Depending on where you live in the country, be it in sunny Sarasota, Florida, or up north, you’ll experience freezing temperature during the winter months. In places like the Sunshine State, although infrequent, cold snaps cause temperatures to fall to at or below freezing, which typically happens in the months of January and February. What’s more, in places like Sarasota, said freezing temperatures generally last no more than a day or two and the mercury rises steeply in some instances with wild swings.
Of course, in the northeast and midwest, freezing temperatures are present during most of the winter, and, are not at all unusual. This means nearly regardless of your location, your landscape will have to survive through freezing temperatures.
During the winter, we often here about ways to keep plants, pets, and pools safe through freezes. However, not much attention is paid to water features. And, the absence of reminders can easily lead to an unpleasant and expensive reality of having to make repairs. These can range from quick fixes to all-out replacement, depending on the severity of the weather.
Types of Damage Water Features Experience During a Freeze
As the nearby quote states, damages sustained from freezing conditions to a water feature can range from minor to major. Depending on the severity of the temperatures, exposure level, and length of exposure, pumps can freeze, causing them to seize up, and, pools or ponds containing fish can freeze over, trapping noxious gases, causing fish to die.
Even in the warmest locales in the United States, nighttime temperatures may occasionally dip into the thirties. When they do, your outdoor water features are in danger of freezing over. A frozen feature may lead to broken seals and a faulty pump, so a little cold weather preparation will certainly pay off. Because each water feature is different, there is no standard set of rules for cold weather protection. However, arming yourself with a few nearly universal tips and tricks will help keep your water feature pumping for years to come. —San Francisco Chronicle
Other types of damages caused by freezing conditions can be a break in the integrity of a structural water feature, such as cement or ceramic wall. When this happens, it might lead to small leaks, which eventually grow larger and larger. The ensuing compromise can even lead to outright collapse or breaking apart, and can be a very costly situation to fix.
DIY Water Feature Freeze Protection Tips You can Use
With temperatures falling steadily, water features, such as fountains, pools, ponds, and waterfalls will be at-risk for damage from freezes. The best way to protect such hardscaping is to be proactive, not waiting until sustained cold grips. Here are some ways to protect water features from freezing conditions:
- Remove any plants. If there are any plants on or near your outdoor water feature, it’s best to move them to a warm place where you can water and feed them as needed. If possible, this makes for a better choice than trying to cover them before the real cold hits.
- Allow the water to run. If you’re in a location such as Sarasota or Manatee County, freezes will likely only occur for a few hours. Let the water continue to run and the motion will prevent hard freezing, which, in prolonged periods of freezing temperatures, could harm the pump.
- Install a de-icer. For water features with fish or ones that have running water, a de-icer will do the trick. Running water that’s warm enough will continue to swirl and that will provide shelter for fish. A de-icer will also keep the water from freezing over solid, which can cause a lot of damage. Choose a machine that fits your size water feature for the best results.
- Drain, flush, and cover. If a de-icer is not a viable option or you don’t want to exercise that alternative, then it’s best to drain the water completely. Flush out the system by pumping out any remaining water, disconnect the pump and water supply, and cover the entire feature. You can also stuff insulation over the pump before covering it with a tarp. Or, store the pump in a warm, slightly damp location to keep seals from drying out.
- Check the water feature periodically. On occasion, lift the cover to see if any snow or ice has melted and run back into the water feature. If it has, drain it out because if it fills and then freezes, it will probably expand enough to crack the feature.
While these steps will help to protect your water hardscape during the winter, other methods should be completely avoided, like adding chemicals to the water. This is not a good idea because you don’t know how the water or the feature itself will react. In addition, chemicals could wreak havoc with the filter and pump system.