We all know that the heat parameters in your reptile's habitat are important to the health, happiness and general well-being of your reptile, and keeping them consistent day-to-day is the best way to create a calming and suitable environment for them to live in. Doing this by hand is easier said than done due to our busy lives, and that's when Reptile Thermostats come in handy.

What Thermostats do

Your thermostat monitors the heat in your vivarium or terrarium and maintains it at your chosen temperature by adjusting the temperature of your heating equipment accordingly. They do this by accurately assessing the temperature using their precise sensors, then sending electrical signals to your heating equipment to either turn it on or off, pulse at intervals or become a few degrees hotter or colder, depending on the type of thermostat you have chosen.

How to Set Up Your Reptile Thermostat

Primarily this comes down to the 3 different versions of reptile thermostat, detailed below, however the setup is relatively similar for these 3 types:

Set them up by plugging them directly into the mains and then plugging your heating equipment directly into the thermostat. The sensor is usually attached to the thermostat box on a long wire, which should be placed near the bottom of your vivarium, just underneath your overhead heat source about the same height as your reptiles will be when they are underneath it, ensuring that the temperature the probe is sensing is the temperature your reptile will be experiencing. For Heat Mats, position the sensory directly on top of the mat.

The thermostat itself is positioned outside of your vivarium so you have easy access to it. Research the required temperature for the "hot" side of your reptile habitat and set the thermostat to maintain this temperature.

It is best to watch the first few cycles occur to ensure there are no problems. Set up your heating equipment and leave it on at your desired temperature for around 24-48 hours before you let your reptiles in. It is also good practice to keep a reptile thermometer in the reptile house too as a precautionary measure to ensure your new kit is working correctly.

When you first set it up, you should find your heating equipment turns on instantly and the temperature begins to rise. Once the desired temperature has been attained, it should switch off if it is an On/Off Thermostat, dim if it is a dimming unit, or its pulse may vary if it is a pulse-proportional thermostat.

On/Of Thermostats

As simple as they sound, On/Off Thermostats wait until the temperature if your reptile habitat has reached your desired temperature and then turn your heating equipment off. When the temperature begins to drop again by a couple of degrees, the On/Off Thermostat senses this and signals your heating equipment, turning it on again for another blast.

On/Off Thermostats can often be used for heat mats too, and some models can take wattages of up to 600w, however you should check the compatibility of each thermostat with your current set up before you buy it, ensuring it will work with your equipment. On/Off units are often the cheapest and most cost effective thermostats, but cons include a potentially noticeable temperature fluctuation within your reptiles environment, caused by the All-or-nothing nature of the thermostat, as well as meaning that your bulbs tend to get worn out quicker than with other thermostats.

Dimming Thermostats

These smarter thermostats tend to be slightly more expensive, but their operation is smoother and more controlled making these the most popular type of unit. Sensing the changes in temperature just like an On/Off unit, a dimming thermostat operates just like a dimmer-switch might on the wall of a home, giving you a sliding scale of heat levels rather than just fully-on or fully-off.

Sensing that the temperature is low inside the reptile habitat, it incrementally provides slightly more power to the heat source, slowly raising the temperature. Once the optimum temperature (set by you) is achieved, less power is given to the heat source, allowing the vivarium to maintain a more consistent temperature.

While the On/Off thermostat has a few cons to mention, the Dimming Thermostat's only problem is that it costs just slightly more than a standard On/Off.

Pulse Thermostats

Pulse Thermostats are a little less versatile that Dimming units, but work in much the same way - when things get cold they pulse with greater intensity to bring the ambient temperature up, and reverse this process if it gets too warm. The pulsing nature makes this unit a halfway house between a Dimming and On/Off Thermostat, but it means it can only be used with ceramic bulbs, heat mats and heat cables - NOT glass bulbs as glass heat sources can't take the constant fluctuation and will break easily.

They are not as popular as Dimming version, however they are good for specialist use like simulating day/night heat cycles without producing any light, encouraging reptiles to breed.

Day/Night Cycles

Some models of both Dimming and Pulse Thermostats have Day/Night functions, allowing you to set a night-time temperature lower than your day time one to more accurately simulate your reptiles natural sleep cycle. Digital Thermostats (as opposed to analogue units) are often best for this as you can set what time you want to night-period to begin, rather than relying on an analogue sensor that relies on light levels to decide when to switch, which can sometimes be fooled by man-made light.