Off my rocker?-Solar water heater?

brendasue(6)October 12, 2005

Does anyone use solar to keep their animals water thawed out during the winter? Any thoughts or ideas on this?

For a science fair project for my son we made a solar-cooker. The temperature inside reached something like 185 degrees on a partly cloudy day this summer. Interesting project it was. It was a simple cardboard box, lined with aluminum foil, a "window" out of saran wrap, with 4 "collectors" lined w/aluminum foil. For use with animals the materials would of course need to be made of more permanent materials.

Am I off my rocker?

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gingerlili(z8 NW FL)


I don't think you'd be off your rocker at all. I don't have one myself, but I've recently started to look into getting a solar water heater for the people in my house. Apparently, solar power at the residential level is most oftenused to heat pools and other water sources. If you could create a good heater for your animals, I say go for it. It might help you to save money while you keep the environment safe, too.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 1:59PM
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Off your rocker? Sounds like you are onto something. If you figure this all out, please share. I have rabbits and chickens that I am going to need to keep water thawed for this winter. And right now, I can't afford an elaborate heating system. Hadn't thought of trying to go solar.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 2:02PM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

Without a thermostat, a device like that would be unreliable. As you've already noticed, a solar collector can heat water dangerously scalding hot. But during days with low wind-chill factors and cloudy skies, it couldn't heat well enough. With a large tank that couldn't over-heat or a pond, you could possibly aim a collector at one spot on the surface to keep a drinking hole thawed.

The only thing similar to that that I've ever seen in use is a floating windmill that keeps the water around it churning to prevent it from freezing. Those don't always work and will freeze solid if the weather is bad enough.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 2:02PM
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marquisella(z4 NY)

What was the temp outside this summer when you did the experiment?

In the middle of winter with the temp at maybe 15 F, I doubt it would heat it that well. And you would have to keep a larger area of water warm to stop it from freezing.

I don't know how cold it gets in your area, but I doubt it would work for me.

I have 2 50 gal. water tanks going all winter with electric heater coils inside. I figure it costs me $50 each per month to heat.

But I want my horses to have water at all times, so I do it.

When it goes below 0F, sometimes a thin layer of ice forms on top. I'm mentioning it so you can see how hot these things need to get to keep water from freezing in very cold temperatures.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 3:16PM
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Thanks for the replies. I don't recall the temperature when we did the experiment but it was late May/June, New England temperature could have been anywhere from 75 down to 35.

I did find this article:

In case the link doesn't work it's in the the Mother Earth News November/December 1982 library, issue #78.

This one looks a bit complicated for me - I was thinking something simpler & animal friendly. I don't have electricity at my feeding stations so I can't plug anything in at this point.

We get down to -20's wind chill several times during the winter for a day or two, but normal is 5 degrees to 30 or so air temp.

PDallas-where can I find more info on this windmill? That seems like an option providing the cost isn't too far out there.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 6:48PM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

I'm doing a google search to find plans, but not having much luck yet. It's basically a small windmill that drives paddles underwater. An innertube serves as the floating platform. During the summer they serve as aerators.

So far, google searches are turning up tower-type windmills with an air hose that bubbles air through the water, serving the same purposes; those cost $1,000+. I also found solar powered pond and tank deicers and aerators for $350 - $750; you can buy a lot of extension cords for that!

I'll keep looking, but in the meantime there's a link to the solar ones below. Perhaps the floating windmills are homemade rather than commercially available.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stock Tank De-Icer Shallow Solar Pond Aerator

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 7:17PM
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I'll Check it out-Thanks!

In the meantime-look what I found!

I have horses but I need to water my goats, too, and that seems a bit too high for them-not to mention they are in different pastures so I'd need 2 at $649.00 each plus shipping.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 7:23PM
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DPallas(z6, SW Mo)

Very nice! Here's the same thing in kit form for $509 direct from the manufacturer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amesco Horse Waterers

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 8:00PM
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jason_reno(z5 NV)

It appears to be just an insulated box with a tough plastic window. It could be built for a lot less than $500, if your livestock doesn't eat wood.

Other ideas can be found by searching the patent files ( with key words like "solar, ice and livestock."

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 8:27PM
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Love solar but why do you need to pay for electricity/solar panels? Being a bit of a mad inventor here goes. Buy/use an old radiator, paint it black and fix an old window over it to absorb more sun. Connect simple copper pipe to radiator on one side (the more flexible the better) wind the copper pipe around a former (round bit of stick)-you might find it earier to fill with sand first before coiling the pipe. Empty the sand out and fill the pipe (use a funnel) with ordinary antifreeze, connect the pipe up to other side of radiator. Sunshine will automatically warm the radiator and convection will force the warmed antifreeze through the closed system and down into the coil part. Place this coil in the pond/water and it will stop water freezing. If you are clever this system will cost you nothing to run and use scrap parts mainly. Make sure that when you fill with antifreeze that there are no air bubbles in the system and for safety reasons you could always put the coil in a metal box so that stock don't accidentally knock it. To be super safe you could replace antifreeze with whisky/hooch so if it spills you are warned by singing drinking donkeys!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 5:26AM
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Hmm, RichDragon50 I'm gonna have to run that one by my DH as I don't know anything about cars, but I know we have a radiator here, perhaps even several. It sounds like a set up like that could be set on a platform & perhaps fenced off on 3 sides so no animals (except ducks) could get/want to get to the radiator. How much coil would be practical for just a drinking hole? Do you know about how much water will be unfrozen around the coils?

I think I just might become somewhat of an inventor accomplice over the next few weeks. If all else fails, I'll have to open the pocketbook I guess.

I vote we start an invention thread. I'll bet there's some great ideas out there!


    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 6:42PM
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For our horses we used a solar system but it didn't actually heat the water it just operated a pump from our pond that fed a specially designed ice-proof watering bowl only when the animals came close to drink and when they had drank their fill the water drained out of the watering bowl so the water never froze! It worked great last year even though it wasn't the coldest winter but still it was quite a good system for our horses. If you search for winter watering systems you can find more.

Good luck

Here is a link that might be useful: This is the watering system we used

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 2:35PM
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Neat idea! We have a couple of ponds, so that might work, too.

Unfortunately I havn't had a chance to really persue any of these ideas. Things just get sooooo busy around here sometimes! We received our first frost earlier this week! If I'm going to do it this year I'd better get cracking....

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 7:23PM
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What I plan for this winter here in the high desert(5850Â) is to use a solar fountain pump (
I have a steel water tank that is buried in the ground and 3/4" of it is covered,this part is on the outside of the fence,with the other 1/4" on the inside where the animals can drink,as the tank is about 24" deep and will be setting the pump up on a 1" piece of steel to keep it out of the blow sand that the wind blows in. Since I have cover the tank most of the way the blow sand has drop from about 2" to 4" in a week to maybe 1" in a month. This pump can pump up to 2.62 ft high . So with the pump set back under the cover where the animals canÂt get to it. It should keep the water moving enough to where at the most it might freeze is a thin layer on top where the tank is open. The freeze ground point is about 18" so the bottom of the tank is kept warm from Mother earth so warm water will be pump up through a tube about 4" where it will move the warm water off the bottom up as I am trying a small 12 vote motorcycle battery I am going to use instead of the small panel and batteries that came with it along with a 1.5 watt battery charge(r as I plan to hook up two pumps just for the safe side the small 12 vote battery should work and keep the pumps going 24/7. I pick up a bicycle light generator that I may hook up to a small yard windmill for the days when there is no sun. With using a black battery box with 2Â foam all around the battery and a cigarette lighter plug in to hook up the solar panel to battery and a DC female plug for the pump to plug into on the battery box. So the whole thing is under $100..

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 4:52PM
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dunwaukin(Ontario 5b)

Here's one:
Haven't tried it - but sounds like a good idea

Here is a link that might be useful: Steve's water heater

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 10:11PM
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The only thing i found on the web as yet, is call a solar sipper..i haven't bought one, but just reading up. I am looking into stuff cause I have feral something small and cheap would be good

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 1:01PM
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Resurrecting an old post because I'm slow. I've been thinking about making a radiator convection water heater for the livestock pond just like the one RichDragon described. Has anyone tried one and had any luck? I was thinking about taking the mad scientist think a step further by adding an impeller to the system, attaching it to an old alternator and trying to trickle charge a battery for a powered deicer. Do you think the convection currents would be enough to spin an impeller?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 4:38PM
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