I have been meaning to review this product for YEARS now…4 years to be exact. With the national headed in to an untimely cold snap I finally am making myself sit down and write this review up. I had never heard of a solar water trough before moving in to this barn and the idea of not banging ice buckets or having long extension cords running from the barn is certainly exciting. A few years ago the barn owner and other boarders decided that these were a must so we all pitched in and got a solar water trough for each field. The good thing about waiting 4 year to write this review is that now I have seen how these things work in all sorts of conditions.
So what exactly is a a solar water trough? It is an outdoor waterer with a panel on the side to attract the sun. It is called a “passive solar power” because it is not using that power to generate a battery or anything. The top of the container is mostly covered with a black float on top of the water that the horse pushes down on (like an automatic waterer) to gain access to the water. The unit is 25 gallons and is red on the sides with the black solar side and a black top. They are supposed to keep the water from freezing in the winter and getting too hot in the summer. They are also advertised to be slime free, which is a neat bonus.
So I live in a pretty moderate climate with the average highs in the summer being in the mid 80s and the average lows in the winter being in the low 40s, and an average snowfall of 11 days per year. I am certainly not living life in an extreme climate by anyones standards. We do have a lot of sun in general (about 200 days a year of it) but there are also plenty of trees in the area. I have found that these solar water troughs really do need to be in a lot of direct sun so if you have a shady farm I wouldn’t recommend it. You can tell the difference in how well they work at our farm due to how shady the fields are that they are located in.
The advertisement for these claim that they work all they way down to 20 degrees below zero. I have not found that to be the case. I will say that they work great (like not even an ice crystal) when we have weeks where it is 25 degrees fahrenheit or higher during the day. When you start to string together more than one day where it doesn’t get above 25 the float starts to freeze. We did find that adding a buckets of super warm water would thaw the trough out for a new hours, but it was getting dicey by the second week of super cold temperatures because there wasn’t enough space to put the water.
Which brings up my next concern. Cleaning these troughs is a pain! They are large and very high so it isn’t like you can just tip them over to scrub them out. They are good about not growing slime so I am sure many people would never want to scrub them, but Gen is a bit of a diva and he doesn’t want dirt and other stuff in his water either. The nice thing is that you can still clean them, it just takes a little more effort.
So it sounds like I don’t like these water troughs doesn’t it? The truth is that I actually really do like them and think they make a great addition to our farm. In my area, weeks below 20 degrees are rare so we can go for a month in the winter without having to think about breaking an ice bucket between the indoor heated buckets and the solar troughs outside. It also really does keep the water cool in the summers (I have seen some outside water troughs where the water was so warm you didn’t even want to put your hand in it for fear of burning yourself). If you live in a desert (hot days, but below freezing nights) or a temperate climate like I live in I would totally recommend you getting one.
Oh, did I mention how much they are? That might be the deterrent from having one in your own field. They are not exactly free you know. We split the cost so it worked out to not be too much for anyone person, but I doubt that will be the case for most people. For a mear $600 you can order it from horse.com and don’t forget the added shipping cost! Or you can order it from suntanks for a mear $522 with shipping.
Not in your budget? I don’t blame you! It looks like if you are handy there may be an option though. You can build your own! Has anyone ever built one? How do the homemade solar water tanks work?