question for *professional electricians* about homemade heaters?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by patandchickens, Nov 25, 2010.

  1. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I'm sort of asking for everyone's benefit [​IMG]

    Please, I am only asking for *professional electricians'* replies, not just "I rewired my house and nothing bad happened so I feel qualified to answer" or "I have heard or read that <whatever>...".

    So, if a person is determined to add some electrical heat to their coop,

    how do you feel about the safety of using the following to heat your coop, and why:

    -- a regular lightbulb (or a couple, to match total wattage of a heat lamp), attached safely as possible and with a guard on it

    -- a heat lamp, attached as safely as possible and with a guard on it

    -- a crockpot, either empty or full, with a bucket or bowl over it

    -- a heating pad or electric blanket

    -- a string of xmas lights inside a metal pipe to create an internally-warmed roost

    -- any other DIY adaptation of a household appliance that you may care to comment on

    And how do you feel about the safety of using the following to keep your waterer thawed, and why:

    -- a storeboughten heated waterer or heated waterer base

    -- a storeboughten heated dogbowl

    -- a crockpot with the waterer set in/on it

    -- heat tape wrapped around a metal waterer

    -- an aquarium heater inside a metal waterer

    -- a low-wattage lightbulb wired inside a metal cookie tin

    Also feel free to add any other thoughts you want regarding electrical and fire safety in backyard coops.

    Thank you for any and all replies,


  2. ADozenGirlz

    ADozenGirlz The Chicken Chick[IMG]emojione/assets/png/00ae.png

    Oct 18, 2009
    Great questions, Pat. I'll be watching for the replies.
  3. Ed62

    Ed62 Songster

    If you don't get some answers to the questions, I think my son is coming over Saturday, and I'll ask him. He's an electrician, and I'll ask his opinion if he makes it. I could give you my opinion, but you didn't ask for that. [​IMG]

    Last edited: Nov 25, 2010
  4. Cargo

    Cargo Songster

    Sep 28, 2010
    Farmington, NM
  5. birdicus7

    birdicus7 Chirping

    Jul 17, 2010
    Coatesville, PA
    Hi Pat,

    I'll give you my thoughts if I may. I am an industrial electrician for a large local bakery. I have experience with numerous heating units for many fluids, chocolate, water, oil, etc.

    The safest most economical solution is a regular light bulb with a good guard. That said I don't like it because of the excess light factor for the birds.

    My choice would be the same mount and cage for the light bulb but install ceramic emitters like this:

    There are special enclosures also available for small structures:

    Safety wise and functionality for your water I recommend a heated water with built in thermostat like this unit:

    Plus it's made in the USA! $50 plus shipping is cheap insurance to prevent fires in your coop from rigging up something to save a few bucks.

    My second choice would be properly installed heat tape on a metal waterer but that makes filling more difficult.

    The main issues with electrical fires come from improper wiring methods and overloading circuits or outlets. Use thermostats to control the power supply if possible and

    NEVER EVER SWITCH A NEUTRAL( the white wire) in a circuit!

    That's my electrician's view on the subject. I don't recommend the other methods due to the danger factors involved. As a chicken owner I don't use or recommend heat for
    the fact that most birds will acclimate to the the weather conditions. Heat prevents them from doing this properly and then what happens when you loose your power for an extended time as we do here. I do heat my water with the waterer shown but that's it.

    Hope this helps.
  6. RIBill

    RIBill Chirping

    Nov 7, 2010
    Without being a professiona l electrician, I feel that I have to comment on one item. Aquarium heaters are a combination physical and electrical hazard. I used to keep fish and had several of those break catastrophically and leave glass splinters in the tank. I had one that was a few degrees cool which I barely touched to adjust it. It raised the temp. 15 degrees. And the worst experience was the one that cracked and electrocuted the fish nearby. All of these heaters were properly installed, relatively new and not mishandled. I can only imagine what would happen if they were misused.

    Of course, this is entirely annecdotal. I'm sure many have used them with good results. It just seems like a losing bet to me.
  7. woodmort

    woodmort Songster

    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
    While I'm not a professional electrician I have worked as an apprentice on a few jobs--basically I did all the wiring, he inspected and took credit for it. However, after looking at your choices, I would also suggest you check with a fireman since many are more of a fire hazard than an electrical one.

    One thing I am a "professional" about is aquariums and heaters. While I have posted my thoughts on using aquarium heaters elsewhere but basically it boils down to this: Aquarium heaters are not designed to be used in a container where the water level will fall below the thermostat nor are the intended to keep the water temperature above freezing, for those reasons alone they should not be used in chicken waterers.

  8. minister man

    minister man Songster

    Sep 9, 2010
    New Brunswick
    I am a journyman Consturction/residential electrician, And I have looked at most of the ideas on your list. I use heat lamps on my young chicks, and I have hung one over the waterer before.

    I have thought about building my own heaters but amd not comfortable with the idea. Last winter I checked with our suppliers to find out if there are any products that are CSA rated for use in an animal dwelling. Most of the heating companies said that they had none. One company ( Therma Ray) have Radiant heating panels that are approved.

    I checked into some of the heaters that were on some of the pet sites, and found out that they were not CSA/ UL rated. They responded that it was too expensive to get that approval. To me without that rating, you might just as well build your own and take your chances.

    To me that only other type of heat that i have seen in the large poultry houses was hot water baseboard type heat. THey have a boiler with water pipes runing down the walls of the building in a loop and return to the boiler. When there thermostat calls for heat it starts a circulator pump and moves the water through the pipes. It is possible to build this system on a small scale using a hot water heater as a heating source. To me, if you are going to build your own heating system, then I think that is what I would build. The closest thing to that on the market that might compare to that would be the oil filled heaters.

    I wouldn't wrap a heat tape around a metal container, because most heat tapes say on them not to put them on pipes that are empty of water, and it is possible that the container could be emptied down far enough to be below the tape.

    As for the other items on your list, they aren't something that I would try, unless you built in saftey switches that would open at a certain temperature if they over heat.

    That's only my opionion, and I take no responsiblity for what you use this post for.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2010
  9. Rozzie

    Rozzie Songster

    Jul 14, 2010
    Quote:I've had the same thing happen. Lost a bunch of fish in one such incident.
  10. western edge

    western edge Songster

    Apr 5, 2010
    Edge of the Bakken
    I have contemplated building a solar heater. A barrel,canister or piping, painted black, enclosed in a well insulated box with a window on the south upper part of the coop. A solar powered pond pump would pump the glycol solution to an upper insulated tank to displace by gravity and flow through a baseboard type plumbing returning to the collector/ storage area to be heated by the sun once again. This system could collect the heat during the day and circulate the warmed solution through the baseboards at night. Although this system would not HEAT your coop, I think it would help to keep the temp stable and with an insulated draftfree coop might work quite well as well as being very efficient . Any mechanics out there that could weigh in on this setup?
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2010

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