It’s that time of year here in the Northeast US that pond owners need to keep an eye on their ponds. Typically when January hits, this area will receive some sustained below freezing weather that will surely create ice on unheated ponds. Pond heaters are a pretty costly approach to controlling temperatures in the pond but they do work well. I usually recommend to my pond customers that the use of at least a de-icer should be employed by those who are not able to swing the costs of a pond heating system; this recommendation applies to pretty much ALL my customers, myself included.
Pond heating system vs. de-icer…..what’s the difference?
A pond heating system will actually heat the entire body of water, usually to about 52+ degrees. It is a large and pricey piece of equipment and usually used by those who are aficionados and breeders of koi.
The de-icer is meant to just keep a hole in the icy covering of a frozen pond to allow for the escape of ammonia from the pond, which escapes as a gas; and for the introduction of oxygen to the pond. De-icers can range from floating disc heaters, to submerged water pumps with a strong upward flow to the surface of the pond, or the use of an aerator. The goal of any of these is to keep an area of the ice open! If your floating disc is stuck in the ice it is time for a new one.
My personal preference for a de-icer is the pond aerator; by using an aerator you are circulating the water from bottom to top very slowly, this does not create any dramatic or sudden changes in water conditions. The bubbles that are bursting at the surface are releasing ammonia from the pond while at the same time agitating the surface of the pond to allow oxygen to enter back into the pond and keep a nice opening in the pond. The aerator is also the most economical piece of equipment to use as well, from purchase price to cost of running the pump it makes the most sense to me.
The submerged water pump works well but still will allow for complete formation of ice over the surface of the pond, and often times will move water too quickly from bottom to top which can increase the risk of supercooling your pond, or water loss during winter months.
The floating de-icer usually works well, but provides no circulation benefit, and does have a higher failure rate than the others. Also, the cost to run a floating de-icer, which uses about 1250 watts, can be as much as $30.00-$40.00 monthly…ouch!
Any submerged de-icer should not actually be installed at the deepest portion of the pond but about 10” below the surface of the water would be ideal. The floating de-icer should FLOAT!!
OK, pond owners keep your eyes peeled and don’t forget to check your pond this time of year, and enjoy it, take some winter photos; a pond with snow and ice around it is really a beautiful sight!