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  1. #1
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    Undertank Heat Mats - Air Gap? Styrofoam?

    I thought I understood UTH setup and was planning on following the diagram in the stickied post (1) where the probe goes between the enclosure bottom and the heat mat - but having looked at the instructions for the Ultratherm pad I'm confused...

    (2) They suggest placing the heat mat on the underside of the enclosure with a piece of styrofoam placed underneath that to keep the whole mat in contact with the bottom of the enclosure. I thought you're supposed to have an air gap beneath the enclosure+mat? I understand why the styrofoam is being recommended since there's no adhesive to keep the middle of the mat in contact with the bottom, but is it safe to have it totally insulated underneath?

    When I did some digging on the forum I also found a thread that suggested you can cut a probe slot in the styrofoam so it sits flush against the bottom of the heat mat, which I'm also a little confused about - does that mean the heat output underneath the mat is the same as above (vs sandwiching the probe between the mat and enclosure bottom)?

    (3) Which then got me thinking about rack setups...how does is work to have the heat mat placed directly on the shelf/flat surface that the bins are being stored on work (again, no air gap)? BTW I'm not setting up a rack, just genuinely curious about how each of these scenarios work and their safety.

    (4) Then after more searching, I found some recommendations to affix the heat mat to a surface (facing up) and leave an air gap between the mat and enclosure bottom. I mainly saw this on a UK site...doesn't really make sense to me.

    I did some quick sketches with numbers to correlate to each option I was talking about to see if I understand them correctly (the little "sticks" on the ones with airgap represent whatever is used to elevate the enclosure, like furniture feet or what have you). Thoughts on each?

  2. #2
    BPnet Senior Member dakski's Avatar
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    Re: Undertank Heat Mats - Air Gap? Styrofoam?

    You can put styrofoam between the heat mat and whatever you have your tank on. That will help the heat transfer to the tank a little better, and also protect the surface below. I would cut a few holes in the styrofoam to let it vent, but probably not necessary.

    A thermostat should keep the heat mat well below any temps that can hurt the surface your tank is on, but in case of thermostat failure, etc. it's better to be safe than sorry.

    Finally, the thermostat probe goes between the heat mat and the tank bottom.

    If this isn't clear, let me know, and I'll try to explain better.

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  4. #3
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    My UTH is installed underneath & attached to the glass. I put something* (not styro-foam) under the UTH to insulate & promote heat going upwards, & to help protect the wood cabinet the tank is sitting on. While styro-foam is fine to use, you can use other things under the tank also- I mostly use sheet-cork or ceramic tiles under my tanks instead of styro-foam. If the UTH ever comes un-stuck, you don't want it laying on the wood underneath a tank. In the event that happens & your thermostat also failed- consider that extended heating will dry out the wood & make it more flammable, which is why I really like ceramic tiles for safety. A flooring store will sell random leftover tiles from their installations very cheaply too. I think some of mine were even free.

    I do leave a small air gap for best function of the UTH- underneath/between the UTH & the cabinet that the tank is sitting on. To keep the tank from sitting on any wires (which can cause wear & breakage over time), I also use thick rubber 'peel-&-stick' weather-stripping on the bottom edges of the tank (on the plastic molding of the tank), & leave a little gap in that weather-stripping on either side for air to circulate a little under the tank, as suggested by the UTH instructions, & for the wires. The weather-stripping is just something I like because it also keeps the tank from sliding off the cabinet (& all hardware stores carry, it's not a big expense)- I've lived thru some big CA earthquakes with great success, no tanks or snakes harmed. Same general idea, just the way I set mine up.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  6. #4
    BPnet Veteran nikkubus's Avatar
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    I have tubs directly on heat with no air gap.

    With glass tanks with the little lip on the bottom it's a bit different, though the heat pad is affixed with adhesive to the bottom of the tank. I leave an air gap so the cords don't have the weight of the tank on them concentrated into this tiny point (the lip). Some tanks have the lip build differently so it already kind of has "legs" where the corners are longer, and if you have that, no need to do anything special to raise the tank up.
    7.22 BP 1.4 corn 1.1 SD retic 0.1 hognose

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    Re: Undertank Heat Mats - Air Gap? Styrofoam?

    Quote Originally Posted by dakski View Post
    You can put styrofoam between the heat mat and whatever you have your tank on. That will help the heat transfer to the tank a little better, and also protect the surface below. I would cut a few holes in the styrofoam to let it vent, but probably not necessary.

    A thermostat should keep the heat mat well below any temps that can hurt the surface your tank is on, but in case of thermostat failure, etc. it's better to be safe than sorry.

    Finally, the thermostat probe goes between the heat mat and the tank bottom.

    If this isn't clear, let me know, and I'll try to explain better.
    That's certainly the setup I was planning to go with! Here is the thread that mentions cutting a recess in the styrofoam and placing the probe *under* the heat mat that got me wondering about the other methods (I'm just curious how accurate that could be if it's not where the heat is rising?) https://ball-pythons.net/forums/show...Under-the-Tank

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    My UTH is installed underneath & attached to the glass. I put something* (not styro-foam) under the UTH to insulate & promote heat going upwards, & to help protect the wood cabinet the tank is sitting on. While styro-foam is fine to use, you can use other things under the tank also- I mostly use sheet-cork or ceramic tiles under my tanks instead of styro-foam. If the UTH ever comes un-stuck, you don't want it laying on the wood underneath a tank. In the event that happens & your thermostat also failed- consider that extended heating will dry out the wood & make it more flammable, which is why I really like ceramic tiles for safety. A flooring store will sell random leftover tiles from their installations very cheaply too. I think some of mine were even free.

    I do leave a small air gap for best function of the UTH- underneath/between the UTH & the cabinet that the tank is sitting on. To keep the tank from sitting on any wires (which can cause wear & breakage over time), I also use thick rubber 'peel-&-stick' weather-stripping on the bottom edges of the tank (on the plastic molding of the tank), & leave a little gap in that weather-stripping on either side for air to circulate a little under the tank, as suggested by the UTH instructions, & for the wires. The weather-stripping is just something I like because it also keeps the tank from sliding off the cabinet (& all hardware stores carry, it's not a big expense)- I've lived thru some big CA earthquakes with great success, no tanks or snakes harmed. Same general idea, just the way I set mine up.
    Oh tile is a good idea! And the weatherstripping is also something I think I'll look into to for security - CA native but now in WA...just moved on up the fault line haha.

    Quote Originally Posted by nikkubus View Post
    I have tubs directly on heat with no air gap.

    With glass tanks with the little lip on the bottom it's a bit different, though the heat pad is affixed with adhesive to the bottom of the tank. I leave an air gap so the cords don't have the weight of the tank on them concentrated into this tiny point (the lip). Some tanks have the lip build differently so it already kind of has "legs" where the corners are longer, and if you have that, no need to do anything special to raise the tank up.
    Is your heat attached to something particularly heat proof, or just a table top surface?


    What do people think about something like this silicone heat mat? The raised texture could help hold the UTH against the bottom while still leaving air channels if you trimmed off the outer lip, and it doubles as a protective surface for your table (and this is just the first one I grabbed, there are plenty other textures/size/etc): https://smile.amazon.com/ZLR-Silicon...353311&sr=8-43

  9. #6
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    Re: Undertank Heat Mats - Air Gap? Styrofoam?

    Quote Originally Posted by C.alex View Post
    ...

    What do people think about something like this silicone heat mat? The raised texture could help hold the UTH against the bottom while still leaving air channels if you trimmed off the outer lip, and it doubles as a protective surface for your table (and this is just the first one I grabbed, there are plenty other textures/size/etc): https://smile.amazon.com/ZLR-Silicon...353311&sr=8-43

    Looks interesting, but...how hot does it get to dry dishes? And how well does it work when regulated by thermostat? I'd honestly be worried about the potential for a t-stat failure that would quickly "cook" my snakes. I'm a Flexwatt user, which is pretty low wattage, even at "full blast". I'm all for "thinking outside the boxes" though, so I appreciate you asking about this product- I wasn't aware there was such a thing. And these are just my thoughts without more information, so?

    BTW, about using ceramic tiles under your tanks, they also help to hold the heat for a while in a power outage, the way rocks do in the sun. Just make sure to measure the gap under the tank, as plenty of tiles will fit whatever space you have, so the tank "edge" doesn't sit on the tiles.

    Yes, I'd say you're still in 'quake country there ...weather-stripping recommended, lol.

    It was funny how I came up with that: we had a 5 pt. shaker when I was setting up a new (empty) tank on a wood cabinet- & that heavy glass tank slid about 8"- not off the cabinet but asking for trouble. I decided to try that thick (hi-density foam) weather stripping on the bottom edges & liked how the weight of the tank pushed down on the modified edges to put the brakes on any sliding. So I did all my tanks, & within a few months, we had the Landers Quake- I lived rather close to the epicenter at that time, & none of my tanks moved an inch. I've used weather-stripping ever since. Even in areas that are not "known" for earthquakes, there are more occurring these days due to fracking. Something to think about, eh?
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 02-26-2021 at 12:07 PM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  10. #7
    Registered User Trinityblood's Avatar
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    Could make an air gap by gluing rubber furniture feet upside down (smooth side up) to the 4 corners of the tub.

    Like this: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Shepherd...9168/100162556

  11. #8
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    Re: Undertank Heat Mats - Air Gap? Styrofoam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Looks interesting, but...how hot does it get to dry dishes?
    It's not a heated mat. It's just heat-resistant so you can put dishes that have just been washed in hot water onto it to dry.

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  13. #9
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    Re: Undertank Heat Mats - Air Gap? Styrofoam?

    Quote Originally Posted by bcr229 View Post
    It's not a heated mat. It's just heat-resistant so you can put dishes that have just been washed in hot water onto it to dry.
    Oh duh, I wasn't awake yet... (also, it was referred to as a "heat mat") As Emily Litella would say, "Never mind..."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZLeaSWY37I
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 02-26-2021 at 01:57 PM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  14. #10
    BPnet Veteran nikkubus's Avatar
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    Re: Undertank Heat Mats - Air Gap? Styrofoam?

    Quote Originally Posted by C.alex View Post
    What do people think about something like this silicone heat mat? The raised texture could help hold the UTH against the bottom while still leaving air channels if you trimmed off the outer lip, and it doubles as a protective surface for your table (and this is just the first one I grabbed, there are plenty other textures/size/etc): https://smile.amazon.com/ZLR-Silicon...353311&sr=8-43
    Sounds good in theory if I'm understanding you correctly. As long as you aren't hurting the integrity of the tank messing with the lip, I don't see why it would be an issue.
    7.22 BP 1.4 corn 1.1 SD retic 0.1 hognose

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