Bird Watcher's General Store

Birdbath Heaters are Safe - 12/29/00


Dear Bird Folks,

I received something called a birdbath heater for Christmas. It is a coil that I'm supposed to put in my birdbath to keep the water from freezing. The coil plugs into an electrical outlet. I was always taught that electricity and water were not a good combination. Is this product safe for me and the birds?

Tom, Truro

Hey Tom,

When was the last time you took a shower? (And don't pretend that's the first time you've heard that question.) Or when was the last time you heated your meal of SpaghettiOs on an electric stove? Both an electric hot water heater and an electric stove use an electric coil similar to what is in your birdbath heater.

If you turn on an electric stove and put your hand on a burner, you won't get a shock. You'll get burned, but you won't get a shock. And, if you have an electric hot water heater, you won't get a shock when you take a shower unless you use your hair dryer at the same time. Electric heating elements, including birdbath heaters, are well insulated against any kind of moisture leakage. Still, you should connect a birdbath heater only to a grounded outlet, preferably one with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFI). A GFI will shut off the power if there is an electrical problem and keep you from getting a permanent perm. Also, be sure to use a proper outdoor extension cord and not the same extension cord that you use to connect your new Sony Play Station 2. I like to wrap the point where the two power cords meet with electrical tape and be sure not to let the connection lie on the ground where it could end up in a puddle of water.

Whoa, is it me or had this column on birding information turned into a visit from Mr. Wizard? Anyhow, Tom, we sell hundreds of birdbath heaters every year and we have yet to lose one customer or bird. So go ahead and plug in your heater, they are fine to use. But just to be on the safe side, if you know of any Yankee fans, you may want to test it out on them before you allow the birds to use it.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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