go below 28-30. With the frigid temps coming up, it may be on through the day for a few days.

I learned about the possibility of electric shock here on COTH (thanks COTH, ignorance was bliss!). After installing the new heater, I tested the water with a multimeter. I got a very small reading, can’t remember how much, but it was very low. The internet said it probably wasn’t enough to be a problem for most livestock, but the internet also said that horses could be sensitive to the smallest bit of current in the water. So I took a length of electric fence grounding wire and was going to pound in a ground rod (ugh) when I realized I had a t-post right next to the tank… I re-tested the tank while grounding on the metal post, and success! The current was so negligible that the t-post was sufficient to ground it out completely. So I wrapped the wire around the post with a good connection at the end, put the other end in the tank, and the job was done.

I’m not sure the very small bit of current would have made a difference, but I’m secure knowing that my tank is grounded, and I enjoy watching my horses drink long and deep while the heater is turned on. I keep half the tank on the paddock side and half on the outside so I can drain, use heaters, etc. without actually going into the paddock.

The heater had something that ensured the heating element stayed centered on the cage, but it seemed kinda flimsy. I decided on more insurance, so I weaved in a spiral fence splicer to better connect the parts and secured it with a pipe clamp.

I’ve read some very interesting threads on COTH about keeping tanks ice-free using compost, passive solar, etc. I’ve considered these methods, and those who have found success are very happy with them. I decided, though, that if I can avoid it I don’t want another project in my life that requires materials, mental effort, and time. I live on rural property, and I have more than enough of those already. If the power goes out for an extended time during a freeze, that will be another story…

Not sure why the photos aren’t showing. They’re pictures of what I did with my tank. I find visuals sometimes easier to understand than descriptions.

ETA: got the photos to work

1.HEIC (3.1 MB)
2.HEIC (1.8 MB) 3.HEIC (1.3 MB)h


I don’t know if this was directed at me or just a general statement, but I have no problem with the expense (within reason).

My problem is the drain style heaters keep snapping in half on me, the submerged and floating ones become toys, and the heated troughs are small when dealing with multiple horses turned out!


Horses generally prefer cold water in winter. There’s an article about it in The Horse, let me see if I can find it.

Couldn’t pull it up with a quick search, but it’s there somewhere. It stated that if horses are offered both heated and unheated water, they generally prefer unheated, but they may drink more of the heated water.

Yes, of course, if you have horse that won’t drink enough cold water, you’ll need to heat it. Mine don’t have that problem. There are also horses that are very reluctant to drink when there’s heater present, so removing it unless it’s really needed can help them out.

The point of a deicer isn’t to produce bath temp water, anyway, it’s to keep the ice off. I’ve found that for the bulk of winter, I can avoid the hassle of a deicer, because temps are such that the tank isn’t freezing over during the day when they’re out. Keeping the ice off of it at night when temps DO dip and the tank freezes isn’t necessary because…the horses are in the barn.

It’s easy to get sucked into dropping a deicer in the tank in the fall and running it all winter. That’s not necessary for every climate.


I will check out the K&H brand.

My fence is coated high tensile wire with electric- no way to put it on the other side of the fence or under the fence. I also own a 12h donkey who cannot reach.

My horses live out 24/7. Whenever the temp drops into the low 20s at night, which is frequently in the winter, the ice forms too quickly and too thickly for me to feel comfortable they have access to water throughout the night. That also means I can’t just cover the trough overnight.

I could try to partially cover the trough to protect the heater, but I’m not sure that would deter a curious weanling. It would probably become one more toy to mess with.

Another vote for a sinking heater. I don’t know why I had such a bias against these for so long.

Thanks for the pics. I’ve been playing with similar setups for stray voltage. Stray voltage is a real PITA that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Do you have a way to secure the heater itself in the trough from curious and playful horses?

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Ah, yeah, having them out overnight does make it more difficult on the ice front.

Are there any areas with an H brace where it could be possible to tie off each side of the fence to the brace, just leaving the wood? Or (project time) maybe put in an h brace in a convenient spot? You could have half or 2/3 of the tank in the field, and the remainder outside the field, with the heater in the tank, under a cover. Heater & cord would be totally outside the field and away from curious baby horses.

While I’m not saying that’s impossible, that would be an undertaking to do this to 3 fields. It would involve reconfiguring the bracing wire and running electric conduit underground on top of dealing with the bitch of resectioning the wire. Also that would mean my troughs would be at the gate, which I don’t love for a number of reasons. My corner braces are too far from the hose, and corners aren’t any more preferable. Or I’d have to build a new brace which is not a project I have any interest in.


Just something to keep in mind if little miss plays with everything continues to be a pest :joy: I love having my tanks outside the field, it’s just so much easier!

Not you- just a general statement. I tried the drainplug, and had a horse strike at it because the tank was low, and the heater was partly submerged, and hissing. No more of those for me!


It makes me happy to keep the water from freezing, and it also thrills my Vet. She’s just one of the Vets who has mentioned to me that warmer- like 40 degrees- is the way to go. No, not every climate needs tank heaters, but then again, mine have a thermostat in them, so they aren’t running when it is 45-50. Not an issue.

My horses get saturated beet pulp twice daily. When it gets below 40 or so, I throw hot water on it while it is draining in my sieve. Then, they have nice warm meals! Might be overkill, but mine like it!

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We use exclusively sinking tank deicers in very cold winters (regularly -20F to -45F below) without issue. If the horses tend to play with the heater, you can run the cord through a PVC or metal pipe that ends a few inches from the tank deicer and extends out the top of the tank, then attach that to something solid (fence, box around the tank etc.). You could even use a plumbing elbow to curve over the edge of the tank.

We have a 55-gallon plastic barrel tank and an approximately 150-200 gallon plastic tank, both are insulated with spray foam insulation. The barrel tank never ices over running one 250 watt deicer, the bigger tank will keep a drinkable hole in the ice running two, 250 watt deicers even at -45F. When it is warmer than that, the whole tank will remain deiced.

We have used both these brands and they last for several years. Occasionally we have bought a faulty one that lasted only a short time, but overall, they have both worked very well.

Allied Precision Teflon Coated Utility De-Icer
Farm Innovators Cast Aluminum Submergible De-Icer


Took the words out of my mouth; we use a sinking heater and run the cord through PVC.


Unfortunately, those thermostats often malfunction. Using a thermocube or a timer adds another layer to prevent the heater from running when it shouldn’t be.