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Vital Information You Need to Know About Your Water Trough Heater

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It’s a well-known fact that water and electricity don’t mix, but water trough heaters are a necessity in areas with cold winters.

A water trough heater will help to keep water from freezing, meaning your horses and other animals will have continuous access to water even during freezing temperatures.

However, barn owners make serious and dangerous mistakes with water trough heaters all too often. Be sure to review the safety advice below to make sure that your water trough heater isn’t putting your animals at risk. Then please share this article with other animal owners who also use water trough heaters!

Read Your Water Trough Heater’s Directions

Start by taking a few minutes to read the directions that came with your water trough heater. Some heaters are only compatible with particular troughs; some use more electricity than others; and some cannot be plugged into extension cords. Familiarize yourself with your heater’s requirements to make sure that you set things up correctly.

Ground Your Water Trough

Did you know that your water trough needs to be grounded? It’s a common oversight, but one that is easy to correct. Your heater’s directions will likely have instructions on how to ground your trough, but generally speaking, you can run a copper wire from the bottom of your trough to a grounding rod. The wire needs to be securely connected to the grounding rod, and your rod should be driven at least four feet down into the ground. The exact specifications will depend on your location and setup.

Only Use a GFCI Outlet

Plug your heater into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interruptor) outlet only. A GFCI outlet senses the current flowing through your heater. If the current becomes too much, the outlet senses the problem and shuts off the power. It’s an excellent preventative measure to help reduce the risk of shock.

Watch Your Horses’ Behavior

Your horses may tell you of a malfunction with your water heater. If you ever observe your horses standing near the water trough and acting as if they want to drink but not actually touching the water, something may be wrong. Horses are highly sensitive and may be picking up on an electrical current when they go to drink. This is a classic sign that your heater is not functioning properly.

To test this, DON’T put your hand in the water to see if you get shocked. Instead, unplug the heater and replace it with a new heater. Watch your horses to see if their behavior continues.

Monitor the Condition of the Heaters

Heaters don’t last forever, so keep a close eye on their condition. Watch for rust, corrosion, and signs of wear to the plug or cord. As your heaters age, you will need to replace them. It’s a good idea to keep a spare heater on hand during the winter, just in case.


Access to clean, non-frozen water during the winter is essential to an animal’s survival. Keeping your water troughs open and accessible is a standard part of wintertime horse care. Just make sure you take the time to set your water trough heater up properly in order to keep your animals safe!

Did you find some errors in your water trough heater setup? Let us know in the comments.

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