I'm working on designign an ice flooding rig, and getting power to it is a big challenge. This is remote (middle of a river) so I'm looking to carry enough fuel to flood for a few hours straight, and pump water to refill when I need.

Immersion heaters seem like the way to go, but they're all electric. Is there a similar immersion style heater, that I can run off of propane/diesel/some combustible? I understand I'll probably be throwing efficiency out the window, but that's acceptable here.

Does something like this exist? As I understand it this isn't how gas water heaters work, but there must be use cases for things like this.

Edit: It seems "flooding rig" is too vague.

My intent is to flood (cover with a thin coat of water) a section of ice on a river, so that I can skate on it. This is generally done by a zamboni (large, heavy, expensive, etc.), where hot (or at least warm) water is sent through a distributor bar that trickles a bunch of small streams of water over a wide area, to give a smooth, even coat. Hot water is ideal, but my intent here is to simply get the water warm enough that the nozzles in the distributor bar don't freeze up over time (I'm doing this in ~-20 weather, and pulling water from the river, so it's just barely above freezing)

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    Have you considered a gas powered generator to run an electric heater? Also, expect some questions on "ice flooding rig" - I haven't a clue what that is and would guess that not many do.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 14:44
  • Sounds like you may be skating on thin ice here. I have heard of reasonably safely skating on a pond that has frozen over. But a river? That really does not sound safe to me - the current can be running quite fast and you may not know where there are weak spots. Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:02
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    I'm in Minnesota, so hockey rinks are common, but they're usually just done with a trash pump or similar. I'm not familiar with heating and nozzles. That's the disconnect we had. Thanks for clarifying.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:13
  • Don't forget to insulate the distributor bar, and provide a way to blow it out with compressed air as soon as you stop spraying water.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:32
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact This is in a bay, and other residents have mapped current flows and ice thicknesses over tens of years. The trash pump is the current method, however this "skateway" is many kilometers long, so a hole every 50 feet or so took us 5 hours to flood last time. Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


Something like it does exist!

Wood fired hot tub stoves, commonly known as "snorkel stoves" for reasons that seem obvious to me (or it might be is a brand name, too.)

  • Could they reasonably be expect to handle enough water (hundreds of gallons?) for a skating rink? I'd expect that they're quite slow.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:12
  • @isherwood Zamboni's don't use hundreds of gallons. This isn't about melting/filling a large area, it is about melting enough to stream a very thin layer on top of already frozen ice in order to get a fresh smooth surface. I think. Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:14
  • Sure they do. The thin layer has to be thick enough to flow by overcoming surface tension. A quick search shows that a Zamboni holds more than 200 gallons.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:16
  • Just calculated up the 7x3 foot hot tub I happen to know about these from, and it comes to over 800 gallons, so - absolutely, yes - can do hundreds of gallons.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:17
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    If your "rig" (lightweight less expensive zamboni?) has an engine, I'd seriously look at capturing waste heat from the engine and exhaust, perhaps by kludging the exhaust through the guts of a gas/propane/oil water-heater. The high end (and expensive) version of this sort of thing is common in boats to recover hot water off the engine or fuel-powered generator. Just be careful that any backwoods engineering includes multiple means to ensure you don't have a steam explosion... As for thin ice, consider using a lightweight boat as the chassis of the thing.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 16:13

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