Winter Advice

So Winter Has Arrived...

Before the throngs of winter are upon us, it might be a good idea to brush up on our winter water feature preparedness! Here's a few thoughts to get you through the cold winter months...

If you have fish, you must keep a hole in the ice for gas exchange.

Of course you know that fish need oxygen but more importantly, just like us, they need to expel carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is also produced by any decaying organic materials in your pond -- leaves, dead plants, muck in the pond bottom. Often times if there's a fish kill it's because of the carbon dioxide build up more than the lack of oxygen. So how to keep this hole in the ice?

An aerator makes a fine hole in the ice!
  •  Use an Aerator -- An aerator with air stones placed just under the surface of the water will agitate the water enough to keep an opening most of the winter. There may be times when the temperature is in the single digits for an extend period of time that it will ice over, but this is rare. Plus an aerator only uses 8 watts or less of electricity! Do not let the air stones rest on the pond bottom. The water on the bottom is the warmest -- it should not be disturbed. 
  • Use a Deicer -- A floating deicer will keep a hole in the ice also. With an internal thermostat, the deicer will heat up when the water temperature approaches freezing and then shut off when the water warms to around 40 again. Deicers are an excellent way to keep a hole in the ice; however, water temperatures warm up more slowly than air temperatures. So even if the temperatures warm up into the 50's one day, the water may not warm up enough to turn off the deicer. Why is that a problem? Deicers for a medium sized pond will run 250 to 1500 watts -- that can be a lot of unnecessary electrical consumption. 
Our advice is to run an aerator always, but have a deicer for backup for extreme cold spells. Drop the deicer into the pond before ice forms, but keep it unplugged until you need it.

If your pond is running this winter, keep an eye out for backups.

Backups of leaves or ice can cause water loss in a hurry. Keep leaves cleared out and ice broken away from streams and waterfalls. Backups of debris or ice will dam water flowing in a waterfall or creek causing water to be forced out. Many times when it's very cold, ice domes will form over a waterfall or creek. That's okay as long as the water is flowing under the dome and not escaping.

Watch for backups on waterfalls and streams.

Don't EVER unplug your pump without removing it from your water feature during the winter.

It may be tempting when you see ice starting to form on your water feature to simply unplug your pump, but please don't do it!

First of all, if your pump is not disconnected from your plumbing on your feature, water will remain in the pipes. When the water is not running through the pipes it is likely to freeze which can lead to costly and invasive repairs.

Secondly, although your pump itself may be too deep to freeze, it's not meant to be in that cold of water without running. If you're not going to run your water feature, take the pump out of the water, bring it inside to a freeze-proof location, and store it in a bucket of water to keep the seals inside the pump from drying out.  

This is prepared to add water to your feature.

Many times our water features need filled and we realize the hoses are frozen, the spigots are shut off and five gallon buckets just won't do it! If we have a really cold winter and a lot of ice forms on our water features, YOU WILL ADD WATER, MORE AND MORE WATER. I just can't stress this enough.

Remember the ice is forming above the normal water level. The ice is in effect "wicking" the water right out of the feature. It may even seem like you are adding so much water that you have a leak. Also, the dry winter air will cause your feature to need more water.

Just be prepared now. Do you have a hose thawed? Do you have an outdoor spigot you can use? Many times at my house we have hooked up a hose to the kitchen faucet -- works like a charm.

Hope this information is helpful. Have a great winter!


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