There’s more than one way to protect marinas and private docks from ice damage
Keeping waters warm
One way to do this is with propeller-type deicers. When installed properly, propeller-type deicers bring warmer water from below and push it along the surface. This particular method works best in at least six feet of water. Although there are several ways owners can install propeller deicers to obtain maximum efficiency, most aren’t installed properly. Unfortunately, most owners install propeller deicers pointing straight up, which is understandable give the purpose of the device. However, this is incorrect. The unit should always be installed at a slight angle.
What happens when deicers are installed straight up? Let this one specific incident, be your guide. The owner installed a propeller deicer by hanging it in front of a float that was pushing water straight up. There was a large ice sculpture building up on the front edge of the float where water was spraying. Three sides of the float were completely frozen in.
The bubbler system
Another deicing option is bubbler deicing systems, which use low pressure, high volume air pumped through self weighted hoses which lie on the bottom The air escapes through slits or holes in the hose to bring warmer water to the surface. The bubbles create a small amount of agitation on the surface and, with the warmer water, keep a small area free of ice.
Propeller or bubbler ?
So which system should a marina or private dock owner choose for deicing its docks? The answer is: “It depends….” There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of systems.
On the negative side, they do not work as well in shallow water, as they can get jammed with debris or stuck on the bottom. If they are too close to the surface, they will suck air down and not push out as much water. Bubbler deicing systems must come on slightly before freezing temperature and remain on until the temperature rises above freezing. If they are turned off during freezing temperatures, they won’t clear any ice that forms. Also, water in the feed lines above the water will freeze and block air to the hoses. Bubbler systems only clear ice around the structures they are designed to protect. They do not clear large open areas of water, which could be a hazard to skaters or ice boats, etc.
Bubbler deicing systems do not work well at depths of 15 feet or more. In fact, only hoses with holes, not slits, can work at this depth or deeper. The initial cost of a bubbler system is usually two to three times the cost of a propeller system, but the durability and dependability of the system will usually even out the difference over time.
Bubbler systems can be more specific in their application. Outlying or isolated pilings can be protected individually with piling loops that only bubble around the pilings. The hoses supplying air to the loops would be non-perforated, so less volume of air would be needed. Individual piling deicers can be used for pilings on floating docks to protect only the pilings. They are made of PVC and put a stream of bubbles on each side of the piling, which keeps it clear.All deicing systems should be installed so they work from deepest water to shallow water. Propeller types need the deeper water to work dependably and can push water toward the shallower areas. Bubbler systems should always start at the deepest point of the system as this creates a natural balance from the highest pressure to the lowest pressure as a result of decreasing water depth.
Marinas and small dock owners should be wary of selecting the least expensive system because it may not always give the protection the marina or small docks needs. Moreover, marinas and small dock owners must properly design, install, and maintain any deicing system if it is going to work at its designed capacity. Marina owners and operators, as well as small dock owners shouldn’t wait until everything is frozen to discover their deicing system isn’t doing the job.
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