angle-left Safety Tips for Horse Water Tank Heaters

Safety Tips for Horse Water Tank Heaters

Water-tank heaters can keep horses drinking in the winter months, but caution is needed to avert tragedy.

text size

We all have the list we check off in our heads before leaving the barn for the evening: Feed, pick stalls, toss hay … but when was the last time you checked the integrity of the equipment in and around your barn? Adding an informed equipment check to your routine could save you a close encounter with a dangerous, costly and potentially deadly situation. 

John Stallone, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is a lifelong horse owner and shares his knowledge about submersible water heaters to educate horse owners about the potential dangers of incorrectly installed heaters. 

He notes that aside from using cages around heaters in plastic troughs, it’s also important to use ground wires with tank heather to prevent electric shock.

A simple but very effective way to ground metal tanks is to:

  1. Attach a 12- to 14-gauge copper wire to the tank and to a nearby ground rod, similar to what you would use for a fence charger. 
    1. If the tank heater develops a short, any electrical current in the water is safely conducted to the ground, preventing a potentially lethal electric shock to your horse when he attempts to drink. 
  2. If you use a plastic water tank, you can insert a length of ¼-inch-diameter copper tubing into the water.
  3. Secure it to the edge of the tank and connect the tubing to the 12- to 14-gauge copper wire. 
  4. The other end of the wire is then connected to a ground rod, as described above for the metal water tanks.

John is also quick to point out that these are not always seasonal problems, and keeping 

  • Develop a system to keep electrical equipment up to date year round. 
  • Have a preventive plan.
  • Understand the equipment you are using and know the risks.
  • Take the time to check equipment often for potential problems.