Retrofit night box for winter

Ellie Mae

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My Sulcata has been sleeping in a dogloo in a stall for the summer but I will be encouraging him back into his heated night box when winter approaches. It's an old dog house, about 4 x 4 x 2, with a mini oil heater inside. It has a wood floor that I would stuff with straw and hay but my idea this year is to cut the floor out and leave it on dirt and sand, with hay over it, because he seems more comfortable being able to burrow/snuggle which is part of the reason why I think he chose the dogloo in the stall. Would appreciate any thoughts on this.
 

wellington

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I would worry about the hay/straw catching fire. It's too dry to be near a heat source. Unless you can keep it away from the heater and that your sully can't move it any place near the heater, I wouldn't use it.
 

Ellie Mae

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I worried about that last year but the mini oil heater did not get warm enough to catch the straw on fire, and I am able to keep it separate from the bedding, for the most part...
 

Tom

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I would not keep them on the ground for two reasons. 1. Its too cold. The cold ground will suck the heat out of them even if the air in the box stays warm-ish. 2. Many of them decide to burrow into the ground inside their box. If he does this, he'll be able to go down into the ground and get even farther from that little heat source and it will be too cold.

I would not use hay inside the box if it will be on sand due to incidental ingestion, and the hay doesn't serve much purpose anyway. People use hay to keep mammals warm because they burrow into it and it acts like a blanket helping hold onto the body heat they generate. This doesn't work with a reptile that doesn't generate its own heat. I use dirt on the bottom of my boxes for easy clean up.
 

Ellie Mae

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OK, thanks, I get it, will leave the wood floor in and put dirt in instead of hay. Another question, in the winter do you actually leave whatever heat source on in the night box (he can come and go during the day, locked up at night) so that he would have constant access to 80 degrees? Last winter I heated it at night and during colder days, but not when the day time temps were around 50/60. Even so my electric bill went up noticeably...
I'm in So Cal too. Thanks for any info!
 

Speedy-1

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OK, thanks, I get it, will leave the wood floor in and put dirt in instead of hay. Another question, in the winter do you actually leave whatever heat source on in the night box (he can come and go during the day, locked up at night) so that he would have constant access to 80 degrees? Last winter I heated it at night and during colder days, but not when the day time temps were around 50/60. Even so my electric bill went up noticeably...
I'm in So Cal too. Thanks for any info!
Hi Ellie , I put mine on a timer . It turns off at 9 am and turns back on at 9 pm .
 

Big Charlie

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OK, thanks, I get it, will leave the wood floor in and put dirt in instead of hay. Another question, in the winter do you actually leave whatever heat source on in the night box (he can come and go during the day, locked up at night) so that he would have constant access to 80 degrees? Last winter I heated it at night and during colder days, but not when the day time temps were around 50/60. Even so my electric bill went up noticeably...
I'm in So Cal too. Thanks for any info!
I keep the heater on all day and night during the winter. It's on a thermostat so if it warms up outside, the heater will go off. I'm in central Cal valley.
 

Jodie

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I also use a thermostat to turn the heater on and off as needed to maintain the temp day and night.
 

Tom

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OK, essentially what I'm hoping to do.

When its 50/60 outside, your tortoise needs a warm box to go to. This is a tropical species. They never experience 50/60 in the wild. When days are warm and sunny, say 75 plus, I set my thermostats to 80. When days and nights are cold I bump the thermostats up to 86ish so my tortoises will have a place to warm up. In the summer when days are 100+, I simply unplug the boxes and let them cool at night.

Your box needs to run on a thermostat. If the temperature is warm enough, the thermostat will turn the heater off for you. It the day is cool, you don't want the heat shut off all day. Here are two good thermostats:
http://www.lllreptile.com/products/13883-zilla-1000-watt-temperature-controller
https://www.hydrofarm.com/p/MTPRTC

If your electric bill is going up noticeably, then its a sign that your box is not sealed and well insulated enough. This means you are using a lot of electric heat which is not good due to its desiccating effects. My 4x8' boxes burn .18 cents a day during cold winter days and below freeing nights. That's $5.40 per month, at ridiculously high CA electricity rates. If you are using a lot more than that, you need to reevaluate your box.
 

Speedy-1

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Here in Arizona , the land of 90 + days and 60 degree nights , I also use a thermostat to control my night time heat (set at 85) . I don't need it during the day , so I have it shut off by a timer during the day . I am sure any $$ I save is minimal , but I have the timers so why not use them ?
 

Tom

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Here in Arizona , the land of 90 + days and 60 degree nights , I also use a thermostat to control my night time heat (set at 85) . I don't need it during the day , so I have it shut off by a timer during the day . I am sure any $$ I save is minimal , but I have the timers so why not use them ?

So you are using a thermostat in-line with a timer? Smart. Good strategy for your climate. I've done that for some indoor set ups when I wanted daytime ambient to be higher, but not drop below a certain temp at night.
 

Speedy-1

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So you are using a thermostat in-line with a timer? Smart. Good strategy for your climate. I've done that for some indoor set ups when I wanted daytime ambient to be higher, but not drop below a certain temp at night.
Exactly my thought , I have been monitoring daytime temps inside the box and it gets just over 90 when we hit triple digits ! Our early morning temps are getting down to low to mid 60s and the colder corner of the box is between 70 to 75. Speedy spent one night in a cool corner , but soon figured out his mat was the place to be ! Now he goes right in and gets on that mat !
 

Ellie Mae

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Sorry, wasn't getting notices, thanks for all the good info! Funny enough, the last 2 nights he chose his box (unheated, still need to retrofit it, will be re-insulating it tomorrow) Thermostat sounds like the way to go. One more question (at least ;)) I have the oil heater, but was also given two heating pads. One is probably a heating panel taped between two large tiles, the other is a dog pad heater, so it's rubber and kind of squishy. Am not sure that would be safe as it is, could get punctured?? Have the heated tile panel in there tonight for him, would you use that in addition to an oil heater or instead of ?? The box is only 4' x 2', and he is 50 lbs.
 

Robertchrisroph

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That is a lot of different kinds of heat. In such a little box. Would you happen to have a temp gun? I only use one oil heater in my night boxes and they are 4x8s. They stay plenty warm with that alone. I will sometimes temp my tort to see how hot he is. allways in high 70s.
 

Ellie Mae

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I think I wouldn't use them both, just wondering which tortoise would prefer. May have answered that because he only had one foot on the tile this AM....
 

Speedy-1

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I would be nervous about heat mats that weren't on a thermostat . I have the Kane heat mats , and they tell you not to use them without a thermostat because they are set to run I think it is 40 degrees warmer than outside temps. I like it because Speedy decides how warm he wants to be by how close he sleeps to the mat ! I used a temp gun to set mine up , looks like this ;

Mat
 

Ellie Mae

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Think I will just stick with the oil heater on a thermostat (which I got today, the Zilla, as recommended by Tom, thanks!!). Have some nice insulation from an old spa cover, I think he will be a toasty tortoise!
 

Kadels

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Your box needs to run on a thermostat. If the temperature is warm enough, the thermostat will turn the heater off for you. It the day is cool, you don't want the heat shut off all day. Here are two good thermostats:
http://www.lllreptile.com/products/13883-zilla-1000-watt-temperature-controller
https://www.hydrofarm.com/p/MTPRTC

Do you get the Kane mat with the built-in thermostat, and just use the Zilla for the RHP? Otherwise, how do you gauge temp on the heat mat?
 

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