Frozen Automatic Horse Waterer

Your automatic waterer for your horses needs to be installed properly for your location and used regularly to keep from freezing.

You must install your automatic waterer properly in order for it to stay unfrozen in winter. Kimberly S. Brown

Animal Arts architectural firm specializes in equine and animal facilities. Their experts answer questions from our readers to help you build or maintain your equine facility.

Question for Animal Arts

How can you thaw out an automatic waterer for my horses? My first three winters in Wyoming, my heated auto waterer had no problem. This winter it froze up. My son-in-law said the frost line had crept in and that it wasn’t installed properly as there wasn’t a pipe around the water pipe leading up into the waterer. He said that it would have to be dug up and fixed next spring once the ground thaws.

First, is there anything that can be done now. Second, can you give general tips about installing auto waterers to prevent this problem for others?

Answer from Animal Arts

Sorry this happened! This has been a very interesting winter across the country. We’ve had some deep freezing here in Colorado, too, that have defied winter norms. The automatic waterer should be keeping the water above 32 degrees. If not, check to make sure it’s working properly, and that it’s getting enough power. If it’s located far from your electrical box, the voltage may be too low for it to be effectively doing its job. If it’s getting enough power and still not working properly, check the manufacturer’s warranty. Many products come with extended warranties.

With the pipe leading to the waterer freezing, check how deep it’s buried. The frost line in Wyoming varies from about 25” to 45”, depending on where you are. Be sure that your pipe is buried below that distance, the entire length. Manufacturers’ recommendations show a heat well under the waterer to allow ground heat to accumulate. You can also insulate the pipe above the frost line. Wrapping heat tape around the pipe (under the insulation) should also help. 

One more thing: be sure your automatic waterer gets used at least twice a day. That’ll help keep the water in the pipes running, rather than sitting stagnant. Moving water is less likely to freeze.

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