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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

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?

Taylor Made Life Rings - Promote Pond Safety

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?

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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?

Promote Pond Safety - Taylor Made Life Rings

Can I Break A Hole Open In The Ice Over My Pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can sidewalk salt be used to melt the ice off my pond?

Can I Break A Hole Open In The Ice Over My Pond?

Liz - Carterville, IL

When maintaining a pond during the winter, it is important that the surface of your pond does not freeze over with ice. If you have an aeration kit running in your pond but the resulting hole in the ice is getting smaller, or has closed up altogether, don’t panic. Sporadic short-term ice coverage is not an issue if you’ve done regular maintenance to reduce organic debris throughout the season. If the pond remains iced-over for weeks at a time, consider giving your aeration system a boost.

If your pond has frozen over and you want to reopen the hole, simply rest a pan of hot water on the surface of your pond to melt the ice away. Do not use a blunt object to break the ice open as the shock-waves will stress your fish. Also, refrain from poking holes in the ice as you may accidentally puncture your liner or poke one of your fish.

Another way to maintain an open ventilation hole is by adding a pond heater/de-icer above your aeration diffuser stone. If you have multiple air stones, gather them into one area to make it more difficult for ice to form.

Pond Talk: Do you notice the ventilation hole getting smaller or freezing over for short period of time in the winter?

How does ice form on a pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How does ice form on a pond?

How does ice form on a pond?
Jonathan – Denver, CO

You look forward to and enjoy the ice formations that appear on your pond each winter but have you ever wondered how it begins? Why is it that the ice in your pond expands when it freezes instead of shrinking and why does ice float?

Unlike those horror flashbacks of falling asleep in science class we’ll keep this as simple and interesting as possible. As the air cools off outside your water looses heat and becomes heavier. This cool and heavy water sinks to the bottom of the pond as the lighter warmer water rises to the top to cool. This process continues until the pond water reaches about 4 degrees Celsius or 39 degrees Fahrenheit and the water cools enough to freeze. Water is unique in the fact that as is it freezes its molecules form crystals that are spaced farther apart causing ice to expand and take up more space. Once the water in your pond begins to form these crystals and expand it actually becomes lighter than warmer unfrozen water and once again begins to rise to the surface of your pond where it begins to form a sheet of ice. If this all seems a bit too wordy or confusing to you visualize a glass of water with ice cubes in it. The spaced out, crystallized, water molecules of the ice cubes make them lighter than the water in the glass and cause them to float at the surface of the water. The water in the glass that is cooled by the ice cube (but not cold enough to freeze) becomes more dense and sinks to the bottom of the glass and the warmest water rises to the top where it is cooled by the floating ice cubes.

The layer of ice formed by this crystallized frozen water can become fairly strong as it becomes thicker. An inch of ice can be strong enough to hold a small animal without cracking. 3 inches of ice typically is enough to bear the weight of the average person and once a pond freezes to 6 to 8 inches thick it is ready to play host to a hockey game or hold up a snowmobile. Some have even taken their cars out on the ice! While we don’t recommend you give it a try, 8 to 12 inches of ice can support a slowly moving vehicle.

Pond Talk: What do you use your pond for in the winter? Do you skate? Ice fish?

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