Submitted by:  Ritchie Industries

Fresh Water for Your Horses. All Day. All Winter.

Any livestock owner that lives in a climate that has harsh winters will tell you how much they dread watering their animals during the cold winter days. That is, unless they have a heated automatic waterer that has been properly installed. The thermostatically controlled heaters will maintain an open trough, even during the coldest nights. Fully insulated casing will provide extra protection while keeping the waterer energy efficient.

While these features enhance the reliability of your waterer, without proper installation you will run the risk of running into problems. Below you will find helpful tips to ensure your automatic waterer performs during the winter, saving you time, energy and money.

Running the waterline

Proper installation of any automatic waterer begins below ground. The waterline should be buried at least 1 foot below your frost line. For instance, in central Iowa where Ritchie Industries is located, our frost line is 3 feet deep; therefore, we will bury our waterline 4 feet below ground. Protecting the waterline as it runs vertically from the horizontal line to the unit is imperative. The last thing you want is to have the waterline touch the ground or anything that the earth comes in contact with. This will allow frost to travel over to the line, eventually causing slush or even worse, freezing your line. To protect the vertical portion of the water line, center the line in a riser tube or an insulated thermal tube such as the ones that Ritchie Industries offers. Insulated Thermal Tubes help maintain the temperature of the warmer water that will run through the line when the waterer is in use.


In climates that have severe winters, utilizing a waterer that combines the insulation properties of plastic and the overall heat coverage of a stainless steel trough is always recommended for excellent performance. It is generally most cost effective to run your electrical supply line at the same time you are trenching for your waterer supply. A qualified electrician should always be consulted while installing the electric line.

Concrete pad

There are very few automatic waterers that do not require a permanent foundation to bolt the unit to. Most ground-mounted units require a concrete pad, large enough for the unit to be bolted down and allow a solid foundation for the animals to stand on. A rough broom finish helps with water run-off and will help eliminate the pooling of water that could potentially freeze. The concrete pad also provides a solid surface to place an all-weather sealant along the base of the unit, preventing any air gaps that will allow cold wind to penetrate the inside compartment of the waterer.

Adjust the thermostat

Depending on the model you purchase, some units require that you adjust the thermostat to the desired temperature you would like to keep the water. Thermostats generally are not set at the factory. Setting the thermostat to turn on at your desired temperature may only take a couple adjustments. After the initial adjustment test the temperature while the heaters are on and either turn the thermostat up or down to reach your desired temperature.

Water seal grooves

Ritchie waterers have a unique water seal groove that will freeze the red portion of the waterer to the yellow portion. This allows a solid seal against the wind and cold without using gaskets. Be sure the water seal groove on a Ritchie waterer is filled with water and/or vegetable oil. On waterers that use gaskets, be sure the gasket is not missing or torn.


With so many designs available, be sure to follow the manufacturers instruction manual for variations or specific instructions according to the model that you have purchased. Following the manufacturers instructions will help ensure that your waterer will function properly during the winter and beyond.

For more information about the top performing Ritchie Waterers, please visit or call us at 800-747-0222.

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