Reptile Heat Mats (Carpets, Warm Up Time, Tips)

I’ve always wanted to buy a heat mat for my Leopard Gecko. I’ve often wondered though, if it’s safe for me to put a heat mat under my gecko’s carpet. I had no choice but to research how safe such a move would be, not just for my gecko but for any other reptile pet.

So, can you really put a heat mat under reptile carpet? You can put a heat mat under reptile carpet that isn’t classed as flammable, as the heat mat only heats up to a temperature which isn’t hot enough to damage the carpet. Depending on the thickness of the carpet, the heat from the heat may not pass through the carpet to keep the reptile warm and it may be better to keep the heat mat on top of the carpet with protection from a heat mat cover.

Heat mats are designed to heat things up. In other words, if the heat mat comes into contact with anything, like a reptile carpet, it will heat it up. This may not end up well if the reptile carpet the heat mat comes in contact with is flammable. That explains why it is not recommended to have substrates over heat mats.

Many pet lovers who choose to keep reptiles as pets don’t know much about what it takes to choose good heat mats for their reptile pets. This is somewhat strange because there aren’t so many factors you need to consider when buying a heat mat for a reptile pet.

Putting a heat mat under a substrate is not recommended for what can easily be termed as a very simple reason. The heat mat will stop airflow across the heat mat. This can easily lead to thermal build-up, a situation which isn’t good for many reptiles.

Ideally, the heat mat should be placed under the vivarium with the vivarium raised up by at least 5 mm above the heat mat. Alternatively, you can place the mat on the back wall of your pet’s vivarium.

If for one reason or another you have no option but to put the heat mat under a substrate, then keep it to an absolute minimum of the substrate which is mostly less than 5mm. You may also want to use a thermostat, with the thermostat’s probe in direct contact with the heat mat. This will give you an easy time to control the heat mat’s temperature.

When it comes to fire risks, by using the reptile heat mat well along with sensible precautions and it certainly won’t pose any risks. In simple words, properly designed and manufactured heat mats can never pose any risk of fire. Be sure to also read the directions of use and the instruction manual that came along with your reptile heat mat.

Heat Mat And Reptile Room Fire Safety Tips

As already mentioned, putting a heat mat under the reptile carpet isn’t recommended. That move alone can easily cause fire. As such, your best bet is to observe basic yet vital heat mat and reptile room fire safety measures. Such measures include:

Use Smoke Detectors

Time should be on your side when it comes to averting a fire mishap. You have no choice but to act fast. A timely warning from a high quality smoke detector fitted inside your reptile room can make a huge difference.

Don’t relax quite yet if you already have one. Inspect it to be certain the batteries aren’t dead or that it hasn’t become weak and insensitive. Remember reptiles are mostly calm animals. They thrive in calm, quiet and peace environment.

With that in mind, make sure your smoke detector doesn’t go off unnecessarily like when you’re showing with your bathroom door open or when you’re grilling steaks. Go for a high quality smoke detector that’ll will beep anytime the substrate of the heat mat is up in flames.

Get A Fire Extinguisher

Time as already mentioned, can make a huge difference when it comes to averting a fire disaster in your reptile room. The best you can do in that regard, apart from installing a smoke detector as aforesaid, is to have a high quality fire extinguisher fitted inside your reptile’s room. Have it installed near the door where you can easily access it.

Be sure to keep a backup extinguisher outside the reptile room and have it certified and approved by your local fire department. This may sound like going overboard but it isn’t. That’s mostly because fire extinguishers are affordable with high quality ones selling for as low as $65.

Avoid Overloading Outlets

You probably don’t know this, but overloaded circuits stand out as one of the main causes of reptile room fire incidents and house fires in general. You have no choice here but to now your local breaker. This is simple. A 15 amp circuit can easily handle up to 1320 watts while a 20 amp circuit can easily handle as much as 1760 watts.

You don’t have to worry if your circuit is different. Simply use the equation – Total Voltage x Circuit Amperage = MaximumWatt Load.Proceed to multiply the Maximum Watt Load by 0.8. This will help you determine your outlet’s safe maximum capacity.

You may also want to use reliable surge protectors in a bid to boost safety. Then by all means, avoid plugging power strips into each other. This almost always ends up badly. Call an electrician for professional opinion on your home’s wiring if you’re unsure of your electrical assessment capabilities.

Keep The Mat Clean

Wet and damp surfaces hardly ever go well with electricity. This means the heat mat should always be dry. Wipe anything off it immediately you notice it. It doesn’t end there. You have to keep the reptile room clean and tidy too.

Keeping the room clutter free stands out as one of the most efficient ways to prevent fire. Dust off heat lamps if you have any. Give the mat ample room to breathe. Lastly, avoid putting anything that produces heat next to anything that can easily catch fire (wood, paper, cardboard, fabric, houseplants etc.).

Know How The Heat Mat Works

When you’re running high wattage heat mats, check the label on them to be certain it’s rated for that kind of wattage. Otherwise, you can easily overload the socket and have the mat catch fire. As already mentioned, it is a good idea to read, understand and follow all safety instructions that come along with reptile heating elements, extension cables, and the like.

Use Thermostats

Don’t use a heat mat without a thermostat. Always make sure the heat mat is connected to a reliable thermostat. This will go a long way to help you avoid reptile burns. The thermostat also stands out as a safety measure when it comes to preventing fire. Be sure to replace your heat mat immediately it gets damaged.

Get Insurance

This may sound absurd, but it isn’t. Make sure your rental or home insurance policy covers personal property. Keep in touch with your agent if that isn’t the case. Such a cover isn’t usually too expensive to add.

Remember that in spite of all your best efforts, you can still lose your reptile pet and its supplies in an accidental fire. Having a good cover will help you recover some supplies in the event of a fire.

Avoid Candles

Not everyone appreciates the distinctive musk of some reptiles. That’s why many choose to cover up the musk with candles. Candles aren’t really bad, but it goes almost without saying that they are huge fire hazards, especially when left unattended.

The rule here is simple – keep candles out of the reptile room. As a matter of fact, keep fragrance products as well as essential oils away from all reptiles.

Be Observant

Be alert, observant and keen. Is there a strange smell in your reptile room? Find out where it’s coming from. It could be a melting rubber or plastic somewhere. Is a light fixture loose? Can you spot a chewed or frayed cable?

Are your heating elements old and worn out? Be keen on all these issues. Then replace anything that needs to be replaced.

How long exactly does it take for a reptile heat mat to warm up?

I was recently looking for a reptile heat mat and couldn’t help but wonder how long it takes for one to warm up. I had no choice but to research on my own how long they take to warm up and the whole concept behind how they work.

It takes between 15 and 20 minutes for a reptile heat mat to warm up. Take note though, that it’ll take an hour or two for the mat to get completely hot. That’s exactly why you should let your mat to sit for at least 24 hours before putting your reptile pet in.

Although the concept behind all reptile heat maps is the same, their functionalities differ. Some take longer than usual to warm up while others take just a few minutes. With that in mind, it is important to first understand how a reptile heat map works before using it.

How Hot Does A Heat Mat Get?

Most heat mats on the market heat to approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 38 degrees Celsius). The amount of heat in this case depends on wattage which in turn corresponds to the size of the heat mat you have or intend to purchase. In simple words, the larger the heat mat, the higher the wattage.

Like already mentioned, heat mats are all different depending on brand and style of the heat. For instance, dry heat pads can heat up by as much as 140°Fand160°F. That’s not all though. The hottest mats in the market can heat up to as much as 175°F.

Safety Issues

Take all the necessary safety precautions when setting up a heat mat for your reptile pet. This should start by correctly using the heat mat. You’ll first need to make sure you only go for a mat of the right size. That way, you’ll have an easy time setting the mat inside the vivarium.

Remember that many reptile heating mats are designed to reach a pre-determined temperature. The trick here is simple – get a heat mat based on the size of your pet, not the size of its terrarium or vivarium.

Once you have the right sized mat, you need to affix it gently to the outside bottom part of terrarium. The corners of the terrarium or vivarium should be raised off to the floor. That way, you won’t trap heat under the glass. You also won’t crimp the heat pad cord with the extra weight of the tank on top of it.

Using A Substrate With Your Reptile Heat Mat

Having poor bedding or sometimes no bedding at all stands out as the most common mistake first time reptile pet owners make when setting up a terrarium with a heat mat. Nearly all reptile heat mats are designed to be used with a half inch or one inch of comfortable bedding, which acts as an insulating material on the bottom part of the tank.

The flooring keeps your reptile pet at a safe distance from coming in direct contact with a hot glass surface. That explains why reptile pets sometimes have terrible scars on their bellies, resulting from having close contact with a hot surface.

Heat Bulbs Vs. Heat Mats

The heat bulb vs heat mat debate rages on and will do so for a long time. Reptiles generally need to keep warm as they are cold blooded. This is especially the case with almost all lizards and particularly the bearded dragons, iguanas, chameleons, monitor lizards and other reptiles of the arboreal species. The same can be said of some snakes like tree pythons, boas and some aquatic snake species.

Ultimately, both heat bulbs and heat mats are good sources of heat for reptile pets. Heat mats are, however, ideal in so many aspects. They’re easy to maintain, are cheaper and they hardly ever break down.

Heat Mats On Different Surfaces

Set your reptile’s heat mat to a reasonable temperature. Think of your pet as yourself. You probably can’t stand anything beyond 40 degrees Celsius even during winter. It is the same case with many reptiles. That’s not the problem though. Many reptile pet owners don’t seem to realize that different types of terrarium enclosures can have a direct impact on a reptile’s heat acquisition.

It gets worse where the heat mat for whichever reason, overheats. If the surface on which the mat will sit on is made of wood, then the terrarium will quickly heat up. You’ll then need to constantly adjust the heat so as not to harm your reptile pet.

Note that as long as a heat mat doesn’t overheat and has a working air flow, then it’ll work just fine in a wooden enclosure. Note too that you’ll need extra heating for bigger enclosures. The most important thing here is to keep temperature constant, so it doesn’t really matter how many heating mats you go for. Keep the temperature constant and comfortable for your reptile and you’re good to go. Be sure to go for a heating mat complete with rubber feet designed to stick on the tank’s bottom.

Using The Heat Mat At Night

You don’t have to switch off your reptile’s heat mat at night as some pet owners do. As a matter of fact, the mat needs to be on 24/7. This means you may have to get a good thermostat to help you monitor and control temperatures. It is actually dangerous for your pet to turn the heat mat all the way off especially during cold moths. The best you can do is lower the temperature and leave the mat on.

Not all reptiles are the same. Take leopard geckos for instance. They can easily tolerate a drop in temperature down to 16 Degrees Celsius, which is about 16 Degrees Fahrenheit. Several studies reveal that significant nightly drop in temperature is actually healthy not just for leopard geckos, but for many other reptiles as well.

If for one reason or another your home extremely cold and you need to provide ample night-time heat source, then avoid using a colored night heat bulb. As opposed to what many people believe, reptiles can actually see the light from heat bulbs. This can disrupt their sleep and wake cycle to a great extent.

Many reptiles prefer to hide themselves in warm shelters during the day as they use their warm to ‘charge’ and ‘energize’ themselves for night-time activities. Ideally, a reptile’s terrarium should have at least 2 hiding places strategically placed at different spots around the vivarium or terrarium. The hiding places will go a long way to facilitate thermoregulation.

Have the spots at extreme ends – one on the warm end next to the heat source and another at the cool end. In a nutshell, understand how your reptile pet behaves. Understand its heat needs as well. That way, you’ll know how to best use a reptile heat mat.

Wrap Up

Heat mats are ideal for keeping pet reptiles warm, but as it is the case with many heating elements, they call for simple yet vital safety measures. Use them as explained in their instruction manual and you can be certain your reptile will be safe.

Reptile heat mats can ago a long way to help your reptile pet live a longer, healthier life. But like it is the case with many other gadgets designed to help pets live a better life, you have to first understand how to go about using them.

Follow the instruction manual that comes with your reptile heat mat. Then by all means, watch how your pet responds to temperature changes. Anything unusual should nudge you to either change the heat map or consult a vet.

Bal Kang

Bal Kang is an owner of several pets including reptiles, cats and dogs. An avid writer, who loves to share her insights into caring for pets.

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