Best way to run a heat mat?

Discussion in 'Herp Help' started by Andrew Lloyd, May 27, 2018.

  1. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd New Member

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    Hi all,

    Currently using a large, wooden television cabinet that I converted to house my young Bredli and I'm looking to change up how it's heated. Currently I'm using a 150w spot lamp and up until winter started that was working well, keeping the hot part at around 32 degrees. Two problems have come up with this method though, A) The colder weather has started to creep in and some nights I've found the cage at around 24-27 in the hot end (Not totally worried by this, Kaa is still eating, pooping and shedding like a champ so it doesn't seem to be affecting his health) and B) I've noticed that it's only when I turn the light off at night that he really comes out to move around the cage.

    Basically what I was thinking of doing is placing a large heat mat in one third of his cage and possibly also a ceramic heat emitter in place of a spot light. Only problem is that being a wooden cage, the heat mat would have to go inside under the substrate or almost none of the heat would make it in.

    So my questions are,
    1. What is the safest way to put a heat mat into the cage without running the risk of burning my little buddy?
    2. Is there a safer/better alternative?
    3. Can I run a CHE and a heat mat off of the same thermostat?

    I know it's a pretty broad range of questions but I'm hoping that in the end I'll have a way of heating his cage to around 32 hot and 27 cold and providing a decent dark/light cycle so he gets a little more active. Any help is greatly appreciated :D

    Pic of the Enclosure
    DSC_0473.JPG
     
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  2. Chipewah

    Chipewah Not so new Member

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    That's a great looking set up.
    I am no expert but you will likely need to have the CHE and heat mat, if you go that way, operate off separate thermostats.
    The top left hand corner looks like a great place to have a CHE, if its fairly enclosed, and that can be the hot spot for the enclosure. Temps getting into the low 20's or high teens of a night shouldn't hurt your animal. It likely gets down to that in the wild for them. I have a full glass enclosure (I won't ever get another one due to heat lose) that gets down to 18 of a night on the cool end and my snake seems fine. He has a heat mate under the tank on one end which is set at 34 and he really only uses it of a day when he is hidden away or when it's a real cold night here in Canberra. Again, I am no expert but I think one really warm spot in the enclosure for him of a night, or really cold days, should do him fine but other more experienced members might disagree. As for him mainly coming out of a night, pretty sure most Carpets come out of a night and mostly hide away of a day.
     
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  3. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd New Member

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    I've thought about wiring the check to that top corner but there is already led strip lights up there (not in the photo, cheap Chinese glue failed and they fell off) and I don't want to melt them. Trying to figure out a way to run a wire to the centre of that areas roof without actually drilling down through the top of the cabinet... I'm a bit to proud of the finish job I did to ruin it :oops:
     
  4. Bl69aze

    Bl69aze Very Well-Known Member

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    i would not have a heat mat in a wooden enclosure, they are designed thesedays for underneath glass enclosures :p

    people will usually route a track into the floor and lay some heatcord in the grooves, and then a heavy tile over the top of that
     
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  5. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd New Member

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    That method sounds like it would be cheaper than a heat mat. Would the cord be able to transmit enough heat into the tile to get through the substrate though?
     
  6. Bl69aze

    Bl69aze Very Well-Known Member

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    should do :)
     
  7. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    Following is an alternative method from an article I wrote for the local herp society...

    Moveable Heat Tile

    A 4m x 15W heat cord under a 30cm by 30cm slate or ceramic tile will attain a stable surface temperature around 35 degrees C at room temperatures in the twenties. These tiles are reasonably good heat conductors, which enables the heat to spread out evenly by the time it reaches the upper surface of the tile. These tiles also hold a lot of heat, so while they are slow to heat up, a reptile lying on one can draw a significant amount heat for only a small drop in tile temperature.

    To keep the heat cord in place and evenly spaced, use a use a thin sheet of grooved wood, such as MDF, as a base. Wood is not a good conductor, so this ensures most of the heat goes into the tile. The wood for the base needs to be twice the thickness of the cord or more, and cut to the shape of the tile (or tiles, if more than one is used). Cut parallel grooves at 2cm intervals right across the base, starting 1cm in from the edge. Then cut 4 or 5 similar grooves across the top and bottom ends, at right angles to the initial grooves. The grooves are to be cut as deep as the thickness of the cord, and just slightly bigger in width - to allow for bending around corners. This arrangement allows one to easily alter how much heating cord is wound under the tile, which thereby allows control over the temperature the tile reaches. The tile and base can be held in place, but still be easily separated, by using something like Blutack or some wooden edging on the base. Note that the base will need to be sealed/waterproofed before use.

    This type of heat tile is designed to be moveable. To place it inside an enclosure, drill a hole in the back corner just big enough to thread the end of the heat cord through. Then wind the heat into the base. Whatever amount of cord is not needed simply hangs out the back in the air, along with the lead-in (non-heating) section of the cord. It can sit above the substrate or be embedded to the same level, depending. The type and colour of the tile can be chosen to match the cage decor.

    These are very economical, effective and safe. They can be run at night as there is no light involved. Higher wattage cords can be used and larger tiles or even multiple tiles with pieces cut to make a certain shape. It simply requires the base to be cut to the same size and shape.
     
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  8. Bl69aze

    Bl69aze Very Well-Known Member

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    thanks bt1, is there a recommended brand of heat cord? also can they be cut off at excess (say you only use 3.4m/4m)? also are they safe inside glass enclosures? i know heat mats arent, but they usually have a sticky side, is there an alternative to this for heat cords to be put on the under side(using tape or something)
     
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  9. pythoninfinite

    pythoninfinite Subscriber Subscriber

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    Heat cords are all pretty much the same, so brand won't matter. You cannot cut them to length. They are by far the best form of heating in my opinion, but are reasonably fragile - the covering is pretty soft so they don't like being pinched or crushed. But they provide a good, gentle heat, and actually I have used them under some enclosures very successfully - routing a track into MDF or particle board to accommodate the cord, and placing the enclosure (with 16mm particleboard base) onto that. You will find that the heat diffuses through the enclosure floor very successfully, it just takes a couple of hours to warm the wood, but it will certainly heat the floor area sufficiently.

    One problem with fixing them between tiles inside the enclosure is that if you drill a small hole in the back of the enclosure to pull the heat cord through, then glue it between tiles, you can't easily remove it from the enclosure unless you dismantle the tile assembly, or without cutting the plug off. Having it external to the enclosure and under the floor means you are not stuck with the heat cord inside the enclosure.

    Jamie
     
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  10. Bl69aze

    Bl69aze Very Well-Known Member

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    thanks Jamie
    so Heat cord grooved into 1 board, then another board over that with enclsoure ontop? i'm looking at alternative methods of heating, as my lil darwin baby has gone back into hiding and hasnt been out for months apart to eat, which she retreated quickly after eating and feel its heat related or possibly season related, however my coastal is non stop movement.

    i may also just buy her large enclosure and move onto a baystack setup with CHE
     
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  11. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    I think you may have missed this line.

    With respect to placing it underneath, would not a piece of pegboard be suitable on top?
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2018
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  12. Bl69aze

    Bl69aze Very Well-Known Member

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    ahem, excuse the professional skills, but something like this?

    upload_2018-5-28_20-55-35.png
     
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  13. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    The gap for airflow should not be necessary if the heat cord is correctly spaced and does not cross over itself. These cords emit a gentle but continuous heat that would have plenty of time to transfer to the enclosure with this setup.

    Just as an aside...
    So why can you not cut the cord to shorten it? Electricity needs a continuous circuit for it to be able to flow through. That’s why there is always at least two tabs on any power plug and at least two strands of (insulated) wire in any electrical lead. The heat cord is no different. It is one continuous piece of wire doubled back on itself. Each end is connected to a different tab on the plug. If you cut the cord anywhere, you break the circuit and electricity can no longer flow through it. So it will cease to work.

    The doubled back loop of wire that makes up the heat cord changes from low resistance near the plug, to high resistance wire at the other end. Electricity being forced through a high resistance wire generates heat. So this is what makes up the heat element section of the cord. Where the wire doubles back on itself i.e. the end of the cord, the bend is done gently so as not to risk breaking the wire. This is why the very end of it is thicker than the remainder of the cord.
     
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  14. pythoninfinite

    pythoninfinite Subscriber Subscriber

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    Snakes are individuals, so there is always some variation in the way each one behaves. Now, with regard to heat cords routed into a piece of MDF or particleboard... I wish the USB port on my phone wasn't playing up, I could post some photos!). Mike is correct in saying that as long as there is no crossover there will be no problem with overheating in any spot. My technique was to rout a zigzag (2-2.5cm apart) track the length of the heatcord minus the 60cm or so (marked on the cord) at the plug end, because this doesn't heat up (as Mike also indicated), within the size of the area you want to heat - maybe a quarter of the floor of your enclosure. This gives you a bit more flexibility. You will need to enlarge the track at the cord end where there is a bit of a knob. I also rout a track into roughly the middle of the heated area to accommodate the thermostat probe. Install the cord and the thermostat probe into the track and fix in place with sticky-backed aluminium tape - I usually cover the entire area with the tape because it is a very good diffuser of heat and will give very even heating, so you end up with a defined heated area under the enclosure. I then just place the enclosure directly on top of that panel, without any other sheeting between the heating panel and the enclosure base. Basically as BL69aze has illustrated, without the pegboard/wood layer.

    Put your thermometer probe on the floor of the cage in the area you are heating, so that the reading you get will be where the reptile is resting when warming, and after setting up and switching on, adjust the temps over about a 24 hour period until you get the desired 30-32C temp on the floor. This does take a few hours because of the slow gain or loss of heat through the timber, but it works very well, and keeps your electrics independent of the enclosure. You can make as many sub-floor heating panels as you need, and customise them according to size etc as you need to. The best thing is that you can move them around between cages without having to dismantle anything to get the cords out.

    The aluminium tape is available in different widths from Jaycar (you can buy it online or at a store) - the stuff I have is about 50mm wide, and it's not expensive. It's very thin, so when pressed down with a thumbnail, it doesn't add any extra thickness to the panel. Don't buy the bitumen-backed gutter tape from Bunnings...

    It does require that you have a router (or a friend with a router) and the appropriate cutter, but if you can organise that, the results are well worth it. I use a similar system to heat the floors of my GTP enclosures, which can get a bit too cold in the cooler months, and it allows them to move a fair bit more than they would if they just had their overhead heat panels (which I also make with heat cords - much cheaper, waterproof and just as effective as the commercial ones.

    Jamie
     
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  15. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd New Member

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    Thanks everyone for the information, definitely got a better idea of what I'm going to be doing for my bredli.

    Just out of curiosity, how do you think a removable shelf, built like the described heat tile, but with an open bottom (to emit heat to the area below) and and a raised "tray" above to hold some substrate over the tile would work?

    The open bottom is just an idea I was toying with and the sunstsubs on tops is to help with mess from defecation. My bredli has already pooped on the wooden shelf that's already there twice and it's super hard to get out of the cracks.
     

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