Heating

Introduction

This document has been written to help people in making the right decisions for their hedgehogs heating and lighting need, it is not intended to be a complete guide but help in the decision making process and clear up a few common questions regarding heating and lighting

Our African Pygmy Hedgehogs have a specific light schedule and heating needs. They should be getting between 12-14 hours of light each day, and the cage should be kept at a constant 23-25° C. When they get too cold, our hedgehogs could attempt hibernation, also if they get too hot their bodies can overheat, this can be easily spotted by the site of you hedgehogs “Splat” out on the floor of the cage, for these reasons the cage should have an absolute minimum and maximum temperature of 18-28° C. Because of their original habitat, captive breeding, and other factors, our hedgehogs are not capable of successfully coming back out of hibernation, unless this is caught and treated quickly. After some time, instead of waking up when the temperature is increased, the hedgehog will die in its sleep. Make sure your hedgehog does not get cold!

A consistent light schedule is important too. This is as simple as keeping a light on during the day. This helps your hedgehogs set an “internal clock”; without it they can become disoriented and attempt hibernation, the simplest and most effective method is a time clock to turn a light on and off at specific times during the day to maintain you hedgehogs sleep pattern.

When setting up the heat requirements for your hedgehogs it is important to remember that all hedgehogs are different and some prefer a cooler temperature than other, when setting up your heating for the first time it is advised to set it to the middle setting, around 24° C, this way you can adjust up and down to suite your hedgehogs, in all fairness this process is a case of trial and error, as all hedgehogs are different.

The Basics

The African pygmy hedgehog is a hybrid of the four toed hedgehog and the Algerian hedgehog, and is the most popular species of domesticated hedgehog in the world. They are not native to this country and have not acclimatised to living here, they are therefore not accustomed to the changes in temperatures that we have, they do not build up a reserve of fat for the winter and are simply not equipped to deal with hibernation.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs that are faced with cold conditions instinctively attempt to go into hibernation and if not caught quickly, will die. Too cold or too hot living conditions or and insufficient light cycle (UK winter) can all cause hibernation attempts.

Preventing hibernation and maintaining your hedgehogs environmental temperature and light conditions is absolutely critical to its life! It isn’t hard to prevent hibernation but it does take some setting up, but once set up correctly all it needs is a regular check on temperature on a daily basis, twice a day if possible.

Heating

Hedgehogs need a consistent 23-25° C (73-78°F) at all times for their health and comfort, with an absolute minimum and maximum of 18-28° C.

There are many methods that people use to keep their hedgehogs snug and warm, not all are suited to everyone or every cage type, below are the most popular 6 heating methods and the pros, cons and suitable cage types for each of them.

The best heaters to use are Ceramic Heat Emitters or Space Heaters, although these are not suited to everyone


 

Heating the Whole House

This basically this means that you turn your home/flat/room thermostat up to keep everything warm

Cxl18 large     small_0011724

Pros:-

Heats the air in the room very well

Cons:-

Can be very expensive and many people are not comfortable in such warm temperatures. It can also be hard to keep the temperature consistent from day to night, when things naturally get cooler, imagine working and sleeping in 23-25°C (73-78°F) temperatures. The ideal temperature for a human is 21°C (70°F), dependant on the layout of the room and the location of the heater will determine how well the heat is distributed within the room, cold spots due to poor air circulation can occur.

Suitable Cage Types:-

Suitable for all cage types

This is better suited to a large amount of cages as you can add cages without adding or changing the current heating arrangement

Space Heater

These are highly recommended for multiple cages because they heat the air well and work with all cage types. They heat the air with heat coils and fans, ceramic heaters, or are oil filled; they are placed in the room and need to be on day and night.

oil-space-heater     57c3d9d3-0ce3-4dc1-ad8d-6ce3e5988f9d

Pros:-

Heats the air in the whole room, they need to be thermostatically controlled to shut of the heat once it has reached the set temperature. Long life span and cheap to buy, cheaper than heating the whole house, ideal for multiple cages as one heater heats all cages, so you can add a cage without worrying about heating

Cons:-

They can be a fire hazard if not checked regularly, uses more energy than some other options because they are heating more than just the cage, dependant on the layout of the room and the location of the heater will determine how well the heat is distributed within the room, cold spots due to poor air circulation can occur.

Suitable Cage Types:-

Suitable for all cage types

This is better suited to a large amount of cages as you can add cages without adding or changing the current heating arrangement


 

Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE)

These are also highly recommended because they are simple to use, heat well, and are inexpensive to operate. The CHE screws into a lamp holder just like a light bulb, but do not produce any light; they get very hot to the touch and need to be kept out of reach of you hedgehog, needs to be controlled by a suitable thermostat, either pulse of dimming is recommended

DSC00527     DSC00524

Pros:-

Heats the air well, easy and inexpensive to use once set up, reliable, heats just the cage and can be individually controlled to suite the individual hedgehog needs, they last a long time, approximately 10,000 hours usage, easily replaceable

Cons:-

Initial setup cost is expensive, requires more parts than other options (ceramic lamp holder, thermostat, CHE), can be very costly to run if you have multiple cages

 

Example Costing’s and Calculations

I have a 150 watt CHE in my vivarium that is controlled by a Pulse Potential Thermostat it switches the power to the CHE for approximately 1 second in every 4 seconds (6 hours in every 24 hours). I am paying about £0.15 per Kwh for my electricity.

150watts X 6 hours = 900watts divided by 1000 = 0.9 kWh every day – Multiply by 30 days/month

0.9 kWh X 30 days = 27 kWh a month – Multiply the Kwh by the electricity cost per Kwh

27 kWh X £0.15 = £4.05 a month – Multiply this by 12 to give a yearly total

£4.05 X 12 months = £48.60 a year – Multiply this by 4 vivarium’s and you have a big bill

 

Suitable Cage Types:-

Suitable for most cage types, has to be used a thermostat, either Pulse Potential or Dimming

CHE’s are not recommended in plastic cages such as Zoozone2 style of cage due to the heat that they produce and the possibility of melting the plastic cage and possible fire risks involved

Always use a thermostat if you’re using a CHE

Take a look at our How to Guide on installing a CHE

The Ceramic Heat Emitter CHE

They are available in 4 different wattages 60w, 100w, 150w and 250w. They are very effective heaters for medium to larger cages with higher temperature requirements.

Precautions. Ceramic heaters operate at very high surface temperatures so caution should be exercised. Guard the heater from direct contact by both you and your animals. Use a heater of the correct wattage for the size of cage and the temperature required. A pulse proportional thermostat is the recommended controller for this heater.

Standard height     80 watt MINI

The Lamp Holder

Ceramic lamp holders are the approved holder for use with ceramic bulbs. These holders are designed to cope with the high temperatures these heaters attain.  They can also be purchased in kit form, which come complete with a silicon cable and plug.

Please Note, not all ceramic lamp holders are suitable for fixing into a vivarium the pre-wired one shown below will cause problems with fixings as it does not come with a fixing method and are designed to hang from the cable which makes them unstable and hang too low in the cage, they are designed for taller reptile cages and NOT vivarium’s, the one on the left has holes in the base to mount directly to a vivarium ceiling

E27 Bulb Holder_small      eurorep_ceramic_bulb_holder

The Ceramic Heat Guard

Made for use with ceramic bulbs this guard will shield the 60w, 100w, 150w and 250w type heaters. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the pendant type ceramic holder. Manufactured from 1mm thick perforated steel, they are easily fitted, not only providing a safe environment but enhancing the appearance of your vivarium, they are not suited to hedgehog vivarium’s as the CHE should be mounted in such a position that they cannot come into contact with the lamp

IMG_0487      WireGuardWithScreen


Electric Heat Mats

A heat mat is generally used to provide heat to a cages sleeping area, unless a suitably sized heat mat is used, one that covers most of the base of the cage, it will not provide sufficient heat to keep the hedgehogs at the required temperature, it will heat the floor but not the whole cage. These are best used under sleeping areas for additional heat. As long as they don’t get too hot, they can be placed under the cage (preferably wrapped in a towel/blanket) unless they are fleece covered. Most require a separate thermostat but some do contain internal pre-set thermostats, care should be taken when choosing your heat mat

41iJ6QvazRL._SX450_     algarde-vivarium-heat-mat

Pros:-

Great for older or needier hedgehogs for extra warmth, some are 12volt and can be used in a car for transportation home or to the vets

Cons:-

May get too hot (which would require a mat thermostat to keep at a constant lower temperature), some have internal thermostats that keep them to a safe temperature, a bit like a heated blanket, but others can be a fire hazard, they do not heat the whole cage properly

If a mat goes faulty or you do not use a mat thermostat you are taking the risk

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Figure 1 – Picture care of Joanne Sharman

The above picture shows a melted mat and vivarium base, it was caused by a faulty batch of heat mats, fortunately the supplier was aware that there may be a problem but unfortunately failed to contact the end user. This goes to show what could happen when they go faulty, or if not fitted with a mat stat. The fumes from melting plastic are more dangerous than the heat or the smoke (luckily no hogs were injured)

Heat mats with internal thermostats generally maintain a safe working temperature of 20° C (25° F)

 

Example Costing’s and Calculations

I have a 15 watt Petnap vinyl heat mat in my vivarium that is controlled by its own internal thermostat (it is constantly switching itself on and off, but is on for approximately 20 hours in every 24 hours). I am paying about £0.15 per Kwh for my electricity.

15watts X 20 hours = 300watts divided by 1000 = 0.3 kWh every day – Multiply by 30 days/month

0.3 kWh X 30 days = 9 kWh a month – Multiply the Kwh by the electricity cost per Kwh

9 kWh X £0.15 = £1.35 a month – Multiply this by 12 to give a yearly total

£1.35 X 12 months = £16.20 a year – Multiply this by 4 vivarium’s and you will pay £64.80

Suitable Cage Types:-

Ones with bottoms that will not be affected by the heat underneath, if it contains an internal thermostat then it is suitable to be used in a plastic cage as well as a wooden cage

Positioning the Thermostat Probe

When controlling heat mats and strips, the probe should be safely hot glued or fixed to the surface of the mat. You will then be controlling the surface temperature of the mat. A little investigation may be necessary to establish the temperature in the snake boxes that are sitting on the mat or strip.

Once set this should remain a constant.

We find that the Pulse proportional thermostat is a very effective controller as the mat remains warm for most of the time, providing the hedgehog with a warm area.

Suitable Heat Mats

Not all heat mats are suitable for indoor vivarium’s or cages

flexissmall

Figure 2 – Petnap Metal Flexguard 33 heat mat

The Metal Flexiguard 33 heat pad does NOT have an internal thermostat. This is because the primary application for these units is for outdoor kennels, catteries and rescue centres where the units are used in undercover spaces in all weathers.

The temperature the units reach depends largely on the ambient temperature they are used in and the amount of insulation placed on top of them. The higher the ambient and the thicker the insulation the hotter the plates will get, if not controlled they will get too hot for your hedgehog.


 

Tubular Heaters

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Tubular heaters or commonly called green house heaters are a great heat source for the even distribution of heat in larger, lengthier enclosures, allowing you to save money and give your reptile the perfect heat, all year round.

There are specific heaters made from reptile-safe materials, these tubular reptile heaters need to be run with a Pulsing thermostat, as they need to be closely monitored to ensure the right temperature.

To allow your hedgehogs metabolic function to perform at its best, your hedgehogs’s enclosure needs to be heated to the temperature that is best for your specific hedgehog, and doing this in larger vivarium’s (e.g. over 3-4 feet in length) can be difficult and expensive when using conventional heating.

Tubular heaters act like a large, rigid heat cable in your vivarium, allowing a radiating heat to be passed all the way along the back of the enclosure or at the sides, making them especially useful when it comes to winter – guaranteed to be a season that your hedgehog is not biologically adapted for.

Pros:-

Simple to install, hot to the touch but not hot enough to cause burns with accidental contact, give good all round heat, cheap to buy

Cons:-

They are relatively long and bulky

Suitable Cage Types:-

Suitable for all cage types

 


 

Microwavable Heat Mats

A heating pad is recommended only to provide additional heat to the cage; it does not heat all of it. These are best used under sleeping areas for additional heat. As long as they don’t get too hot, they can be placed on the cage floor wrapped in a towel/blanket, most come with a fleece cover

hedgehog-heater-     SONY DSC

If you are good with making things than you can always make your own microwavable heat mat of any size that suits your needs

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Pros:-

Great for older or needier hedgehogs for extra warmth, can be used in a car for transportation home or to the vets or even taken on a bus, great for emergencies and carrying around

Cons:-

They don’t heat the whole cage properly, the documentation states that they will retain their heat for 10 hours but realistically you well get between 6 to 8 hours of suitable heat from them and this depends on other factors. You will need to regularly reheat them to keep you cage warm

Suitable Cage Types:-

Suitable for most cage types but has to be ones with bottoms that will not be affected by the heat underneath

Take a look at our How to Guide on making your own Microwavable heat pad


Hot Water Bottles

Hot water bottles are only suitable for emergency or short term use, they should be filled with warm water but not boiling and not over filled just so it’s lays flat, all of the bottle should be covered by a fleece or towel to prevent burns and distribute the heat better.

Hot Water Bottles

Pros:-

Ideal for emergency use and providing additional heating on a short term basis only, they can be filled from a kettle or saucepan from a gas hob, so they do not require electricity. They are not a specialist item and can be purchased from a number of shops; they are also regularly kept in most homes, they pose no fire risk.

Cons:-

They have to be regularly emptied and refilled. If left in for a long period, they draw out heat from the environment; only provide about 3 hours of heat but remain tepid for up to 8 hour, they can get very hot.

Suitable Cage Types:-

Suitable for all cage types, also suitable for travelling and carry cases


 

Thermostats

Indication

The power indicator will shine whenever power is applied to the unit and the heat indicator will shine whenever power is being supplied to the heater, the heat indicator will therefore not be illuminated all the time, it will continually pulse on and off, the longer it is on the more heat will be produced, the longer it is off the less heat will be produced, if the heat indication is permanently on or off, then this indicates that there is a problem with the heating or that the cage has been left open for a long period and the heat has escaped or that the CHE has failed, some also have a third indication for Alarm

  • Power – This should be illuminated all the time
  • Heat – This will pulse dependant on the heat requirement
  • Alarm – This this will only indicate if there is a fault with the CHE or the unit (not always fitted)

 

1463     microclimate-b1dimmer-stat710

Proportional (Pulse and Dimming)

The other way is called proportional. This is a more effective way of controlling heaters as they are rarely full on and rarely completely off. Just enough power is supplied to the heater to maintain the set temperature.

The two examples of proportional thermostats are the Pulse Proportional and the Dimming Thermostat, both are suitable for CHE’s.

download     dimmerstat

The on/off Thermostat or Mat Stat

The Mat Stat is an on/ off switching device, that can be used with a variety of heaters. Ideal for controlling heat mats, and other low powered heaters up a maximum load of 100 watts, this thermostat is not suitable for controlling light bulbs.

3415largematstat

The Pulse Proportional Thermostat

The sophisticated pulse proportional thermostat is ideal for controlling higher power ceramic heaters and for heat mats, where constant warmth and not an on/off cycle is required. The function of this thermostat is far more sophisticated than the simpler on/off switching devices. It will very accurately control heaters and has a maximum load of 600 watts (dependant on manufacturer). A normal thermostat switches a heater on full power until the set temperature is achieved. It then switches the heater off completely until the temperature drops below the set value, when the cycle starts over again. The gap between the heater being switched on and then off is called hysteresis. It is between these points that the accuracy of the controller is assessed. The pulse proportional thermostat pulses electricity to the heater all the time, resulting in constant and very accurately managed warmth.

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The Dimming Thermostat

The sophisticated Dimming thermostat is designed specifically for controlling light bulbs. The Dimming thermostat is one of the most accurate methods of temperature control and whilst it is perfect for controlling light bulbs, it can be used on almost any heaters. Unlike other thermostats, it does require a minimum load of 40 watts. This is the only thermostat we recommend for use with incandescent light bulbs. It uses the latest technology and operates in a manner similar to the Pulse proportional thermostat. Instead of pulses of power being supplied to the heater, it is supplied with a continuous variable supply of power or voltage. In principle this has a similar effect to light dimmers or rheostats in your home.

microclimate-b1dimmer-stat710     dimmerstat

The Thermostat Probe

That depends on the layout of you cage. Most cages require warm and cool areas; this gives your hedgehog the option to move around to find the temperature it prefers at that particular time. The probe needs to be placed in relation to the heater and not directly underneath it. It would also be pointless to put the probe at the top of a cage housing ground dwelling hedgehog. This would not control the floor temperature where the hedgehog will be spending its time. It needs to be positioned at the height the hedgehog will be sleeping, eating and playing.

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thermo1      Thermostat_Diagram

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Category: African Pygmy Hedgehogs

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