Solar Heater For Water Trough


Are you looking for a way to heat your water trough?

Have you considered a solar heater for water trough purposes?

Why would a solar water trough heater be beneficial or efficient in comparison to fuel or electric one?

Keeping your animals’ water troughs warm during the colder parts of the year is an important part of ensuring they remain healthy and happy. When their trough freezes over, they cannot have access to fresh water, and they are more likely to become sick or dehydrated easily because of this.

However, with a heated trough, you don’t have to worry about the water freezing. And in the rare event that it does anyway, the heated water won’t remain frozen for more than a few hours and will melt much more quickly than it would otherwise.

Many farmers and other owners of horses and livestock use electric or fuel-powered heaters to achieve this outcome. However, you can save a lot of money on your regular energy bill by using a solar heater instead.

Solar heaters are a great way to keep your animals’ water warm enough to prevent freezing during winter. They utilize the power of the sun to warm the water, and you don’t have to pay anything to power them. Even if you choose to use a backup electric heater, you’ll cut down significantly on the cost of trough heating.

It doesn’t cost much to build your own DIY solar water heater for a trough, and it’s not hard to do. Read through the directions below to help you learn more about how to construct this type of heater. When you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to build the perfect solar heater for your animals.

How to Make a Solar Heater for Your Water Trough

The information below provides you with the basics you’ll need to complete this project in a short amount of time. This is an ideal project for beginners who may not be very experienced with DIY projects, but who do know their way around a few power tools. This option doesn’t take many tools to complete this job, but you should feel comfortable using a drill and a saw (unless you have the hardware store cut your wood for you).

As with any project, remember to gather all the materials and equipment you’ll need before you begin working. This way, you’ll much that much more likely to complete the job efficiently.

Materials and Equipment Needed

  • ¾ plywood for exterior use
  • 1.5-inch insulation board, 40 sq. ft.
  • 8x2x4 lumber, 6 pieces
  • Glazing closures
  • Polycarbonate glazing, 2 sheets
  • Polyurethane foam insulation, 1 container
  • Paint and paintbrush (black paint plus any other colors you prefer)
  • Caulking and caulk gun
  • Screws and screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Wood glue
  • Circular saw, or any saw for cutting wood and plywood
  • Watering tank or trough made of galvanized metal
  • Electric backup tank heater
  • Safety goggles, gloves, closed shoes, and other safety gear


1. Cut the 2×4 pieces of lumber to create a four-sided frame that can be used to fit down over the trough you already have. The measurements for this frame will vary depending on your existing trough; however, the frame should be able to sit down and over the trough while allowing the lid to close.

  • Be sure you leave enough space for the insulation. You want the frame to fit snugly, but not so snugly that you can’t insulate the tank properly.
  • Attach the frame pieces to each other using screws and wood glue.

2. Cut the plywood sheets to whatever size you need to fit inside the frame. This, again, will vary depending on the size of your trough.

  • Do not attach to the front of the frame, as you will need to put glazing on this part of the box.
  • Use wood glue to affix the plywood to the frame.

3. Repeat the process to add the bottom to the frame. At this stage, go ahead and cut the sheet of plywood for the top, but don’t attach it yet.

  • Use your circular saw to cut a hole in the lid so your animals will be able to access the water when they need it.

4. Seal the box using caulking. Sand if needed, and paint the entire box before continuing.

5. Cut the insulation board to fit between the frame and the trough on all sides as well as the bottom. You will not need to insulate the top.

5. Cut two sheets of the glazing material to fit into the front panel of the frame. These sheets should be doubled up to provide enough glazing for your purposes.

6. Use the glazing closures to seal the glazing layers and attach them to the frame.

7. Use the black paint to coat one wall of the trough—whichever wall will be facing south.

8. Put the trough into the frame and fill in the space between the wall of the trough and the insulation boards with foam insulation.

9. Attach the lid tightly to the rest of the frame, but only use screws in case you need to take it off again for servicing.

10. Cut a hole in the lid for the cord of your electric heater to pass through, and then set up the electric heater as a backup solution.

11. Finish painting the box in any color you prefer.

12. Make sure to set up the tank so the black painted wall faces south and the tank will receive plenty of sun during the morning and afternoon.

13. Depending on where you live, you may need to take the insulated frame off of the trough when the weather turns warm, in order to prevent algae and bacteria from growing in the water.

14. Test the tank for a few days and carefully observe your animals when they drink from it. Check the water frequently with a water thermometer to ensure it’s staying warm enough.

15. Move the tank to different locations if needed to gather the most sunlight.

16. If you have particularly destructive animals, you may need to build additional panels to place over the glazing to prevent them from doing damage to it.


With these directions, you should have no trouble putting together a solid, efficient structure that can be used to heat your animals’ water using solar energy. This type of heater can make a big difference in your energy bill each month, and it can also help you ensure that your animals always have clean, fresh water available when they need it.

But does it really work? Just how effective are these types of heaters at keeping troughs from freezing during the cold months?

This is a very effective design that works well when the trough is placed in an area with plenty of sunlight. However, if the area gets a lot of shade or shadows during the morning and afternoon, you may not see as much benefit from using one of these solar heaters.

If you are very concerned with the efficacy of this solar heater, be sure to use a backup electric heater to keep your animals’ water unfrozen, just in case.

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