Ice free water

Nov 21, 2007 02:33 pm
Ice free water

I'm new to solar energy experimentation.  I would like to make a small system to keep my horse's water warm this winter.  There is no access to electricity so thought solar power would be the way to go.  What do I need to get started?
28 Posts
Nov 21, 2007 03:23 pm
Re: Ice free water

Can I ask a couple of questions first?  First, how much water is in the trough and what's the lowest temperature you want to have ice-free water available?  What temperature do you want to try to keep the water at?  (Just thinking 33º might be a little too cold to drink.)  Assuming you want to keep water available for a number of cloudy days, you'll need batteries, so how many days to you want to guarantee icefree water?  More days = more batteries.
184 Posts
Nov 22, 2007 09:22 pm
Re: Ice free water

What you're suggesting is a solar PV system to be used for resistance heating.  That is usually an expensive way to go.

You might consider circulating water from underground (to warm it), maybe through a series of burried pvc pipes.  A small pump wouldn't use too much energy, and could be powered by a modest solar PV system.  If you decide to pursue that approach, first look into pumps.  Find the power requirements for the pump you choose.  Then it's a simple matter to design a PV system large enough to supply that much power.

28 Posts
Nov 23, 2007 02:53 am
Re: Ice free water

John, I'm wondering first, why you think its expensive and secondly, why you think its more expensive than installing and maintaining a piped supply to and a pump itself in freezing conditions.  If you did go that route, then you still have to power the pump, so solar panels (and batteries) would still be needed.  A simple panel (and maybe batteries) connected to a small resistance heating element (maybe more like heat tracing) might be just the right solution.  Certainly much simpler. If the temperature difference isn't much and there is some insulation available, power reqirements could be quite small. 
28 Posts
Nov 23, 2007 08:09 am
Re: Ice free water

Actually, I suppos the best way is to make an even simpler solar thermal collector installation.
28 Posts
Nov 24, 2007 02:08 am
Re: Ice free water

provided you can keep the equipment from freezing up and bursting during the night.
184 Posts
Nov 24, 2007 12:10 pm
Re: Ice free water

My point is that even a small amount of resistance heating, operating 24/7 requires quite a bit of energy, and therefore a substantial PV system and batteries.  On the other hand, running a small pump would require much less energy.  What I've suggested is much more work of course, but less costly for materials.  Would a small resistance heating element, mounted in a small-well insulated tank be a better solution?  I don't know. 

28 Posts
Nov 24, 2007 04:00 pm
Re: Ice free water

S'poze it depends on how much that horse drinks. :-)
Looks like we're not going to find out either.
Dec 4, 2007 12:05 pm
Re: Ice free water

Currently we have a 10 gallon tank which we fill twice daily with hot water and cover at night.  The temperature here in northern Montana can get quite cold (-40 degrees F) but if we could keep ice from forming even at 0 degrees it would make life much easier.  We currently drain our 30 gallon tank as it will freeze solid in prolonged cold.
Dec 4, 2007 12:06 pm
Re: Ice free water

Sorry I was so slow getting back.  Been gone.  The horses drink 4 to 6 gallons a day depending on how much snow there is on the ground.
462 Posts
Dec 4, 2007 01:28 pm
Re: Ice free water

Andrea, all you need is something to keep the water moving so it does not freeze. You can either use an air pump to introduce bubbles to move the water or some type of device that will stir the water. A small DC air pump, water pump or motor attached to an arm or paddle, driven by a small PV cell or battery should do the trick......
4 Posts
Dec 12, 2007 02:06 am
Re: Ice free water

Use an aerator to make bubbles in the tank.   A small 12V air pump blows through a diffuser stone to make bubbles.  It will keep the water from freezing.  Once it is frozen the bubbles can't break ice.   So you will need a battery to keep the pump running through the night if it will be really cold.   Dankoff Solar used to sell something called the "SP bubbly", try google.

have fun,
18 Posts
Jan 22, 2008 02:25 am
Re: Ice free water

Ice free horse water in Northern Montana. . .

What about a little bit from both Earth and Sky?. . . I think John D. is on to something. . .

What if you could heat the water, just enough to keep it from freezing, using Geothermal, and circulate it through the tank using solar? . . .  just a thought. . .

Depending on the terrain, if you had enough fairly level ground you could lay out a simple Geothermal exchange system.  With a simple trencher you could lay out 150’ – 200’ of trench 4’ – 6’ deep (4” wide, just enough for the pipe…), 6’ apart in a connecting loop.
 ___      ___
|    |    |    |
|    |    |    |
|    |    |    |
|    |    |    |
|    ----___|
|   |

Using buriable PVC or CPVC 400+PSI 1/2' pipe connect it all up back to the tank - up, over and down into the tank bottem.  You would need a 12VDC circulating pump – I don’t have a lot of info on these from Solar resources but I wonder if something from a Marine application could be adapted?  I refurbished an older sail boat and did a LOT of 12V research.  There are lot of submersible and external 12VDC bilge pumps available in all sizes – what if one of these could be adapted?. . .

It wouldn’t take much, and it doesn’t have to lift the water once the system is flooded.  I wonder if there’s a timer that could cycle the pump during the night (50%/50%) to conserve batteries, and then run constant when there is sun. . .  so lets say the pump draws 3-4Amps. . .   you’d need 40+ Ah to run it during the off period, and enough PV panel to run and recharge . . .  I differ to the Solar experts to size all this.  I realize this is a DIY solution, and a lot depends on Andrea Christenot expertise. . .
(Extrapolated from Geothermal Heating – Popular Mechanics WEB page)
The soil below frost level – 4 ft. to 6 ft. deep – stores the sun's energy at a more or less constant level, with temperatures keyed to latitude.  Subsoil temperatures range from the low 40s in the North to the low 70s in the South.
For purposes of comparison, we'll use the 55 degrees F soil temperature common in much of the Midwest and Central Plains. This area of the country suffers some extreme temperatures, but also has a fair number of mild days, so it's a reasonable choice.
97 Posts
Jan 22, 2008 03:49 pm
Re: Ice free water

I am just throwing in my thoughts on the geothermal water heating concept for ice free water in Montana. I have a geothermal home heating/ac unit with a substantial ground loop system.......4000 ft of PVC containing 120 gallons of water, buried 8 feet underground,  and located on the same latitude as Montana.  In heating mode, the heat pump cools the loop water to below freezing temperatures (perhaps a bit warmer than an outside watering tank), but the circulating water still comes out at near freezing temperature or below, and requires addition of antifreeze to the water.  As long as the water is moving, it probably would not freeze even without the antifreeze additive, but if, for some reason, the pump stopped, there would still be a risk of freezing the water and breaking the underground pipes. I would not recommend CPVC pipe for this installation.......I've seen it fracture for no apparent reason, and its really tough to have to dig up all of that piping to make a repair.
2 Posts
Jan 22, 2008 10:59 pm
Re: Ice free water

Hi,  We live down in the Wind Rivers.  It's 25 below right now.  We've kept horses here 15 years and I still can't believe they survive.  One thing that helps a lot is plenty of "warm" water all the time.  We're off the grid and the simplest solution has been propane fired tank heaters in metal stock tanks.  The tanks are fitted in insulated plywood boxes.  The boxes cut fuel use by about a factor of four or five times.
     As for any kind of PV powered heater, that would be expensive and unsatisfactory.  These other guys commenting don't grasp.  It takes about a 250 watt electric heater to keep a five gallon rubber bucket thawed in this weather.  That would be about a five thousand dollar PV system for 24 hour use.  I'm sure you could dig a giant hole near your stock tank, put a 200 Gal storage tank 12 foot under ground and circulate to an insulated 10 Gal tank above ground with a simple DC pump and maybe 400 AH worth of batteries.  This would work but it's anything but cheap or simple.  Get a Broyhill tank heater and plumb it to your house tank if you can.
9 Posts
Jan 30, 2008 10:20 am
Re: Ice free water

I think that the geothermal guys are on to something here but I would go about it in a completely diffrent way.  1) I would drill a well as deep as practical. 2) I would install 3" schedule 40 pipe to the bottom of the well with a end cap. 4) I would also run 3/8" or 1/2" copper or plastic tubing (air pipe) to the bottom of the well pipe and out a exit tee fitting at the top of the well pipe. 5) At the tee I would enter the bottom of the tank with the 3" pipe at 90* thru a bolt on manifold (toilet flange)and run the pipe half way to the center of the stock tank (6 I would install a small 12V dc air pump or compressor to the air pipe and connect that to a battery bank and appropriate solar array all to be controlled by a thermostat and a SPDT switch so you could use it in any weather as an areator.
     The air would be the motor that drives (circulates) the warmed water and the air would also bubble into the tank to keep the surface from freezing. The air pump would not pull much amperage so the array and battery bank would not have to be excessively large.
     I have a drawing of this system as I have been working on this for a while and If you e-mail me I will be glad to send it to you  -  oltoby @  - please put ice free water in the subject line.
Jim C.

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