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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 1 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 1

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms

One of the joys of having a pond on your property is being able to create a winter-sports wonderland. Whether you’re an ice skater or a hockey player, curling competitor or broomball aficionado, it’s sure nice to simply walk out to your ice rink, slip on your skates and play.

But before you groom your pond for ice sports, it’s important to understand how to safely create a sturdy ice sheet and what red flags to look for while the ice is forming. In this first part of our three-part series on how to make a rink on your pond, we begin with the basics.

From a Liquid to a Solid

Ever wonder exactly how ice forms? Here’s a quick lesson for you.

When the air temperature cools in the late fall and early winter, the water on the surface of your lake or pond loses its heat and becomes heavier. This cold, heavy water sinks to the bottom while the warmer water from the bottom rises to the top and cools. The cycling process continues until the overall water temperature reaches 39º Fahrenheit (or about 4º Celsius).

Before long, the water on top cools enough to freeze. As it does so, the liquid molecules transform into solid ice crystals—and those things expand and space themselves out when they form, which is why ice floats and why it takes up more room than liquid. When given enough time to form, the ice layer created by this crystallized frozen water thickens to the point where it is strong enough to support animals, humans and even vehicles.

Creating Good Ice

Since your goal is to create an ice rink, you’ll need to grow a sheet of ice that’s thick, solid, strong and dense. Water movement affects the integrity of the forming ice – in fact, just a little bit of movement on the water surface can create uneven, porous ice that’s not suitable for walking or skating. So it’s important to turn off and remove your water-moving Aeration System from the lake before the ice starts to build on your lake’s surface.

The winterizing process starts with unplugging your aeration system and shutting it down completely. Leave the airline and diffuser plates in the pond, but cover the airline ends to prevent debris from entering. Finally, store the compressor and cabinet indoors to keep them dry and rust-free.

The only movement your lake water should experience now will be from wind and waves – both of which are in Mother Nature’s control.

Beware of Red Flags

As the ice is forming, keep an eye on it. Do you see any weak or soft spots? Are there any areas with running or pooling water? These could be signs telling you to abandon your ice rink plans. Here are some more red flags to watch for:

  • Flowing water near or at the edges of the ice can cause soft spots that appear gray, dark or porous.
  • Flowing springs under the ice in spring-fed ponds and lakes can cause areas to not freeze.
  • Water flows in and/or out of the iced-over water body. Stream inlets and outlets can erode ice, making it highly variable in thickness.
  • Areas with cracks, breaks or holes are obivous danger zones.
  • Ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen. These fluctuations can cause weak spots in the ice.
  • Abnormal surfaces that you have not seen before, like pressure ridges caused by currents or winds.

Ice is generally strongest where it is hard and blue or clear. If you’re unsure of whether your ice is forming well, check with your local government officials (like your department of natural resources) about safety suggestions.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to make sure your newly formed ice is thick and safe enough for winter sports, and how to create a pristine winter wonderland with ice primed for fun.

Always Promote Pond Safety

I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?

Q: I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?

Vernon- Tolono, IL

A: A pond is a great resource to have – and it’s even better when it’s filled with clean water and supporting a thriving ecosystem. To keep it functional and healthy, you’ll need to do a few clean-up and maintenance chores and do a little research to ensure you’re complying with the law. Here’s what we recommend.

Check Regulations

While you’re waiting for move-in day, contact your city, county and state government offices for information about chemical use and pond/pool safety regulations. For instance, depending where you live, you may not be able to use some algaecides or herbicides, or you may need to install a fence around your pond to prevent kids or pets from falling in.

Install Safety Gear

Speaking of safety, you should also make sure safety gear, like a Life Ring, rope and first-aid kit, are installed in a conspicuous and accessible place near the pond in case of emergency. You never know when you’ll need it, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Assess Aeration

Does your new pond have an aeration system installed, does it work, and is it included in the sale of the property? An aeration system, which includes a diffuser, compressor and airline, is an important piece of equipment to have. It circulates the water column and delivers life-giving oxygen to your pond’s inhabitants. If the property includes an aerator, make sure it works; if not, consider investing in one. Measure the length, width and depth of your pond and call 866-POND-HELP to select the right system for your pond.

Power to the Pond

Your aeration system will need to be plugged in, so does your pond have electricity? What voltage is it set up for? If you plan on buying a new aeration system, Airmax® models come in both 115 volt and 220 volt.

Meet Your Neighbors

Before you apply any pond-care products to your pond, find out what kinds of critters live in it. Certain types of fish, including trout, carp and koi, will affect the way you use chemicals in your pond.

Manicure Weeds

If your pond hasn’t been tended in a while and the weeds have taken over, you’ll need to regain control by identifying the unwanted vegetation, killing and removing it. Start by using a Weed Control Guide or email a photo to weedid@thepondguy.com to help you identify the plants and select the right products for the job. Once the weeds are dead, mechanically remove them from the water with a Pond & Beach Rake so that they don’t become algae fertilizer next spring.

Start Maintenance Routine

Your last to-do item: Start a maintenance routine using a series of beneficial bacteria products like those found in the Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS seasonal care package. The microorganisms will break down pond muck buildup and keep the water clean and clear all year long.

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with this new pond owner?

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If I run my aeration all winter, do I need to do anything special? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I run my aeration all winter, do I need to do anything special?

Q: If I run my aeration all winter, do I need to do anything special?

Jay – Gretna, NE

A: Running your aeration system through the winter is an excellent idea. Aeration helps to break down leaves and debris that make their way into your pond or lake, making cleaning and maintenance easier come spring. The water movement creates a hole in the ice, which allows for gas exchange and keeps water open and available for visiting wildlife. Aeration also circulates the water column, infusing it with oxygen for your fish and plants.

We highly recommend running aeration all year long—except if you plan on doing winter activities on your pond, like figure skating, ice fishing or playing ice hockey. The constant friction created by the water movement weakens the ice that forms, and that could be downright dangerous.

So if you plan to run your aeration system through the winter, here are three winter tasks to add to your to-do list:

  1. Move your plates into shallower water. Following your aerator manual’s recommendations, move the plates from the deepest areas of your pond to shallower areas. This will give your hibernating fish a warmer place to hunker down when the water temperatures get especially chilly. When the plates are closer to the surface, they will also help to keep a hole open in the ice.
  2. Check the aerator regularly throughout the winter. After a heavy snow or a storm, head out to the pond and inspect your aeration unit. Remove accumulated snow around it, particularly any that’s blocking the air discharge vent. If you lost power during a storm, check your GFCI; you may have to reset it.
  3. Be smart and safe. When your aerator is on during the winter, the ice that forms can be thin and uneven, so make sure you keep safety equipment out by your pond. A Life Ring or life vest, rope, blankets and a first aid kit are critical items to have on hand that can save someone’s life.

If you have more questions about running your aerator during the wintertime or need help with your system, contact one of our Pond Guys or Gals or post a comment on our blog page.

Pond Talk: What kinds of differences do you notice in your pond in the spring as a result of running your aeration system in the winter?

Be Prepared for Any Winter Scenario - Taylor Made 20 Inch Life Rings

Ice Formation Demystified | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Ice Formation Demystified

Ice Formation Demystified

Ice is cool. It’s fun to play on. And, to some, it’s a mystery. How in the world does ice form on your pond? Why does it expand when it freezes? Why does it float? And how is it possible that ice can actually support the weight of a vehicle?

Don’t glaze over just yet. Unlike lessons from those boring middle school science classes, this explanation will be simple—and as interesting as possible.

Lesson #1: Cold Water is Heavy Stuff

When the air temperature cools, the water on the surface of your lake or pond loses its heat and becomes heavier. This cold, heavy water sinks to the bottom while the warmer water from the bottom rises to the top and cools. The cycling process continues until the overall water temperature reaches 39 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 4 degrees Celsius). Before long, the water on top cools enough to freeze.

Lesson #2: Water Crystals Need Their Space

As the water in your pond freezes, the liquid molecules transform into solid ice crystals—and those things expand and space themselves out when they form, which is why ice takes up more room than liquid. Think of how freezing water can cause a pipe to burst when temperatures dip below freezing, or how expanding ice can crack a rock in two.

Lesson #3: Ice Floats

The spaced-out ice crystals are also less dense than liquid, which is why ice floats. As mentioned in Lesson #1, cold water is heavier than warmer water—but ice is lighter than them both. Confusing? Consider the ice cubes in your glass of lemonade: The crystallized water molecules float on the surface, the lemonade that’s cooled by the ice becomes more dense and sinks to the bottom, and the warmest liquid in the glass rises to the top where it’s cooled by the cubes.

Lesson #4: It’s Strong Stuff

When given enough time to form, the ice layer formed by this crystallized frozen water thickens—and becomes strong enough to support critters, humans and even vehicles! An inch of ice can hold a small animal without cracking, 3 inches of ice can bear the weight of an average person, and 6 to 8 inches of ice can host a hockey team or even a snowmobile. Once the ice layer grows to 8 to 12 inches, it can support a slow-moving vehicle—but we don’t recommend it!

Pond Talk: What burning questions do you have about ice formation and safety?

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Ice Safety 101 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Ice Safety 101

Ice Safety 101

Ice is fun—but it can be dangerous business.

Winter brings cold weather and snow to your pond or lake, as well as a perfect layer of ice for skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and more. You may want to get out there and play, but it’s important to know whether your ice is safe and strong or a potential hazard.

Here’s how to determine whether the ice on your pond is thick enough and safe for wintertime fun.

1. Check Its Temperature, Formation

After about two to three weeks of freezing temperatures, a solid sheet of ice will begin to form on your pond or lake. But low temps aren’t the only thing that influence ice formation. Water currents, wind and snow coverage will also make a difference in the integrity of the frozen surface. So once the weather and temperatures stabilize after several weeks, you can venture onto the ice and inspect its thickness.

2. Check Surface for Quality

Ice quality matters. When you inspect the ice, you can visually gauge its quality by looking for bubbles, trapped snow and cracks. You can also determine its quality by color, as a solid blue ice sheet is much stronger than a white brittle layer, which is caused by air pockets and other flaws. Of course, new ice is stronger than old ice, too, as temperature fluctuations haven’t thawed and refrozen the ice, which can weaken its integrity.

In addition, if you’ve left your aeration system running while the ice has been forming, the ice layer will have air pockets—and be unsafe for winter recreation.

3. Verify Its Thickness

You’ve given the water time to freeze and the ice time to form, and you’ve ensured the quality of the ice sheet’s surface. The next step is to verify its thickness. You can either drill or cut samples—but make sure you do so in multiple locations as you work your way toward the center of the pond as the water won’t necessarily freeze evenly.

In general, a layer of ice less than 3 inches is too thin for most people to walk out on. It may be able to hold up lighter people or small animals but can easily crack. So if you plan to have a group of people on the pond or want to take your snowmobile out on your lake, an ice formation of 6 to 8 inches minimum is ideal.

4. Be Patient, Stay Safe

Winter recreation on an ice-covered pond is fun—but be patient and use extreme caution when venturing on the ice. Take time to inspect the ice quality and take samples because doing so can make all the difference between a blast and a disaster.

Always make sure you have a life ring or floatation device within reach in case someone accidentally falls through the ice. And always use common sense when venturing out—better to be safe than sorry!

Pond Talk: What is your favorite wintertime activity on your frozen lake or pond?

Promote Pond Safety

How do I create the perfect hockey or skating rink? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How do I create the perfect hockey or skating rink?

Q: How do I create the perfect hockey or skating rink?

Chris – Gardners, PA

A: One of the many benefits of having a lake is inviting friends and family over for fun water-related activities—including ice skating or hockey scrimmages during the wintertime. Here are some simple four-step instructions for how to create a nearly NHL-ready rink on your pond.

  1. First, using a weed cutter and pond rake, remove dead floating debris, such as dead cattails and Phragmites. If those are on the water’s surface or along the lake’s edges as the ice forms, you could wind up with bumpy or weak ice.
  2. Next, if you haven’t done so already, turn off and remove the aeration system from your lake. If you keep it running while the ice forms, that could result in uneven ice formation—and that can be a dangerous situation for skaters.
  3. Once snow begins to fall, regularly remove the snow from the ice with a snow shovel before nightfall so the lake freezes evenly. Make sure, however, that the pond ice is at least 4 inches deep before walking on it.
  4. On a calm night so the water stays still, use your thermostatically controlled
    K&H™ PVC ThermoHose™ to flood the rink area with a thin layer of water to fill in any gaps. By the next morning—weather permitting—the new ice layer should be frozen and the rink ready to enjoy!

Remember to practice water and ice safety by having a life ring available in case of emergency, and by marking the acceptable rink area, particularly if you are using just a portion of a much larger body of water.

Sharpen your blades, pull on your skates—and have fun!

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite activity on an ice-covered pond?

Create A Smooth Skating Surface

Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Q: Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Adam – Locust Valley, NY

A: Though it would be nice to have the best of both worlds, a pond that’s aerated with diffuser plates is not safe for ice skating. Here’s why:

The reason you run a diffuser through the winter is to aerate the pond and move the water surface to maintain a hole in the ice, allowing for gas exchange. This ensures the water in your lake is well-circulated and your game fish and other underwater inhabitants have enough oxygen to get them through the cold season.

The trouble is that the ice that forms on the surface of water that has been moving for even a short time can be porous and not suitable for skating. Even movement on one end of the lake and not the other can make the ice at the edges unsafe.

If you want to use your pond for skating, plan in advance. Before the ice forms:

  1. Shut your aeration system down completely. It’s critical to do this before the ice starts to build on your pond’s or lake’s surface for the safety of those who will skate on the pond.
  2. Stow components away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Have an emergency plan, just in case. While you’re prepping your lake for ice skating fun, now’s a good time to make sure you have water safety items available, too, like a Taylor Made Life Ring. If the ice breaks, a safety preserver like this can save someone’s life.

Even if ice skating isn’t your thing, it’s still important to follow this all-or-nothing aeration strategy. Running your system “part time” could cause condensation in the unit from the hot compressor cooling, causing rust to form. It could also allow moisture to get into the airline, which could then freeze.

Bottom line: If you plan on skating on your lake or running your aeration system “part time” for whatever reason, it’s best to shut it down completely. Otherwise, keep it running all season to ensure good water quality for your fishes.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite wintertime activity at your pond or lake?

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