Thoughts on heating systems

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tomharten
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Thoughts on heating systems

Post by tomharten » July 16th, 2013, 5:37 am

I wanted to get some input from the group on the best methods for heat regulation. I am going to be getting a hatchling blood python in September. I plan on starting the snake in a small plastic tub, like a Rubbermaid or something similar.

I do have a smallish room in the house that I have considered heating with a delonghi heater and ranco thermostat and dedicating that as a snake room. But for the foreseeable future, I'll just have the one snake and it seems like overkill and not very energy efficient to do it that way.

I am also considering buying a herpstat and using a heat source like flex watt tape or a heat mat.

From the research that I've done, bloods seem to thrive at a near constant 82F, perhaps dropping it a couple of degrees at night.

It's been years since I've kept any snakes, other than my son's Cal King, which is a good bit less challenging than keeping a blood.

Suggestions from the group would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Kelly Mc » July 16th, 2013, 7:31 am

Psyon would be good to ask about your system. He has done it/built it/ up and down from scratch. He is a flexwatt guy. Im not a rack person but I recognize when someone knows how to use it right with tubs.

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by chris_mcmartin » July 16th, 2013, 2:26 pm

Herpstat devotees will cry "sacrilege!" but I have a homemade "rack" (I pitched it to The Wife as a nice wooden shelf) where I use THG heat tape connected to...

plug-in dimmer switches meant for lamps.

I set the dimmers to the lowest setting, then measured with my Pro Exotics temp gun and adjusted slowly upward, checking after each adjustment till I got it where I wanted it.

My banded geckos apparently think it's just fine and did not notice I didn't use a fancy getup.

Full disclosure: I DO have a Herpstat, but it's dedicated to incubating my little gecko eggs...this is my first season using it, and so far, so good...should have babies in a couple of weeks.

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Joseph S.
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Joseph S. » July 16th, 2013, 2:36 pm

dimmers will work nicely. Another system that some folks use is to put the heating elements on a timer, say, 4 hours on, then 4 hours off to prevent overheating. Even with a thermostat a digital temp gun is almost essential to check everything and fine tune it for your own home climate and the animals you keep.

I currently use the Ultratherm heat mats from Bean farm. They are low wattage enough that they are pretty safe to use without a thermostat according to the manufacturer. Still monitoring is essential-it is still necessary to allow them to breathe or else you may warp the plastic on the bottom of your tubs. (if it is polypropylene you will usually need to get up to about 170 to do that).

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tomharten
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by tomharten » July 17th, 2013, 3:09 am

Thanks for the information! Any advantage of the heat mat over the flexwatt as far as performance/safety?

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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by chris_mcmartin » July 17th, 2013, 3:53 am

tomharten wrote:Thanks for the information! Any advantage of the heat mat over the flexwatt as far as performance/safety?

As Joseph said, the heat mats seem to do okay without requiring a thermostat/dimmer. I have a couple of those and do not use a thermostat or dimmer, but I do have them heating enclosures which are raised slightly above the mats (e.g. one is a "critter keeper" type plastic tank that has built-in little "feet") to avoid glass cracking/plastic warping. Also, I don't have any of my heating elements heating the ENTIRE floor of any given enclosure; more like half, so the animals can choose to cool off a little when they want.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Kelly Mc » July 17th, 2013, 7:20 am

Alot of times its disregarded how important that space of air is when using mats. The mats themselves are of modest wattages, but if the heat isnt allowed to dissipate it keeps generating and can create unsuitably high surface conditions. Using air space,ie; customizing the height of the raise can be a very handy way of targeting desired temps. The more air (space) you use, the lighter the surface temp will be. I often find the risers that come with some too shallow and just use blocks or slats. I find for my purposes 1/2" to 1" to give me what I want fairly predictably. Also good to keep in mind that most mats being under 40 watts - will not work with a dimmer - need 40 watt output for continued functionality. Thermostats work fine but if you size the mat in mindful proportion to the space and you peep to the air space as being a useful silent partner to the mat its often not needed.

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Don Becker
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Don Becker » July 17th, 2013, 5:57 pm

First off, if you aren't building a rack for many snakes, just use an Intellitemp Heat Mat from Big Apple Herp... I love em. If you have a large enough tub that the snake can get completely off the heat, and away from it, you can use it without a thermostat. I have one under my glass lizard with no thermostat right this moment actually.

http://www.bigappleherp.com/Intellitemp ... -Heat-Mats

If you still want to go with flexwatt, or do end up building a rack (Which I have pictures of how to do an easy one, gonna put up a page soon), I use these thermostats

http://www.amazon.com/Hydrofarm-MTPRTC- ... with+probe

People will tell you that you need a variable one, and there is probably some benefit to them, but for my colubrids, that thing works fine. I tape the probe directly to the flexwatt on one of the shelves, set it to 90 or 95 depending on the rack, and it keeps the back side of my tubs nice and warm for the snakes. Put a thermometer in the back side of a tub until you figure out what a good temp is for the flexwatt. You can put the probe directly in a tub if you want and have it regulate it that way, but you are more likely to get different temperatures in different tubs that way. The nice thing is that the heat doesn't radiate through the aspen bedding too much so the snakes can easily get away from it, or they can dig down into the bedding to get warmer when needed.

Regarding Flexwatt vs Heat Mats, the biggest factor is how thick both are. FlexWatt is nice and thin and tubs slide on and off of it just fine. On one of my racks, I taped some Intellitemp mats down, and the tubs just always snagged on it, and folded them over at times, and it just really wasn't working well. If you are just setting the plastic tub on the heat source, and won't be sliding it in and out, then it really doesn't matter.

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Don Becker
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Don Becker » July 17th, 2013, 5:59 pm

Oh, and I guess I should mention that I've had boas and pythons on my racks with those thermostats, not just colubrids.

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tomharten
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by tomharten » July 18th, 2013, 4:55 pm

Thanks to all for the advice. I want to get this set up and running at the desired temps, well before the arrival of the snake. I am always amazed at the breadth and depth of knowledge on this forum. Thanks again!

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tomharten
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by tomharten » September 27th, 2013, 3:41 am

I went with the Intellitemp heat mat and went ahead and bought an on/off thermostat from Big Apple.

I am using aspen chips as a substrate in the enclosure (a plastic storage box from Target).

When I check the temps in the enclosure with my temp gun, I get readings in the mid 70s when I hit the substrate. But when I push aside the aspen and measure the temperature at the bottom of the enclosure above the heat mat, it's around 82-84 (which is roughly my target temp).

My assumption is that the snake ( blood python) will spend most of its time buried in the aspen and near the warmth on the floor of the cage.

A thermometer mounted on the back on the enclosure is reading in the low 70s.

I am concerned that I don't have enough warmth in this enclosure for this species.

I am thinking about getting a supplemental heat source like a ceramic heat emitter and hanging it from above.....

Does anyone have a suggestion? Thanks.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Kelly Mc » September 27th, 2013, 7:27 pm

A better way of increasing the temp for that species is to heat the wall adjacent to the heat mat placement on the floor. It will create a lower impact stable halo of heated air that will make it easy for the snake to thermoregulate his position. The Wall/Floor or 2 Wall (in corner tandem) works in glass, wood and plastic enclosures. Im not a fan personally of storage bins as permanent housing but i have used them for specific purposes and geared them up for others and it has worked very predictably. Thermal bounce off with the wall side being in proxy to the actual room wall will often garner warmer temps without setting adjustment.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Kelly Mc » September 27th, 2013, 7:54 pm

You are right to be concerned about the air temperature in the animals heated floor temp zone. I have found that being heated ventris but breathing significantly cooler air can be a risk recipe for resperatory infections - across taxa and Blood pythons do show delicacy in this regard.

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tomharten
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by tomharten » September 28th, 2013, 3:32 am

Kelly,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I'm definitely going to follow your suggestion. I was quite surprised at the temp variation in the enclosure.

This is the first time that I've tried to use a plastic storage bin to house a snake. I've read that hatchling bloods do better in a smaller enclosure, perhaps they feel more secure? I plan on sizing these up as the animal grows and eventually go with a vision or neodesha cage or one of the other commercially built products.

Thanks again!

Tom

Jimi
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Jimi » September 30th, 2013, 11:00 am

This was good advice, i repeat for emphasis:
I have found that being heated ventris but breathing significantly cooler air can be a risk recipe for resperatory infections - across taxa and Blood pythons do show delicacy in this regard.
This is one of the reasons I like a dedicated room. I prefer to keep the room at or a hair below desired ambient and have a supplemental "basking" source like an RHP. Insulation (wall & ceiling) is a wonderful thing!

cheers,
Jimi

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Kelly Mc » September 30th, 2013, 9:17 pm

Jimi wrote:
This is one of the reasons I like a dedicated room. I prefer to keep the room at or a hair below desired ambient and have a supplemental "basking" source like an RHP. Insulation (wall & ceiling) is a wonderful thing!

cheers,
Jimi
Jimi Im spurred to do the same with your detail - cant be overestimated how such stability cant be beat: the at or a hair below desired ambient its got so much going for it - one can finesse temps with very mild wattages. It makes me feel generally safer, and with some lizard guys especially, i think its a healthier atmosphere not having so much closed radiant heat blasting the air they breathe.

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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by Jimi » October 1st, 2013, 2:24 pm

one can finesse temps with very mild wattages. It makes me feel generally safer, and with some lizard guys especially, i think its a healthier atmosphere not having so much closed radiant heat blasting the air they breathe.
Exactly - you can use low-wattage devices, that 1) animals can touch safely and 2) won't burn your house down. While I stopped burning animals decades ago, CHE's and high-discharge lighting still scare the crap out of me, fire-wise. (House fires happen. Even if your house is saved, who wants a fireman in your herp room? How many of those news stories have we seen lately?) And as you note, not having a huge thermal gradient between the inside and outside of a cage makes humidity regulation easier too. especially if you're not mixing biomes in your room. Not trying to keep sand boas a couple feet away from rainbow boas, or whatever. "Get another room!" Ha ha.

Aside - It's funny, I've gotten to where I'm really quite a weenie about trying to avoid hard (futile?...) work keeping animals happy. Tthat is, I prefer to work with them, not against them. And I've gotten skilled and adventurous ("mental"?) enough in home remodeling and repair, that I'm not really afraid of doing anything to a house, or to/for a "herp environment". Especially if it'll get me to that super-low-effort lifestyle on the animal husbandry side. Timers, this, automated that, I just love 'em. I guess you could say my preferred strategy is bursts of high creative & labor output followed by long glides of lazy enjoyment.

Cheers,
Jimi

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tomharten
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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by tomharten » October 1st, 2013, 4:09 pm

I seriously kicked the idea around of heating the whole room with one of those Delonghi oil filled heaters and a Ranco thermostat. But I've got just the one snake in there and felt like somewhat of a carbon hog to be heating the whole room. Maybe I need to get a few more animals to make it worthwhile...I could be talked into it.

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Re: Thoughts on heating systems

Post by chris_mcmartin » October 1st, 2013, 6:37 pm

tomharten wrote:I seriously kicked the idea around of heating the whole room with one of those Delonghi oil filled heaters and a Ranco thermostat. But I've got just the one snake in there and felt like somewhat of a carbon hog to be heating the whole room. Maybe I need to get a few more animals to make it worthwhile...I could be talked into it.
Yes, your problem isn't a "too much heating capacity" problem, it's a "not enough herps in the room" problem. Also consider lizards of similar requirements.

8-)

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