Build a Freeze Resistant Solar Water Trough

Build a freeze resistant solar water trough using these simple instructions to keep your livestock troughs from freezing up during cold winter months.

| November/December 1982

Want to keep your livestock's water tanks unfrozen in winter? These instructions will help you build a freeze resistant solar water trough to solve the problem. 

I, for one, am not overly fond of getting up early on bitter cold mornings to chop through a thick layer of ice on my cattle's water trough so that they can drink. Nor am I especially crazy about lugging buckets of hot water to the bovines. So last fall, with winter weather just around the proverbial corner, I found myself in a real quandary: I had neither the time nor the inclination to take on those tasks, yet I had no money to buy a commercial heated trough, either.

Somewhere in the course of my ruminations, however, the notion of constructing a solar-warmed waterer popped up . . . and even though I'd never built much of anything before, I decided to tackle the project. I'm glad I did, too, because—although the design is elementary (experienced handifolk would probably call it crude)—the danged thing works!

In fact, I put the trough together in less than two days, using mostly scrap and scavenged materials . . . plus a hammer, a saw, and a knack for "guesstimating" lengths and angles. (A tape measure? What's that?) Here's how I did it.

Freeze Resistant Solar Water Trough Construction

There's a freezeproof hydrant (that is, a lever-operated faucet with a shut-off valve below frost line, and with a riser pipe that drains dry when you turn off the device) on the north side of my feedlot . . . so I started my project by dragging a discarded bathtub next to that water source. To plug the container's drain, I cut—and put a small hole in the center of—a large round section from an old rubber inner tube, placed the stopper over the tub's opening, put a metal washer over that, slipped a long bolt through the middle, and fastened the assembly in position by putting a nut, and another washer, on the underside.

My next move was to position two railroad ties—parallel to the tub and about 3 feet from either side of it—to serve as sills to support the structure itself. Then I fashioned a heat-retaining "floor" by placing large foundation—type sandstone slabs between the ties and around the trough. (I didn't use mortar, but simply put the rocks down as close to one another as possible.)

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