Just because your neighbours’ have installed a de-icer system, that does not necessarily mean that you also need one. If your property is located off the main body of a lake, in a sheltered area…probably not. We strongly recommend that you check with cottagers who have been in your area for a long time to help establish the need. Also contractors who specialize in the installation of these systems have a wealth of knowledge as to when and where they should be installed.
The objective is of course to keep your structures free of damaging ice… ideally 2 to 10 feet… and keep the public safe. Under the Canadian Criminal Code (Section 263 (1) and 263 (3); the code specifies that you must clearly post signs visible from all sides that say ‘Danger Open Water’. Also an amber non-blinking light that is visible from all directions for night time warning. Do not use red or flashing red as it could be confused with an official Navigation Light marking an obstacle other than open water around boat houses and docks.
You are also required to clearly mark the open water area caused by your system with stakes and flags effective enough to be seen from some distance.
From a Legal and Insurance perspective: Please obtain advice from legal counsel and your insurance agent as to your liability exposure. Get these opinions in writing as you might find that if an untimely accident were to occur, with someone being injured or drowned as a result of open water caused by your de-icer system, you in all probability will be charged under the Criminal Code (i.e.) Manslaughter in the event of a death. If your open water joins with your neighbour’s open water, in all likelihood they would also be charged. Even if a contractor is responsible for your installation, you are still liable. Make sure the contractor provides you with proof of insurance.
Make sure that your electrical supply is adequately sized and protected with a ground fault type breaker for use near water…just as in your bathrooms and kitchens.
It is hard to believe how large an area these systems can open when left unattended.
In years of heavy snow fall, the open water will sometimes become covered over creating the illusion of solid ice. There was an incident some years ago when someone walking a shoreline at night walked into open water covered by snow and joined the polar bear club unwilling. It is the practice of responsible de-icing contractors to regularly check their client’s installations and adjust the system intensity to guard against such events.
For those of you that like DIY and have properties off the beaten track or just plain hard to get at in the winter, consider installing a Wi-Fi system, cameras and a device that will allow you to turn your system on and off remotely using your cell phone or computer.
With Ownership Comes Responsibility. Please try and keep your de-icer systems well under control and prevent any unnecessary accidents.
The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association