When you manage or work at a farm in Canada you can certainly relate to the frustration that comes with the country’s not-at-all-uncommon sub-zero winter temperatures. Making sure your horses have clean, fresh water should always be a number one priority, but freezing water can quickly become a challenge when temperatures dip below the freezing mark. It can be quite disheartening to wake up to temperatures below -20°C and know with near-certainty that you’re going to run into problems that day. If you don’t set up your farm’s water system correctly the first time you’ll be waking up each morning on cold winter days praying that nothing freezes.
Your water line must lie below the frost line. Be thorough in your planning by checking your local building codes for your area’s frost depth. When installing a water line you must keep in mind a number of things:
- If you’re planning to run your water line under a driveway or turnout path you’ll have to keep in mind that the frost depth in those areas is going to be deeper than in areas without traffic. The reason behind this is that snow acts as an insulator, and in high-traffic areas the snow is often removed, resulting in a deeper frost depth. You can plan for this by simply running the water line deeper, or by adding Styrofoam insulation on top of those water lines. Another alternative would be to skirt the water line around these areas instead of going beneath them.
- Think about installing frost-free hydrants in areas where you require access to water. Frost-free hydrants are installed in the ground, and water only comes up above the frost line when the handle is pulled (or, in the case of The Drinking Post, when the paddle is pushed).
Do not fret if you already have your water line in place and often deal with frozen pipes, as there are a few things you can still do to help remedy freezing issues:
- You can run a heat tracer line inside your water line. A heat tracer is an electrical heater element that can easily be purchased from your local hardware store or better yet from a plumbing supply store. If your lines are always freezingit very well may be worth the effort to invest in an internal pipe freeze protection line, which can be installed into any existing water line.
- Leave your hose or tap trickling into a water bucket or drain during times of sub-zero temperatures. The movement within the pipe will help prevent the line from freezing. Just remember that in order to do this you must have a reliable source of water.
- Place bales of straw above areas where you feel the frost is reaching your pipes. Straw acts as an insulator and will prevent frost from reaching the water line. Hay will not be as effective as it is not as good of an insulator as straw. CAUTION: Do NOT place straw near plugs, heaters, and/or electrical wires.
- Invest in multiple shut-offs for your water lines; this will afford you the ability to shut off lines that you know are aproblem and then drain the water from them.
- You can install an air fitting on your water lines which will give you the ability to blow out lines with an air compressor that are causing issues in freezing temperatures.
Implement one or many of these strategies to help you avoid unnecessary stress this winter. The less time you spend attempting to thaw out your water lines this winter is more time you can spend with your horses—or in your home away from the cold!
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