Creative Heating Alternatives

brodie7838

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I've looked over many (all?) of the heating solutions being sold for reptile/tortoise enclosures and it sort of seems like the best tools available are Ceramic Heat Bulbs, Deep Heat Projector Bulbs, or Radiant Heat Panels - these options feel a bit underwhelming and definitely not scalable so I started looking at alternatives in their base forms, and I'm curious to see if anyone else has ever gotten creative with their heating (or maybe I'm just overthinking this lol). Here are some ideas I'm considering in my newly-built enclosure:

- Positive Temperature Coefficient heating elements (aka PTC heater, self-regulating heater, car heater): I have a basic 200W version of one of these and while it does its job as advertised, it is not a great accomplice to humidity control unless it were mounted completely enclosed in the space so it was re-circulating existing humid air instead of displacing it. There are many commercial versions featuring this tech available in the form of 'Personal Space Heaters', some of which come in surprisingly small form-factors and either with or without temperature controls, so could be easily set up for individual or centrally-controlled configurations. I figure 2-3 of these 'zoned' together or seperate and paired with some high-quality PWM computer fans could be a good solution, but I'd worry about running all that in such a humid environment long-term.

- Ceramic Infrared Heating Elements: The manufacture(s) that makes all of the different CHE bulbs also makes them in 'panel' and 'plate' forms - circle, square, rectangle, L-shaped, convex, you name it. They're cheap, modular, and could be more readily built into an enclosure than their light-bulb variants, and there are even companies making metal mounts for them that reflect the heat where it's needed. You can get them with or without thermocouplers built-in, so many options for wiring and controlling.

- Radiant Floor Heating: Same tech as the reptile heating mats and the radiant panels, just comes in a roll and you cut it to custom lengths as needed. You can usually find this at local building supply stores and is the easiest to install as well. I like that it would provide the most even distribution of heat, just needs insulation behind it to be thermally effective and a protective veneer in front.

For sure, anything based on a light-bulb socket design is a deal-breaker for me. And I don't believe adequate heating can take place with a single heat emitter, you gotta have more than 1 to achieve the control needed for this, just like a human building.
 

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Tom

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What size area are you trying to heat? Is this for an outdoor night box, and indoor closed chamber, or an open topped table?
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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I use "infrared knee heater". Basically it's a radiant heat panel without hard casing. I have two 2x0.6ft 120W running all along the enclosure length, each has a rheostat set to the middle values (surface temperature is 160-180F).

Oil-filled radiator is another "creative" option for enclosures of certain size and purpose.

As I understand, we a talking about "closed chamber" enclosure for a redfoot. But what dimensions? 4x2x2 has one set options, 20x20x10 - completely different.
 

brodie7838

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My project is a fully-enclosed indoor habitat that will be 4'x8' and 3' tall. It has 2x4 walls on a 2x6 platform, so I'll be able to wire, plumb, and insulate it like a little mini house. In theory, I shouldn't need much wattage to maintain it.

My bigger aim is to have the heating elements spread out and zoned so I can control the gradient of temperature more easily, and so no one emitter ever has to run at full blast to maintain ideal temps.

I like the knee heater idea, very plug and play. I considered the oil heater since I have a few already but I think one would eat you a lot of space in a smaller indoor enclosure.

Thanks!
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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My project is a fully-enclosed indoor habitat that will be 4'x8' and 3' tall. It has 2x4 walls on a 2x6 platform, so I'll be able to wire, plumb, and insulate it like a little mini house. In theory, I shouldn't need much wattage to maintain it.

My bigger aim is to have the heating elements spread out and zoned so I can control the gradient of temperature more easily, and so no one emitter ever has to run at full blast to maintain ideal temps.

I like the knee heater idea, very plug and play. I considered the oil heater since I have a few already but I think one would eat you a lot of space in a smaller indoor enclosure.

Thanks!
Oil-filled heater is not for such type enclosures, that's true. More for the sheds, night boxes or large walk-in hydroponic tents. Maybe you can put one under the enclosure and use fans and air duct pipes, however it's a bit of overengineering.

With knee heaters summary power consumption was 55-60kWh a month to maintain temperature of 88F in the hot zone (with room temps 60-65F). Enclosure is 6x3x2.5 ft. Noticeable heat loss is through the single plexiglas front doors. On the photo are those I use.
 

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jaizei

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My project is a fully-enclosed indoor habitat that will be 4'x8' and 3' tall. It has 2x4 walls on a 2x6 platform, so I'll be able to wire, plumb, and insulate it like a little mini house. In theory, I shouldn't need much wattage to maintain it.

My bigger aim is to have the heating elements spread out and zoned so I can control the gradient of temperature more easily, and so no one emitter ever has to run at full blast to maintain ideal temps.

I like the knee heater idea, very plug and play. I considered the oil heater since I have a few already but I think one would eat you a lot of space in a smaller indoor enclosure.

Thanks!

Where would this indoor enclosure be? If it's in an area thats conditioned you are probably overthinking it, but it's better than under thinking it. Radiant heat panels are prob way to go for ambient heating in indoor enclosure. If its in an unconditioned space, like garage, then what you're talking about might be warranted.

What substrate would you use?

I've given a lot of thought about using radiant floor heating as the main heat source for ambient/background heat. I think radiant floor heating could be used, as designed, to great effect in some applications (eg outdoor night box that doesn't have substrate). In an indoor enclosure that would have substrate, the radiant floor heating might not be able to heat enough, safely, to warm up the substrate. Many of the electric radiant floor systems include a warning against placing large solid bottom furniture over the heating system, so using it under substrate is prob 'off label' regardless.
 

brodie7838

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More for the sheds, night boxes or large walk-in hydroponic tents.
Ah yeah that makes sense
use fans and air duct pipes, however it's a bit of overengineering.
ha funny you should mention this because it was actually my first idea before I had to tell myself I was doing too much; I like to overengineer stuff lol I may or may not have used joist hangers in the making of this thing but if there's ever a tornado here you know where we'll be hiding.

Where would this indoor enclosure be?
It will be indoors in a conditioned space. When I initially expanded the tortoise table from 1 to 3 both temps and humidity became unmanageable and I don't like the idea of covering the enclosure long-term, so this seemed like the next best idea.

I forgot to mention if I go with the radiant heating that I'd be putting it in the walls of the enclosure since I had read it's good for the substrate to remain cooler since torts burrow in part to cool off.

What substrate would you use?
Glad you asked cause I was going to make another post on this - right now it's a mix of Sphagnum Peat Moss and Coconut Coir (see product pics) minimum of 6" deep. I'm reading mixed advice on the Sphagnum because it's too dusty? I had sheet moss in for moisture as well but took it out after reading here that it can cause issues. I'm still on the hunt for Orchid Bark because the only brand I've found locally so far is Miracle Grow which has fertilizers and stuff.
 

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Alex and the Redfoot

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Ah yeah that makes sense

ha funny you should mention this because it was actually my first idea before I had to tell myself I was doing too much; I like to overengineer stuff lol I may or may not have used joist hangers in the making of this thing but if there's ever a tornado here you know where we'll be hiding.


It will be indoors in a conditioned space. When I initially expanded the tortoise table from 1 to 3 both temps and humidity became unmanageable and I don't like the idea of covering the enclosure long-term, so this seemed like the next best idea.

I forgot to mention if I go with the radiant heating that I'd be putting it in the walls of the enclosure since I had read it's good for the substrate to remain cooler since torts burrow in part to cool off.


Glad you asked cause I was going to make another post on this - right now it's a mix of Sphagnum Peat Moss and Coconut Coir (see product pics) minimum of 6" deep. I'm reading mixed advice on the Sphagnum because it's too dusty? I had sheet moss in for moisture as well but took it out after reading here that it can cause issues. I'm still on the hunt for Orchid Bark because the only brand I've found locally so far is Miracle Grow which has fertilizers and stuff.
1. I think, it's pretty safe to mount radiant panels on the ceiling. It's easier to make even heating over the whole space and you won't need to make them running at full power to reach far corners. Substrate stays cool enough from evaporation and mild heating doesn't warm up lower layers. Also top heating dries substrate top quicker, which is good for preventing shell fungus (you probably know, that red foots are prone to it).

2. Peat moss and coco coir get dusty when dried up too much. The problem with peat moss was it's acidity, which is not good. And with long moss strands is that tortoises can eat them and get impacted. Maybe it's 1 to 1000 chance, but looks like unnecessary risk. If you can't find orchid bark you may try your luck with cypress mulch (that's what I use and pretty happy with it so far). Plain coco coir is not that bad and you can add a thin layer of expensive Reptibark on top of it to prevent from drying out and reduce mess.
 

Tom

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Ah yeah that makes sense

ha funny you should mention this because it was actually my first idea before I had to tell myself I was doing too much; I like to overengineer stuff lol I may or may not have used joist hangers in the making of this thing but if there's ever a tornado here you know where we'll be hiding.


It will be indoors in a conditioned space. When I initially expanded the tortoise table from 1 to 3 both temps and humidity became unmanageable and I don't like the idea of covering the enclosure long-term, so this seemed like the next best idea.

I forgot to mention if I go with the radiant heating that I'd be putting it in the walls of the enclosure since I had read it's good for the substrate to remain cooler since torts burrow in part to cool off.


Glad you asked cause I was going to make another post on this - right now it's a mix of Sphagnum Peat Moss and Coconut Coir (see product pics) minimum of 6" deep. I'm reading mixed advice on the Sphagnum because it's too dusty? I had sheet moss in for moisture as well but took it out after reading here that it can cause issues. I'm still on the hunt for Orchid Bark because the only brand I've found locally so far is Miracle Grow which has fertilizers and stuff.
I use radiant heat panels to heat indoor enclosures of those dimensions. They work great. I like the way the Vivarium Electronics ones mount better than the Sweeter Heaters. Chicken panels should work for this too.

I wouldn't use under tank heating. It goes against tortoise instincts and often leads to over heating or burns. When a tortoise is too warm, it digs down into the cooler earth. With under tank heating, this makes it get hotter, so it digs down farther, bringing it even closer to the heat source.

I have used mini radiant oil heater in 4x8 foot outdoor night boxes for years. These are the best and most efficient for maintaining heat in a closed chamber like this. With 3 feet of height, you could mount it on a little shelf up off the floor and not lose any floor space.

Two or three CHEs hung from the ceiling would also work and distribute the heat fairly evenly in a closed chamber. I've done it that way too.
 
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