How to Use Heat Cables Effectively & Safely

by Gary Rolfe on in Products

Heat cables have had many uses over the years and to give a brief insight into the versatility of this product we can give you some more prominent examples. The plumbing industry has used this technology for trace heating on pipework, to prevent freezing, by using just one cable. Multiple or spiralled cables around pipes are used to warm the contents to allow them to be pumped from place to place. This works well for oils, fats, margarine and even products like honey flow smoothly if warmed.

Other commercial uses are for underfloor heating. You may have even encountered them yourself if you have stayed in a hotel with a nice warm bathroom floor. They have also been used extensively, both inside and out, in the horticultural farming sector warming the soil and heating hydroponic beds to accelerate plant growth. This is the part that makes it interesting in our hobby.

Although not as widely used as perhaps they should be, heat cables still have a massive amount of applications for both the aquatic and reptile hobbies. This is true, more than ever, as both hobbies are moving to more naturalist setups as well as keeping to the more conventional applications most people associate heat cables with. The Reptile Systems range comes in three popular sizes: 15w Heat Cable which has a total length of 3.3m, 50w Heat Cable which is 6.0m long and a 100w Heat Cable measuring 10.0m.

Our heat cables are completely waterproof and can be left constantly submerged. One of the uses for these, traditionally in the aquatic hobby, has been for planted aquariums where the cable is placed underneath the substrate. This serves two functions; it warms the roots of plants, promoting healthy plant growth, but it also heats the aquarium as well. It will provide a nice even heat along the full length of the cable, very efficiently.

Heat cables work very well in situations where you would normally use a traditional aquarium heater, so something like a paludarium, which have become very popular in recent years. It can be placed completely out of sight, leaving the beauty of the set up to be enjoyed unobstructed by traditional equipment. Simply by using the clips provided, install the cable directly to the glass bottom in the base of your water section. This is also the ideal time to place your thermostat probe before covering it with your choice of substate. Reptile Systems include clips free of charge in the box along with an instruction booklet.

Before moving on to more reptile related-use, they also have a heat cable on permanent use at their UK testing facility. It is warming the soil in their plant growth planter where they test various lights over different types of plants. They have grown, from seed to full flower, numerous plants including Marigolds and Aloes, the results of which can be seen on their social media channels.

Now we are onto the subject that the majority of people associate with heat cables; reptile rack or shelving systems with a cable at one edge to heat multiple small containers. This is an incredibly efficient and cost-effective way to raise baby reptiles before moving them into larger enclosures, as they grow. Reptile Systems heat cables are the best choice for this application, at only 5mm in diameter and the end node only being 6.5mm it makes for effortless installation. It is also incredibly flexible, therefore ideal if you are replacing a lower quality item in a commercial rack system.

Hot rocks or basking shelves, for larger animals, can be easily made if you possess some basic DIY or craft-based skill sets. They can be fixed to larger plastic or metal grills in a grid type fashion, which make ideal basking or maternal brooding sites for larger reptiles. As with the aquatic and semi-aquatic uses, with a little insight, these can be made virtually invisible from an aesthetic viewpoint. We will be adding builds covering all these applications onto our various social media platforms.

Frequently asked questions are:

Are Heat Cables Safe?

Yes, if used correctly. The Reptile Systems European made heat cable is double insulated giving extra layers of protection to the point where it can be left permanently submerged in water, having an IPX8 rating along with current CE safety certification. It also has a 2-year warranty to give you full peace of mind. All heating products, unless otherwise stated, should be used with a suitable thermostat.

What Type of Thermostat Should I Use?

Reptile Systems’ heat cables are suitable to use with on/off, dimming and pulse proportional thermostats. We recommend using a reliable model such as the Reptile Systems on/off thermostat.

Is All the Cable Heated?

No, the first 1 metre of every Reptile Systems cable is unheated, this will be denoted by a red mark. This allows for it to be connected to a suitable thermostat or control module. Therefore, we recommend that you only bury or submerge your heat cable to a maximum depth of 0.8 meters.


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About Gary Rolfe

Gary has worked with fish and reptiles for over 20 years and currently works as the head of ecommerce for Northampton Reptile Centre.