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Economy Water Tank Heater

During cold winter months horse owners typically plug in those high energy water heaters to prevent drinking water from freezing. Often I see steam rising from water troughs at stables who pour money into the atmosphere and consume higher energy cost. In this era of energy conservation, we must be more energy conscious.


Ever found yourself plugging in one extension cord after another just to reach a remote water tub? Add 3 or 4 or more tubs and the old breaker panel starts to heat up, blow fuses or even fire..!!! Often I have seen extension cords melting through the snow… this should send you a clear message that you are overloading your circuits.

Here is a quick and easy install to help reduce energy waste for under $25.00 per tub.


Commercial tub heaters can be expensive to operate with high power consumption fees. These heaters range from 1500 to 1800 watts of power each. During the part of winter that doesn’t have extreme cold, these heaters are simply “too much” and end up providing TOO warm of drinking water for maintaining healthy horses.


I will discuss the installation of an economical heater for the RubberMaid and Tuff Tub designs most commercially available…but this install can be used on “any” water tub…. including bathtubs.


a)     Go to your local hardware store (not automotive outlet) and buy a car engine block heater. Retails for under $25.00 each. Typically they come in two power sizes 400 watt and 600 watt. Look for the ones that have a “V” clamping system on the back side of the heater. Print this photo and take it with you.

While you are at the hardware store, get an electric hot water tank heater. Look for the 1000 watt one which screws into a hot water tank. Also you need a power cord which you can probably salvage from an old appliance. Insure it has a three prong plug.


b)     Some tubs have no holes at all… some tubs do. I’ll cover both types. With your tub on a suitable work bench (a tailgate will do), place a mark in the centre of the tub near the bottom of the tub.


c)       Borrow your neighbour’s holesaw and drill a 1 ½” hole straight through the tub.(check the size of your particular block heater for a snug fit)





d)     Next, simply install the engine heater, and tighten the adjusting screw for a good snug fit. Insure the rubber “O” ring seats flat against the tub from the “Outside” for a complete seal. Plug in the cord and your ready to go..!


e)      With Rubbermaid tubs that have a bung hole already in them, I simply get a “Galvanized” 1 ¼” to 1” pipe adapter and screw it into the bung. I screw in my 1000 watt electric water tank heater, add my power cord and I’m ready to go.


*note: photo shows plug exposed for clarity. Use a plastic power box to protect wiring from the elements.


f)      If you already have one of those expensive power robbing heaters, try this. Drill the hole slightly above the power robber and install your new energy saver.


Here is how I use this system. While the weather is cold enough to freeze the surface layer of the tank, I use the 400 watt economy heater. If it gets too cold to keep the ice off, I simply switch to the 1000 watt water tank heater. In some cases, that’s all the power I have for some more remote tanks. During those few days of extended -30 degrees… you can plug in both heaters if required. At least you won’t be using excess energy, saving on your energy cost and our environment. This winter it went to -30 C. and all we used with all the tubs were the 400 watt economy heaters.


Always ensure that a Ground Fault Interceptor (GFI) outlet is used when near water and livestock. Severe colic or even death may occur if electric circuits are not grounded and protected properly. This holds true and includes all commercial stock tank heaters as well.


Good luck with your project and be sure to Check back often…..

Contact: Steven & Jennifer Zachary

P.O. Box 276

Pritchard, British Columbia, Canada

V0E 2P0

(250) 577-3526

Email: horses@turningpointranch.ca

Last Updated: January 6, 2010