706 Research Update: Energy Free Water Fountains (1994)

706 Research Update: Energy Free Water Fountains (1994)
Printed: April, 1994
ISSN: 1188-4770, Group 5 (h)
A Co-operative Program Between
Research Update
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ater Fountains
From 1990 to 1993 PAMI compared three energy free livestock water fountains and four electrically heated ones. Here’s what we found.
Do Energy Free Fountains Work?
Energy free fountains come in a variety of styles and offer different combinations of features. In
PAMI tests, only one fountain didn’t measure up in a Canadian prairie winter. Average temperature during the test period of 22 weeks was 12ºF (-11ºC), with average temperatures as low as
-15ºF (-26ºC) over a 4 week period.
Energy free water fountains do work in cold prairie
winters, but certain critical conditions must be met.
Here’s a checklist:
herd is important. Too few animals drinking from a
fountain that is too large can lead to freeze up. See the
energy free fountain sizing guide.
They must be properly designed.
Find out where the fountain was manufactured. Some
are designed for milder winters, but can’t be relied on
during sustained periods of cold.
The fountain must be used regularly.
If livestock are removed, the water supply must be shut
off, and the valve and water bowl drained to prevent
freeze up.
They must be properly installed.
Close attention to proper installation will help ensure
trouble free operation. See the diagram below and
Installation Tips.
The ground water temperature must be warm
In PAMI tests, the ground water came from a well and
the temperature remained constant at around 45°F
(7°C). Dugout water or other sources of surface water
would likely be colder, and may be risky.
They must be properly maintained.
You’ll want to do daily checks on the fountain,
especially in extreme cold. Animals are sloppy
drinkers, so run off from their mouths tends to
freeze up the drinker lids. Routinely chipping
this ice away helps ensure an uninterrupted
water supply to your animals. See the
Maintenance Schedule.
They must be properly
Follow the manufacturer’s
instructions to properly adjust
the water level in your particular
The fountain must be properly
A properly sized water fountain for your
Typical installation of Energy Free Fountain
How Do They
Energy free fountains are
closed, insulated containers
filled with water. The walls of
the containers are constructed of
double walled, durable plastic.
The space between the walls is
filled with insulating
material. These
water fountains
act like a thermos in
that they slow down the cooling of water.
Energy free fountains use available heat (called geo-thermal heat) from the ground, below the frost line. Ground
water enters the fountain through a float valve assembly at ground temperature, usually about 45°F (7°C). Ground
water acts as the fountain’s heat source. The water slowly cools, but as an animal drinks from the fountain, warmer
ground water replenishes the fountain. This continual exchange of warm water for cold provides heat to offset the
effects of cooling.
Are Energy Free Fountains
Cheaper to Operate?
While energy free fountains may save you money on
power, they tend to cost more than heated fountains to
The purchase prices of the energy free fountains
tested by PAMI ranged from $475.00 to $930.00, while
heated fountains ranged from $280.00 to $475.00
Energy savings ranged from $24.00 per year when
compared to the most efficient heated fountain, to
$100.00 per year compared to the most power hungry
fountain. These savings are based on energy costs of 5.5
cents per kilowatt hour. If you live in a region with
higher energy costs, the savings would be greater.
The energy graph at right gives a projection of costs
for energy free fountains versus heated fountains for a
five year period, including the initial purchase price.
This graph assumes energy rates of 5.5 cents per
kilowatt hour, excluding the cost of heat tape on the
heated fountains. Based on these costs and assuming a
heat tape is on for half of a six month season, energy
costs for heat tape would add about $9.00 for an
average winter.
Energy free fountains may be cheaper to install
since you don’t need to trench in power lines.
Fountain Fact
Energy free fountains have less algae
build up and supply cooler water than
heated fountains during the summer.
Cost/Time Graph for Energy Free versus Heated
Water Fountains
Can I Replace my Heated Fountain with an Energy Free Unit?
You can, but you’ll still need to wrap the water
supply line with heat tape, and maintain the ice build up
on a daily basis.
Most heated installations have smaller heat riser
pipes and less insulation, hence the heat tape requirement.
If you don’t have insulation between the ground and
concrete base, faster cooling may occur.
Will Animals Learn to Drink
From Energy Free Fountains?
PAMI’s tests were conducted using young bulls.
Approximately 150 animals used the energy free
fountains. (See the fountain sizing guide.) Animals need
to learn that pushing down on the floating lids or lifting
hinged lids (depending on design) gives access to water.
Only one animal had difficulty learning how to
access the floating drinker lids.
This animal was moved to another pen where it
encountered no difficulty drinking from a heated
fountain, but you may not have this luxury. Giving this
bull a little assistance probably would have solved the
PAMI did not test the fountains with other types of
Energy Free Fountain Sizing Guide (based on manufacturer's recommendations)
Beef Dairy Hogs Sheep Horses
10 gal (45 L)
12 gal (55 L)
35 gal (160 L)*
150+ 225+
* Fountains in this size range should allow access by up
to 4 animals at a time.
Fountain Fact
Cool down tests on one energy free fountain showed that it could go unaccessed
for about 20 hours at -4ºF (-20ºC) before
freeze up was imminent.
Installation Tips:
1. Ground riser pipes should be at least 14 inches
(360 mm) in diameter.One manufacturer recommended an 8 inch (200 mm) riser. This was too
small, and the unit froze up twice.
2. Some tests have shown a benefit to insulating
the top 3-4 ft (1m) of riser pipe. If you do,it must
be insulated with a material that does not absorb
3. Make sure the water supply line does not touch
the sides of the riser pipe.
4. Insulation between the concrete pad and the
ground will help slow down cooling. Make sure
the base is level so that float valves and floating
lids function properly.
5. Install drainage tile that slopes away from the
bottom of the riser pipe if your soil is poorly
drained. This will ensure adequate drainage of
water that may collect from the fountain overflow
An Energy Free Fountain Maintenance Schedule
Clear ice build
up from drinker
Clear ice build
up around base.
Inspect unit
for damage
caused by
Ensure lids are
moving freely.
Check water
Check float for
proper operation
Clean out debris
Keeping Out The Cold
Most energy free fountains separate
into two pieces- top and bottom half.
The type of joint between the two
pieces can dramatically affect cooling
characteristics. Look for a lapp joint,
shown at left. A butt joint can let in too
much cold air.
Energy Free Maintenance Tip
In Depth Information
In case of a power failure, keep livestock
away from the fountain so they can't empty
it. If this has already happened, some hot
water will help thaw the ice and the float
Detailed information on the PAMI Water
Fountain Studies can be obtained (at cost) in
the following reports:
DP0990- Field Study of Electrically Heated
and Energy Free Automated Livestock
Water Fountains
DP2791- Effects of Three Ground Riser Pipe
Designs on the Performance and Operation
of Energy Free Water Fountains -1
Fountain Fact
Keeping your energy free fountain water
bowl clean and free of debris will help
ensure proper operation and a healthy
water supply. Also, debris caught in float
valves can cause valve leakage resulting in
wasted water.
RP0292- Effects of Three Ground Riser Pipe
Designs on the Performance and Operation
of Energy Free Water Fountains -2
Call 1-800-567-PAMI and ask for the reports by number and name.
The financial contributions made by the following organizations are gratefully acknowledged:
Canadian Electrical Association
Energy, Mines and Resources Canada
Manitoba Hydro
Ontario Hydro
Horned Cattle Association of Saskatchewan
Equipment and services contributed by the following partners are gratefully acknowledged:
Franklin Equipment
Hawkeye Steel Products
Hurst Equipment Limited
Miraco, a division of Ahrens Agricultural Industries
Superior Precast
Weather Master Systems Inc.
The Manitoba Bull Test Station
Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute
Head Office: P.O. Box 1900, Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada S0K 2A0
Telephone: (306) 682-2555
3000 College Drive South
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada T1K 1L6
Telephone: (403) 329-1212
FAX: (403) 329-5562
Test Stations:
P.O. Box 1060
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada R1N 3C5
Telephone: (204) 239-5445
Fax: (204) 239-7124
P.O. Box 1150
Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada S0K 2A0
Telephone: (306) 682-5033
Fax: (306) 682-5080
This report is published under the authority of the minister of Agriculture for the Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the prior
approval of the Alberta Farm Machinery Research Centre or The Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute.
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