March 2024

About Bubblers

Bubbler systems can be, and are, useful pieces of equipment to protect docks and boathouses from damage during the winter months. The use of these systems bring with them a responsibility to ensure that they are used properly and safely!

Bubblers are often turned on and left unattended by property owners throughout the winter and this is neither necessary, nor appropriate.  Without careful planning, consideration and oversight your bubbler can de-ice a significant larger portion of the water than is necessary to protect your property. This can be a common problem in shallow and sheltered areas or in areas where several bubblers are run in the same vicinity.  Without careful oversight an oversized hole can form in the ice, even up to hundreds of feet in size.  These oversized holes in the ice can pose a serious safety risk!

When installing a bubbler system it is important to remember to:

  • Talk to your neighbour to avoid creating large areas of open water
  • Use a thermostat and timer, running a bubbler 24/7 creates oversized and unnecessary opening
  • Place a “Danger Open Water” sign on your dock that is clearly visible
  • Ensure that your system is monitored regularly to verify that the opening has not become oversized
  • Have a knowledgeable and experienced contractor configure your bubbler system
  • Have a timer as well as a shut off temperature gauge when the temperature is above zero. The complete electric system must be plugged into a ground fault detector receptacle to prevent any electrical leakage into the lake
  • Limit the system to open water within 10ft of the docks or boat houses

According to the Township of Muskoka Lakes Dark Sky By-Law any person using a bubbler shall ensure that:

  • The colour of the light shall be a solid blue only;
  • The light shall not flash or be intermittent at any time;
  • If using a fluorescent light, the maximum wattage shall be 13 watts;
  • If using an incandescent light, the maximum wattage shall be 60 watts;
  • If using a LED light, the maximum wattage shall be 10 watts.”

All red or amber bubbler lights that existed prior to the passing of this by-law are exempt until the bulb needs maintenance or replacing.

The Muskoka Ratepayers wish to remind our membership that the Criminal Code of Canada is clear regarding the use of bubblers and property owner’s responsibilities as outline under Section 263.  Section 263 (1) titled “Duty to safeguard opening in ice” states “Everyone who makes or causes to be made an opening in ice that is open to or frequented by the public is under a legal duty to guard it in a manner that is adequate to prevent persons from falling in by accident and is adequate to warn them that the opening exists.” The Criminal Code further states in Section 263 (3) “Everyone who fails to perform a duty imposed by subsection (1) or (2) is guilty of (a) manslaughter, if the death of any person results therefrom; (b) an offence under section 269, if bodily harm to any person results therefrom; or (c) an offence punishable on summary conviction.”

Please remember that winter users of the ice, recreational and wildlife, need safe access to the shoreline as well especially at night or during storms with poor visibility.

James Boyd
Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association