John Hollister's Wiring Setups

I have had many queries regarding various ways to wire heat tapes and lights. I hope that this page will offer some help. For many people it is easier to do something once a visual picture has been presented. I apologize for my artwork, but I failed Crayola 101 and never improved much after that. That is why I have scanned as many of the components as possible.

The heat tape I prefer is the 4" flexwatt, which has a heating surface about 3.25 inches wide. It can be cut to any length with a utility knife or scissors. It has a maximum temperature of about 110 F. It uses very little amperage, so many feet of it can be linked to one rheostat (aka dimmer switch.)
The flush connectors are recommended, rather than alligator clips. They will be easier to cover, don't stick up much and won't let loose the way alligator clips will. They come from the same suppliers as the flexwatt tape.
Splices consist of baring about 1/2" on the end of the wires and twisting the wires together tightly. The splices need to be covered. I prefer to use wire nuts, which are cheap, easily available, and don't unwrap over time as does electrical tape. Just put them over the splice and screw them on snugly.
REMEMBER: The electricity flows from wall outlet -to- rhehostat -to- outlet -to- heat source.

NOTE: I suggest the rheostats (dimmer switches) which click-on/click-off rather than than the push-on/push-off type. With the push type you will have to feel the tape to make sure it is on, while with the click type, if it is not clicked off it is clicked on.
The purpose of a rheostat is to control the flow of current to the heat source, thus controlling the amount of heat that it puts out. Rheostats are an inexpensive item, usually less than $6.00, and available at any home supply house, hardware store, walmart, etc.

The first picture is of a basic wiring of a heat tape to a rheostat. Since my rheostat is usually located two or three feet from the end of the heat tape, I prefer to use one piece of electrical cord to run from the heat tape to the rheostat and another spliced in going from the rheostat to the electrical outlet. Basically, the one side of the electrical cord is cut and one end of the cut goes to one of the rheostat wires and the other end is spliced to the other rheostat wire, effectively splicing the rheostat into one side of the electrical cord and leaving the other side intact.

The next picture shows how a flush outlet can be wired into a rheostat. Two or more flush outlets can also be hooked together with a short piece of electrical cord.

Individual heat tapes can be connected to an electrical wire which can be cut to the proper length to reach the outlet. I prefer to screw the outlets onto the back of the cage, where they will be out of sight. Attach a plug to the end of the wire, and plug it into the outlet.
There are several benefits to doing it this way. If a cage is not in use, the heat source can be unplugged. If I have two cages side by side, I plug the heat tapes for both into one outlet and wire that outlet to a rheostat. I do this for each level. The advantage to this is that cages on the top are usually warmer than cages near the floor, which may require more heat. Also, some snakes will want more heat than others, so they can be controlled individually, rather than having all the cages wired to one control.

This basic wiring system can also be used for flourescent lights. If you are wiring flourescent lights, do not use the rheostat. Take the rheostat out of the diagram and run the wire directly to a timer plugged into a wall outlet. Then plug the lights into the flat outlets screwed onto the back of the cage or rack.