There are two options for winterizing ponds:
- Do nothing, or
- What is typically called winterizing: remove the pump, drain all lines and install a pond heater or aerator for the duration of the winter.
The Risks of Doing Nothing
For the “do nothing” option the big danger is robbing the pump of water and burning the pump up. When this happens, water can also remain trapped in the lines and freeze. Freezing water expands and usually ends up rupturing the lines. Leaving the feature running is definitely a dangerous option, which is not to say that many people don’t do it. They do. The trick is keeping up with water loss due to freezing and evaporation. All those beautiful ice structures that form is water not getting to the pump. These structures can also lead to water being pushed out of the water courses. Frozen surfaces can also keep water from making it to the intake. Often we will add small floating heaters near the intake to the pumps to make sure water can make it to the pump. The bummer in the winter is that auto fills are shut down and hoses are usually frozen, not to mention it’s cold. If you choose this option keep a hose in the garage and don’t be scared to get your boots on. Typically features need water once a week so it’s not a horrible chore, just be sure not to forget the water is running or you may end up with a skating rink. And please don’t walk on frozen ponds! Hypothermia stinks.
The Benefits of Winterization
For the winterize option, pumps are typically removed and placed in the garage. Submersible pumps should sit in a bath of water so the seals don’t dry out. If this is too much trouble pumps can be pushed to the deepest part of the pond if you are sure that no ice will penetrate to that depth. Just like with pipes you don’t want freezing water anywhere near pumps. If there are check valves on the return line make sure they are removed or that the water they are trapping in the line has been cleared. Clear all lines. If they have non-drainable sections then use a big shop vac. If centrifugal pumps cannot be pulled, then make sure drain plug on impeller housing is removed and carefully stored for the winter. We recommend keeping the drain plugs off or at least very loose so any water that might sneak back into the pump housing can drain. Once pumps and lines are taken care of, one must figure out how to keep a hole the ice so that the fish don’t suffocate. You can use a floating tank heater or an air stone. Sometimes we use both, an air stone under the heater keeps a larger section open. Concrete fountains that are not either heated and covered or heated with a frost-free fill line should be completely drained for the winter.
Pumps, filters, lines, etc. Sump pumps in vault rooms should remain connected, with floats active. Measures should be taken to keep water from freezing in sump lines. We happily provide the above services if you need, and can store your pumps for the winter if you don’t have room.