Can I Leave My Dock in if I Use A Dock Bubbler?

Some of you may ask, what the heck is a dock bubbler?  In concept, it is really a slick little device.  The idea is as follows:  Hang the dock bubbler off the end of your dock and the bubbler will keep open water around your dock all winter long.  No ice, no ice damage.  Seems like a good idea – sign me up!  Not so fast.

Before we discuss the good and bad uses of a bubbler, let’s first quickly take a look at how they work.  Most dock bubblers are propeller type bubblers.  A lakefront home owner will submerge this device at the end of their dock and the propeller will move warmer water from the lake bottom to the lake surface preventing the formation of ice.  The difference in water temperature may only be a few degrees, but it is often enough to keep a large area of water, maybe a 30ft radius, open around your dock.

Dock bubblers are an excellent option for cottage owners that have a permanent, pile driven dock.  They can be considered one more tool to utilize to hopefully prevent ice damage to the costly-t0-repair piles.  However, there are a number or risks that go with using these bubblers with non-permanent, sectional type docks.  First, they won’t protect against moving sheets of ice.  Even though your dock may be free of ice, across the lake there may be ice and plenty of it.  During ice out if you get a strong wind from the right direction, that ice can be on a collision course with your dock and it will take out your dock and your bubbler.  Also, lake levels can get very low during the winter months.  The water authorities often drain the lakes to account for snow pack melt in the spring.  If all of a sudden your bubbler is only running in 6 inches of water, it may not be as effective or may malfunction.  Normal malfunction is another consideration in itself, as your blogger has personally repaired a dock where the homeowner used a bubbler at his seasonal cottage only to later receive a phone call from an observant neighbor.  The observant neighbor was observing the ice crush his dock in.

So can a dock bubbler be used to minimize ice damage?  Absolutely.  But as always, you’re better off utilizing properly designed docks that make installation and removal easy so you can completely eliminate the risk of ice damage, rather than just minimizing it.