How you care for you outdoor fountain in the winter greatly depends on just how cold it gets in your area. In regions where the temperatures drop below freezing, you need to winterize your fountain. Allowing it to freeze will damage the pump and possibly even crack the fountain itself as the water inside freezes and expands. However, you cannot put antifreeze into the water as a solution. Antifreeze is highly toxic to children and animals and running water in the winter will easily attract critters and children to your fountain. Even if you don't have pets or kids, the antifreeze will kill any birds or other wildlife that comes for a drink.
Dismantle and Protect in Colder Regions
Drain the Water
In regions where it drops below freezing for much of the winter, it’s best to drain the water from the fountain before the first freeze. Dry out the fountain as much as possible with a towel before any of the water has a chance to freeze.
Remove the Pump
Remove the pump to store indoors for the winter. This is a good time to rinse out the pump and remove any debris to keep it in good working order. Don’t store the pump inside the fountain through the winter in regions that have regular freezing temperatures. Frozen water inside the pump can damage the pump.
Buy a Fitted Cover
If you are in an area where your fountain needs to be drained before winter, then you also need to take steps to protect the fountain. If you leave it unprotected outdoors, then rain water may freeze inside the fountain and cause damage. If at all possible bring the fountain indoors. If you cannot store it inside during the winter, then cover your fountain with tarps or under a roof to keep it dry and rain water out. You can also buy a fountain cover. These are better designed to fit and stay on during storming weather. For most a cover is relatively cheap, costing less than $100 and for most sizes.
Use a De-Icer in Warmer Regions
Credit: AmazonThere are several products on the market that heat the water to keep it from freezing over. These de-icers are electrical heaters that either sit on the bottom or float on the top. They are sold as pond heaters or bird bath heaters and you will need to buy the one made for the number of gallons it contains. These are best for small amounts of water or in areas where it rarely drops below freezing. These only warm the water close to the heater, so if you have a container that holds a large amount of water, then the water away from the de-icer will likely still freeze. If you choose to use a de-icer, place one in each level of the fountain and keep the pump running to circulate the warm water throughout.
If you live in a region that does freeze, even if it’s just at night, don’t take the chance by leaving water in your fountain to freeze. It only takes one free to cause damage that can't be fixed. Taking the time to winterize your fountain will save your fountain and your investment.