There’s nothing like smashing through the ice with your bare hands on a winter morning to make you wonder about the benefits of water trough heaters. I’ve smashed through a lot of ice over the years because I work with horses, and keeping them hydrated is an essential part of my job.
These days, I use a heated water system to keep their water drinkable in the winter. So, if you want to know how a heater can improve your life in the cold months, look at my best water through heaters guide below.
In this guide, you can learn:
- The function of water trough heaters
- How to choose a water trough heater
- The best water trough heaters on the market
Bottom Line Up Front
When it comes to keeping my horse’s water ice-free in the winter, I like to use the K&H Pet Products Floating and Submersible Deicer. This is my favorite heater on the market because it’s versatile, well-made, and safety-certified. The heater comes in several sizes, and it has a metal safety guard so you can use it in all types of containers.
A Quick Glance at My Top Choices
Before we get into the details about water trough heaters, here’s a sneak peek at my favorite ones on the market:
- K&H Pet Products Floating and Submersible Deicer – This is the best heater on the market for large water troughs. It’s powerful, thermostatically controlled, and you can use it as a floating or submersible device.
- Allied Precision Floating Deicer – This is one of the best floating trough heaters on the market. It’s safety certified, has an anti-rub cord, and will heat up to 300 gallons of water.
- Farm Innovators Submersible Utility Deicer – This is a fantastic, low-watt submersible horse trough heater and will effectively stop the ice forming on up to 50 liters of water. It’s versatile, durable, and highly effective at keeping small troughs warm in the winter.
What Are Trough Water Heaters?
Water trough heaters are also called tank deicers and are devices you can use to stop your horse’s water from freezing in the winter. Water tank heaters need to be plugged into a power source and will heat the water to just above freezing level – they don’t make the water too warm.
The main benefit of water trough heaters is that you don’t have to smash ice with your bare hands in the winter. They also give you peace of mind because you know your horses will always have access to clean water, which is essential to their survival. If horses don’t have enough water, it can cause colic and other illnesses, and dehydration can be fatal.
How I Choose the Best Horse Trough Heaters
Choosing a water trough heater isn’t straightforward because troughs and heaters come in many different styles and designs. When I choose a heater, first I consider the type I need for my trough, then I make sure the power is correct for my source, and I make sure it has all the recommended safety features.
To give you a better idea, I’ll talk you through the essential things to consider when you buy a horse trough heater.
#1 – The Power
You measure the power of water heaters and deicers in watts, and most are between 250 and 1,500. So, if I want to stop a bucket or small container from freezing over, I choose a low-watt device, between 250 and 500 watts. If I want the device for a large tank in a cold climate, I select a powerful heater between 1000 and 1500 watts.
I also consider my power source when I choose a trough heater. If I need to run a powerful heater, I usually get an electrician to add extra power outlets closer to my tanks and install a grounding kit.
#2 – The Safety Features
Water and electricity can be dangerous, so I always look out for extra safety features when I buy a trough heater, such as:
- An Automatic on/off Thermostat – It’s better if the heater can switch itself off when it’s not in use to reduce electric consumption and accidents.
- A guard for the heater and components – A heater guard is an essential feature to look out for, especially if you have a plastic trough. Guards are usually metal cages or tough plastic containers, which stop the heating element from contacting the trough and prevent horses from damaging it.
- A grounding feature – Most horse trough heaters come with a grounding feature. If it doesn’t come with one, you must buy one separately. The grounding feature is the same as the one on electric fences and is vital to stop your horse from getting a shock.
- Safety Certificates and Testing – The major safety certificates to look out for in the USA are Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), or a MET mark. Always choose a heater with safety certificates to reduce the chances of an electrical fire or malfunction.
#3 – The Type
There are several types of trough heater on the market, and each has its own benefits – which we’ll look at below:
- Bucket Heaters – Bucket heaters are the smallest ones on the market, and you should only use them in small buckets or containers.
- Floating Heaters – These devices float on the water’s surface, so they heat the top rather than the bottom, which is often more effective since ice will form on the surface first. The only drawback to floating heaters is that some horses will play with them, and they must be out of the wind, or they won’t function correctly.
- Drain Plug Heaters – Drain plug heaters attach to the drain hole and are safely out of reach of animals.
- Submersible Heaters – These heaters sit under the water and are more protected from animals, and the elements and curious horses can’t play with them, so there is less chance of damage.
The Best Trough Heaters on the Market
The world of equine water trough heaters can be complex, and it’s hard to know where to start looking for the perfect one. So to help you in your search, below, I’ve listed the best water heaters on the market:
#1 – The Best Floating Horse Trough Water Heaters
This high-quality, patented, cast aluminum floating stock tank deicer is designed for optimum safety and efficiency to keep your horse’s water trough ice-free in the winter. It’s a powerful 1250-watt heater, so it’s ideal for large water troughs.
I like this heater because it’s well-made, UL tested, and has a safety thermostat, so it only works when the temperature nears freezing. It’s heavy-duty, durable, and safe for plastic tanks, and it has an anti-chew cord to stop curious horses nibbling it.
- You get a discount if you buy more than one.
- It’s UL tested.
- It’s not suitable for small troughs.
K&H has over 20 years of experience creating professional pet products in Colorado Springs, USA, and is a trusted brand when it comes to horse trough water heaters. This floating bucket deicer is low wattage at 250 watts – and fully MET tested and meets safety standards. It’s tough and durable and comes with a safety cage.
I love this submersible bucket heater because it’s suitable for all pails and water buckets. It has a built-in thermostat, so it switches on and off automatically and won’t keep running unnecessarily. I also like that it comes with a cord clip so you can keep it securely away from animals, and it comes with a two-year manufacturer warranty.
- It can save you money because it’s low-watt.
- It’s well-made and durable.
- It’s MET tested.
- It must be covered in water at all times – or it will burn out.
- It’s not suitable for large troughs.
This floating deicer is from Allied Precision, who’ve been creating ranching and farming solutions since 1942. This high-quality floating heater comes encased in a durable and buoyant enclosure and sits on top of the water to prevent ice from forming.
I love this heater because the stainless steel heating element is long-lasting, dependable, and comes with an anti-rub power chord. This heater is available in 1000 and 1500 watts – the 1000-watt model is Ideal for heating 70 – 100 gallons of water, while the 1500-watt will keep 100 – 300 gallons of water ice-free.
- It’s long-lasting, dependable, and durable.
- You need to buy an extra guard with it if you want to use it in plastic buckets or containers.
#2 – The Best Submersible Horse Trough Water Heaters
Farm Innovators have been producing high-quality farm products since 1983 and have a solid reputation when it comes to livestock tank heaters. This versatile, submersible heater is available in 250 and 500 watts and will heat up to 50 gallons of water.
The fantastic thing about this device is that you can use it in all containers, including plastic ones, and it has a thermostat, so it switches off when it’s not needed. It’s low watt, durable, and the 5ft cord is covered with a waterproof sheath.
- It comes in 250 and 500 watts.
- You get a discount when you buy more than one.
- You can use it in a range of different livestock waterers.
- It’s not suitable for large tanks
The Farm Innovators submergible tank de-icer sits on the bottom of the tank away from mischievous horses. It has a thermostat control, so it switches off when the water is at the correct temperature. This is a powerful 1500-watt device, so it’s better suited to large water troughs.
I like this submersible heater because it has a metal guard – so you can use it on all types of tanks. However, you need to assemble it when it arrives, and if you’re not very technical-minded, you might have to ask someone for help.
- It’s powerful, so ideal for large water troughs.
- You have to assemble it yourself
This sinking 1500-watt Tank heater from Allied Precision is fantastic for large troughs which contain between 100 and 300 gallons of water. It’s suitable for all water containers, has a durable stainless steel heating element, and comes with a 3-foot cord.
I like this heater because it’s hard-wearing, dependable, and has a 6-inch anti-run cord. It also has a thermostat for extra safety, which activates the heater when the water is 40F.
- It’s suitable for large water tanks.
- You have to construct it yourself.
- The cord is short.
#3 – The Best Floating and Submersible Horse Trough Water Heaters
This floating and submersible deicer has a unique patented design, and you can use it in all water troughs, including plastic ones. This high-powered heater is 1250 watts, so is best suited to large water containers.
The thing I love about this heater is that it comes with a cast aluminum cover and chew-proof cord, so it’s super durable- ideal if your horse likes to chew things. It also has an automatic thermostat for extra safety and a 3-year manufacturer’s guarantee.
- It’s ideal for large horse water troughs.
- It’s easy to convert from a floating to a submersible heater.
- It’s powerful, so not suitable for small troughs.
This is a high-quality trough heater from K&H pet products, and you can use it on the surface or submerged in the water to keep it ice-free. It has an automatic thermostat to activate the heater, and switch it off when it’s not in use, and has full safety certificates.
The thing I like most about this horse trough heater is that it’s high quality but economical and is available in a range of watts from 250 to 1500. It also comes with a 5-and-a-half-foot cord and a safety clip.
- It’s available in 250 watts up to 1500 watts.
- It’s MET certified.
- It must be in constant contact with water – or it will overheat.
I love this stock tank deicer from API because it’s super versatile – you can use it as a floating, submersible or drain plug de-icer in all troughs, including plastic ones. It also has a thermostat to switch the heater off when the water is at the desired temperature.
This powerful 1500-watt heater is CSA/UL tested and is perfect to use in 100 to 300-gallon containers. The great thing about this heater is that it is fantastic for cold climates and hard-water areas.
- You can use it as a floating, submersible or drain plug deicer.
- It’s CSA/UL tested.
- It’s not suitable for small troughs.
Water Trough Heater Safety Tips
Water troughs are a fantastic way to keep your horse’s water flowing in the winter, but as we all know, water and electricity don’t mix. If you don’t use them correctly, water trough heaters can become an electrical hazard.
To help keep your horses safe when they drink from a heated trough, take a look at these safety tips:
- Always use a purpose-made trough water heater. Aquarium and pond heaters aren’t suitable for horse troughs.
- Make sure you use the correct wattage for your needs and power supply.
- Be careful when you use heaters with plastic or rubber troughs. Make sure the manufacturer recommends it, and use a guard to stop the element from melting the container.
- Don’t leave wires trailing where horses can nibble or stand on them.
- Make sure your water heater has an earthing rod or device.
- Check the cables and fittings regularly.
- Use rubber stall mats around your tank for the horses to stand on while they drink.
- Clean the heating element regularly for lime build-up.
Answer: Some owners put balls or half-filled water bottles in their horse’s water trough in the winter – the constant moving and bobbing keeps the water moving, so it’s less likely to freeze. You can also insulate the outside of a water trough and put it in a sunny, south-facing area to help prevent frost. However, these solutions are not always effective, especially in extremely cold weather.
The best thing to put in a horse’s water trough to stop it from freezing is a water trough heater. These devices are much more reliable than the methods mentioned above, especially if you live in a cold climate.
Answer: A large, durable, sturdy stock water tank is the best type for horses – it should be made from rust-resistant material such as galvanized steel, plastic, or rubber to withstand the elements and abuse from horses. The tank should have a drainage hole – so it’s easy to clean and smooth, with no sharp edges.
Answer: The size of your stock tank heater depends on the size of your stock tank and how cold your climate is. If you have a small tank and live in a relatively mild climate where the temperature doesn’t get below freezing much – you need a small low-watt heater, between 250 and 500 watts. If you have a large stock tank and live in a cold environment where you regularly get temperatures way below freezing, you need a strong heater between 1000 and 1500 watts.
Best Horse Trough Heaters: My Top Choice and Conclusion
If you want to keep your horse’s water flowing throughout the cold winter, I highly recommend the Floating and Submersible heater from K&H Pet Products. I love this heater because it’s safe, effective, and versatile. It comes in many sizes and is safe for all horse water troughs, including plastic.
Keeping a horse in the winter can be a demanding chore, but one way you can make your life a little bit easier is with a water trough heater. It will save you numb hands-on winter mornings, and you can rest assured that your horses will always have fresh water no matter how cold the temperature. Make sure you choose a heater suitable for your trough size and material, and always follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines to install it.
- Keg-A-Bacchus. “Horse Sensitive to Tank Heater Voltage?” Chronicle Forums, 12 Aug. 2020.
- Phillips, Carol. “Dehydration in Horses Can Be Deadly — Here’s What You Need to Know.” Horse & Hound, 13 July 2022.
- Thunes, Clair, PhD. “Heated Water Trough Safety.” The Horse, 12 Nov. 2021.
- —. “Keeping Water Troughs Thawed With or Without a Heater.” The Horse, 8 Jan. 2021.