Double Door Night Box

NorCal tortoise guy

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We have that problem here too. I got a gennie to solve that one. Now I've heard that they are citing people for emissions for running a gennie. Going from bad to worse in this state, I tell ya...
I got a generator to solve that problem as well. I opted for one that can run on propane mostly because propane will be much easier to store a lot of Incase if extended problems. But I guess a side benefit will Be if it gets that crazy here I can tell them to bug off its low emissions haha
 

Tolis

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Tom I messed up, 11/32 plywood is almost 9mm thick and I bought the one thats only 4mm thick. It's all cut up cannot and be returned. Can I still make it work with 4mm thickness?
 

Tom

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Tom I messed up, 11/32 plywood is almost 9mm thick and I bought the one thats only 4mm thick. It's all cut up cannot and be returned. Can I still make it work with 4mm thickness?
I've never tried. I don't think it will be strong enough. The insulation will probably do the work okay, but I'm not sure how well the whole thing will hold up.
 

Tolis

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I've never tried. I don't think it will be strong enough. The insulation will probably do the work okay, but I'm not sure how well the whole thing will hold up.
I will take one for the forum and do the experiment see how long it will last. I cannot afford otherwise.. structurally the frame should hold up, if the thin plywood gets punctured and starts rotting away I will replace it piece by piece.
 

NorCalAl

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Hey folks, we finally got ours finished (at least functionally, still needs paint and some other cosmetics). The heater we’re using until next week has a thermostat - sorta. A dial without numbers. We have a thermometer and a cam to watch him and the temp, but I’m not certain what temps we should be running. Currently it’s about 78 near the heater and mid 60’s near the door. Inside floor space is 40.5” square.
 

Tolis

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Tom can you help a bit with the door? Cant figure how you make yours....
 

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Tolis

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I could not figure out how your doors can become ramps without creating a 2 inch height difference between the top of the ramp and the inside of the hide box. So I made mine open on 90 degree angle and I will create a smooth ledge using tiles around the door where it opens so the tort can climb easily. I also added an inner layer of wood around the inside of the door to solve my insulation problem
 

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Tom

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Hey folks, we finally got ours finished (at least functionally, still needs paint and some other cosmetics). The heater we’re using until next week has a thermostat - sorta. A dial without numbers. We have a thermometer and a cam to watch him and the temp, but I’m not certain what temps we should be running. Currently it’s about 78 near the heater and mid 60’s near the door. Inside floor space is 40.5” square.
What species? For tropical species, like sulcatas, it should be 80ish in spring and fall when we have warm sunny days. When the weather turns cold for winter, I bump it up to 86. In summer, when every day ir near 100 here, I set it down to 70 to let it cool over night and not get so hot the next day.

The thermostat on the heaters will allow 15-20 degree swings in my experience. This is way too much.

Do you have clear vinyl door flaps? This helps hold in the heat very well when the door is open.
 

NorCalAl

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Yes, sulcata. The winters in the foothills here run the gamut from 80’s in the day to 20’s or teens at night. I have a Reptistat which will be in his box tonight, so I won’t rely on the heater to regulate temps. We kept it about 70’s last night near the heater while it was mid 30’s outside. My box is similar to your plans, as I’ve mentioned before: all walls and the floor and top are insulated. We used 1/2” ply and shredded blue jean insulation (4”). I used a dogloo-type flap for the door. Heat is a 400w oil heater.
Last night was the first night he used it. We mounted a camera to watch him and temps.
 

Tom

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I have a Reptistat which will be in his box tonight, so I won’t rely on the heater to regulate temps.
These are not reliable. Get something better.

We kept it about 70’s last night near the heater while it was mid 30’s outside. My box is similar to your plans, as I’ve mentioned before: all walls and the floor and top are insulated. We used 1/2” ply and shredded blue jean insulation (4”). I used a dogloo-type flap for the door. Heat is a 400w oil heater.
Last night was the first night he used it. We mounted a camera to watch him and temps.

Your are in uncharted territory there. Watch the temps closely. I see several potential problems:

  • Temps shouldn't be different near the heater compared to the rest of the box. It needs to be warm in the coldest corner farthest away fro the heater. I suggest no lower than 86 during colder weather like what we are having right now.
  • I'm not familiar with shredded blue jean insulation or how well it works compared to what I use. Watch your thermometer closely. Your tortoises life depends on it.
  • Not sure that a 400 watt heater will do it when temps are in the teens. Again, your thermometer will answer this question.
  • Dogloo door flap should be fine during the day when the door is open, but you also have an insulated door that you close at night, right? If not, you need one, and this might explain the problem in my first bullet point above.
Not trying to be a pain, but I don't want your tortoise to get sick from cold temps, and I've been down this road before.
 

NorCalAl

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You’re not being a pain! I value the information, which is why I’m asking here.
The denim insulation offers about the same r-value as cellulose or foam. Only thing that’s better is the spray in type. So r3.8 per inch x 4 = ~r15.5. Close to code for here.
The height inside is 18”, so I’m not heating a huge space. I thought it best to provide a gradient, but I can accept that’s incorrect. We have some of the foil-backed 1” foam insulation left over from the last house, so I will add two layers of that the bottom of the roof, inside the enclosure. It’ll drop the ceiling height a bit but add about r9 to the top.
I’d not built an insulated door, but I certainly can.
 
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NorCalAl

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Incredibly, it snowed here today. Didn’t stick but it still snowed. Tonight’s lows are projected in the 20’s. Right now, running around 80 near the door opening and nearly 85 at the heater with the dial set at 50%.
Found my ZooMed thermostat, so I’ll be asking that tomorrow, along with the painting and trim work.
Thanks very much for the pointers.
 

NorCalAl

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I added a second layer of freezer door flaps positioned about 3” offset from the first set. Without touching another thing, it allowed the box to remain 4 degrees warmer. Last night dipped below freezing for a while and his box stayed nice and toasty. Now if I could just convince him to go through the flaps without assistance!
 

Tolis

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Have you ever taken temperature reading from both the top and the bottom of the box? I am getting 4 degrees celsius difference and Im not sure if it is normal since the hot air goes up or I have insulation problems. I keep the thermostat sensor near the floor since that's where the tort is
 

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NorCalAl

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Just to see, we’ve been running three: top, bottom and far wall. Since we added the Inkbird thermostat, temps are remarkably steady. Biggest difference in temps between three has been 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
 

Tom

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Have you ever taken temperature reading from both the top and the bottom of the box? I am getting 4 degrees celsius difference and Im not sure if it is normal since the hot air goes up or I have insulation problems. I keep the thermostat sensor near the floor since that's where the tort is
I have. I don't get more than a degree or two in my 20" tall boxes.
 

Chuck_Roberts

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Thanks for this post! I just finished construction on a 4' x 8' box as Tom detailed, and ordered freezer door flap material. I will have enough to make inner & outer freezer door flaps, and wondered if I still need to make a solid insulated door? I hoped to allow un-restricted access for them but haven't come up with a good solution in case they went half way out, then changed their mind.

I built mine with the 2x4's on end (2 layers of 1.5" foam insulation sheets sandwiched between 11/23 plywood on all sides). I live in the Phoenix area with a couple of medium sized Sulcata tortoises and the box is near a Ficus tree so it will have some shade in the Summer.

I ordered a 700 watt oil heater, and a small fan, but wondered about what kind of thermostat I should order? I hear on this post that some are not accurate enough.

Finally, each dug a ground cave this Summer. I was wondering if I should fill these in, or allow access to the cave, and shelter I built? Thanks for the advice!
 

Tolis

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Thanks for this post! I just finished construction on a 4' x 8' box as Tom detailed, and ordered freezer door flap material. I will have enough to make inner & outer freezer door flaps, and wondered if I still need to make a solid insulated door? I hoped to allow un-restricted access for them but haven't come up with a good solution in case they went half way out, then changed their mind.

I built mine with the 2x4's on end (2 layers of 1.5" foam insulation sheets sandwiched between 11/23 plywood on all sides). I live in the Phoenix area with a couple of medium sized Sulcata tortoises and the box is near a Ficus tree so it will have some shade in the Summer.

I ordered a 700 watt oil heater, and a small fan, but wondered about what kind of thermostat I should order? I hear on this post that some are not accurate enough.

Finally, each dug a ground cave this Summer. I was wondering if I should fill these in, or allow access to the cave, and shelter I built? Thanks for the advice!
You need the solid doors so you can lock them in at nights to ensure they wont exit and suicide and to prevent heat loss.

I like my inkbird itc-308 thermostat because it will send an alert on my phone if something is not working properly.

If they are in their cave while raining the cave could collapse and they drown. The box should satisfy their needs and they wont be digging again
 

Tom

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Thanks for this post! I just finished construction on a 4' x 8' box as Tom detailed, and ordered freezer door flap material. I will have enough to make inner & outer freezer door flaps, and wondered if I still need to make a solid insulated door? I hoped to allow un-restricted access for them but haven't come up with a good solution in case they went half way out, then changed their mind.

I built mine with the 2x4's on end (2 layers of 1.5" foam insulation sheets sandwiched between 11/23 plywood on all sides). I live in the Phoenix area with a couple of medium sized Sulcata tortoises and the box is near a Ficus tree so it will have some shade in the Summer.

I ordered a 700 watt oil heater, and a small fan, but wondered about what kind of thermostat I should order? I hear on this post that some are not accurate enough.

Finally, each dug a ground cave this Summer. I was wondering if I should fill these in, or allow access to the cave, and shelter I built? Thanks for the advice!
I think Tolis answered well, but I'll answer in my own words just to add another voice.

One set of flaps is enough, and yes, you need doors. You don't want them coming out for one reason or another on one of those rare 30 degree nights you get there. They will often come out in a cold rain too. The water attracts them out into the dark night, and they just don't realize its too cold. The door also keeps rats and other predators out at night when they are sleeping, while keeping your heat in.

Many thermostats work. I use several types. Make sure its rated for at least 1000 watts. Most of them are.

Burrows are great and arguably necessary for summer time. Its the only way for them to escape the terrible heat at the surface. But you need to close off the burrow in fall and make them sleep in their 80-85 degree heated night boxes all winter until the warm/hot spring temps return. Mine live in burrows from late June to late October usually, but I watch those 10 day forecasts and adjust as needed.
 
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