Using sub-soil heating cable

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Madkins007

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I've mentioned in many posts that I like a sub-soil heating cable for my enclosure, and here is a quick bit on exactly how I did it.

1. Read the directions and make a plan before you do something you cannot easily recover from. "Measure twice, cut once".

2. Get the right length and design. I use the cable from Big Apple Herp (http://www.bigappleherp.com/Big-Apple-Flexible-Heat-Ropes) since it is completely waterproof. Take some time to make sure you get the right size for your cage- the salespeople can help. The more cable- the warmer the soil will be, and the more juice it draws.

3. Get a decent thermostatic controller. I am using a cheap Zoo-med. The purpose of the controller is to sense the temps in the soil and turn the cable on or off to control it so it does not get too hot. You can also regulate this by the soil thickness.

4. Choose your substrate. I'm using cypress for a Red-foot habitat. One benefit of the WATERPROOF design is that I can actually pour a layer of water into the habitat, and the water will conduct the heat more evenly AND I get a lot of humidity. More dense substrates are harder to heat this way, and the thicker the substrate, the less heat will rise all the way to the top.

5. Cut a piece of hardware cloth or stiff plastic mesh a bit smaller the size of your habitat floor. Take some time to file or treat the sharp pointy edges.

6. Lay your cable on the mesh to find your pattern. The closer together the coils, the warmer that area will be. You can make them closer together in the warm area, and further apart or missing in a cooler area if you want. If you are smart enough in your planning, you can even have them miss areas with potted plants, etc. Be sure to leave a long enough 'tail' with the plug to reach the outlet or extension cord you are using!

(Note: You may choose to go back and forth the short way or the long way. The long way covers more area with the cable, but there is more slack in the cables so they move some. The short way also allows better control over the spacing for hotter/cooler areas.)

7. Attach the cable to the mesh with something like nylon zip ties, wire ties, strong cord, etc. Do not secure them overly tightly!

(Note- the cord is pretty thin. To make things neat in my Tortarium, I drilled a small hole in one side and fed the cable through it. It made the rest of this step awkward since I had to work inside the Tortarium, but the results were worth it.)

8. Lay the mesh and wiring down, plug it in, and do a trial run for a while- any hot spots, smoking, sparking, etc.? If yes, call Balboa. If no, unplug it, let it cool, and add your substrate and water, turn it back on and let it set for an hour or so and recheck. If there are still no problems, put the torts, plants, etc. in and you are good to go!

Sorry, no photos- I am not digging it back up to photo-document the process. Otherwise, I hope this helps!
 

Turtulas-Len

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I do something similar, not quit as involved, I use a heating cable that is self regulating so a thermostat is not needed, It is rated about 2 watts per foot,It gets about 30 degrees hotter than the surrounding temp.Cut the length I need and place it where I want it and use rocks to hold it in place,The rock size depends on the thickness of the substrate I am using, The top of rock is visible and gets warm (never hot). Not used to heat the whole enclosure just to make a couple warm areas for bottom comfort if they want it. ---you do have to connect a plug to the cable I use a regular household extension cord with the female end cut off---Len
 

Candy

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Funny that you wrote a thread on this Mark since just yesterday I was telling my husband about this. I remember when you first did it. Too bad you didn't take pictures as you did it. I would have loved to have seen that done. I'm actually thinking of getting a pig blanket for Dale's enclosure and seeing how that would work. :)
 

Balboa

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Nice write up Mark! I was wondering if you'd ever get into more detail.

I'd like to point out to folks that the thermostat is crucial in a buried installation. The reason most cables are not "rated" for burial in the substrate, is that without a thermostat with a sensor in close proximity to the cable (buried beside it, but not touching it) there is a very good possibility the cable will overheat and burn itself up. The direct feedback of the sensing probe ensures that the cable will never get too hot. That being the case, the thermostat may actually need to be set to a higher temperature than the target temperature for the enclosure.
 

Turtulas-Len

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With Self Regulating Technology Heating Tape a Thermostat is Not Required.The only time a thermostat is recommended is when you want to cut power to it to save cost,It is sold to heat water pipes,rain gutters, etc to keep them from freezing in cold weather.When used at a constant surrounding temperature it will run at a constant temperature,If the surrounding temperature changes the heat output changes accordingly,either up or down.It comes with a metal mesh protective cover so it can be grounded.I have been using it for years and consider safe, reliable and simple to use. Len
 

Edna

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I'm thankful you started this thread to give us some more detail, Mark. I just ordered two heat cables for my enclosures, but probably not the brand you indicated. I ordered it from LLLReptile, and will now go check my order to see what I'm getting. I do like to keep the substrate wet, so I'd better make sure that's going to work!
 
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