Best ways for reptile owners to reduce electricity bills
Everyone, whether a reptile owner or not, is feeling the energy price increases.
We have spent years working on improving how we manage the care requirements of our animals whilst running a cost efficient business and are going to share some of our trade secrets.
Don't switch off!
Currently we have over 50 reptiles in our care that have daily heating and lighting requirements, some needing humidifiers, others water filters. These are essential to the health of many snake, lizard and tortoise species so just switching them off is not an option as we are in no means going to risk the welfare of our animals.
So what are our top energy saving tips:
Tip #1 - Use thermostats
Thermostats, like home central heating, turn the heating equipment on or off to maintain the set temperature you program in. This allows enclosures to remain at a constant and comfortable temperature for your animal and may significantly reduce the time heating equipment is powered on for. You can also use these to set up a nighttime temperature drop, as any animal would have in the wild once the sun sets.
In winter you may choose to slightly reduce the temperature, to a safe point, to mimic the natural seasonal weather the animal may experience. This is not to suggest forcing your animal into a false hibernation.
We use the following thermostat in our enclosures (these are not affiliate links, we just want to be helpful and give you an idea of what we use):
Tip #2 - Insulate your enclosures
Insulation is the process of adding layers to an environment to prevent heat loss. The simplest way to do this is by standing an enclosure on some foam board or insulation board. Sheets of polystyrene packaging has proved a worthy and cost-effective way to achieve this in the past as we tend to avoid heat mats.
Wooden enclosures are better insulated than all-glass enclosures. When we build our larger wooden enclosures, we often create cavity walls so that we can add insulation material all the way around, except for where electrical equipment could pose a fire risk. We also have our large enclosures fitted with double-glazed window units to prevent heat loss through the glass.
This should always be done on the exterior of the enclosure to prevent exposure or contact with an animal.
You should never cover air vents
Be mindful of the fire risks when setting up materials near electrical, or heating materials.
Tip #3 - Use the most efficient type of heating
Consider the energy consumption of different products. Ultimately you need to choose the items best suited to your animal so there isn’t one particular recommendation. We have found that heat mats are often not powerful enough for large enclosures and only really heat up the substrate rather than the air temperature which most reptiles require.
We tend to use ceramic heat bulbs, such as the Exo Terra Ceramic Heat Emitter (the wattage will depend on the size of your enclosure). These offer a high degree of heat without the waste light output, so ideal for background heat and night drops. They do however dry the air out so not suitable for enclosures that require high humidity.
Exo Terr Ceramic Heat Emitter - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Exo-Terra-Ceramic-Heat-Emitter/dp/B0002DIAXY/ref=b2b_gw_d_simh_1/258-0048213-3313741?pd_rd_w=n9oNx&pf_rd_p=eedfa937-05d5-4b57-a6ef-84fe8caf4a1b&pf_rd_r=EJ14114WADPCNBH58N3Y&pd_rd_r=144e0c8d-b017-498f-894d-c182b71c826b&pd_rd_wg=AIPOS&pd_rd_i=B0002DIAXY&psc=1
For larger enclosures we use Electric Panel Heaters, such as these:
Tip #4 - Simulate natural lighting
Always use bulbs especially created for reptile use as these will provide the essential UVB rays for health. Unfortunately the lighting needs to be within a certain distance from the animal so you cannot just light the room that you keep multiple animals in. Light bulbs also need to be replaced before they actually stop working as the output starts to slow after use. You can buy a device that monitors these light levels.
Our tip here is to have all lighting on time controlled plugs, or time clocks. You will not have to worry about switching them on or off and they create a regular routine for your animal. In winter you can even reduce the daylight hours to a point to mimic the natural light cycles. If your enclosure has 2 lights you can stagger them to come on/off at different times to further mimic dawn and dusk.
Tip #5 - Consider the interior design
Placing natural stones under a heat source will allow them to absorb the heat and when the thermostat turns off they will provide residual heat in the enclosure and provide a warm spot if your animal gets too cold.
Using deeper substrate as well may allow your reptile to burrow to regulate their temperature as well as providing a selection of hides in different locations.
Tip #6 - Think of the ambient room temperatures
Rooms with lots of natural daylight may be warmed on a sunny day and thus reduce the need for as much artificial heat. It might be possible to relocate your enclosure to a warmer room. If not try to maximise the amount of natural light and reduce any cold drafts.
Hopefully in summer the warmth will reduce the need for heating as much, however, if you have recently installed insulation or moved the enclosure to a warmer sunny room it is vital to monitor the temperatures throughout the day to prevent overheating and to make sure there is enough ventilation.
Tip #7 - Invest in solar-panels
In an effort to offset our carbon emissions and reduce our energy bill we installed solar panels on our house. These reduced our electricity bill dramatically last summer and have proven beneficial over winter too. This can be a big expense to pay out initially but helps the planet and reduces the bills.
You can read more about this in our Going Green blog post https://www.snakesalive.co.uk/post/going-green
Tip #8 - Monitoring
We can not stress the importance of monitoring and recording the enclosure's temperatures at least twice a day, at its coldest and hottest points during the warmest and coolest parts of the day. This will allow you to pay attention to how an enclosure heats up and help you to make informed decisions about whether you need to reduce or increase the temperature. Monitoring your exotic animal’s behavior and observing their location can help guide you. If they are always within the hottest area their enclosure may be too cold, if they are always hiding at the furthest distance to a heat source they may be too hot.
Did we miss anything?
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