Outdoor Animal Watering Fountains

Heated outdoor water fountains can vary greatly on the amount of energy used. A study in Canada at a bull test station compared 7 different watering fountains and found energy use from $37 to $155 per season for electrically heated watering fountains compared with no electrical energy use for energy free watering fountains. Energy free water fountains needed to be checked daily to ensure the ball or cover was not frozen open in sub-zero weather but otherwise worked as well as the heated models. Proper installation and the proper number of animals per fountain is the key to an energy free watering fountain working without freezing. In Wisconsin a well maintained heated watering fountain could be expected to use $60 to $80 in electricity per season.

Energy use in heated watering fountains can be kept low by:

  • Maintain a seal around the base of the watering fountain to reduce air infiltration.
  • Purchasing watering fountains that are well insulated.
  • Repair or add insulation to existing watering fountains, foam insulation is recommended.
  • Purchase watering fountains that have an adjustable thermostatically controlled heater.
  • Adjust the thermostat to a few degrees above freezing.
  • Check thermostat monthly for proper operation.
  • Shut off electricity to watering fountains when threat of freezing has past.

Check with manufacturers for information on selecting the proper type of watering fountain for the number and type of animals being watered.

Research Update: Energy Free Water Fountains, Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute, 1994.


If you have questions about the information on this site, please contact
Scott Sanford, Distinguished Outreach Specialist, University of Wisconsin, sasanford@wisc.edu.