Posted: May 20, 2014, 9:10 a.m. EDT
What retailers need to know now about creating aquarium environment homeostasis with current heater, chiller and temperature control technology.
By David A. Lass
Heater technology continues to improve, and some of the latest improvements are in fine shape.
"Cobalt’s new heaters are terrific,” said Mike Bonella, owner of Sunflower Natural Pet Supplies in Manhattan, Kan. "The best ones are the thin-line models, as they take up almost no room in a tank.”
"In 2012, Cobalt launched the first aquarium heater to win industry awards, the NEO-therm heaters,” said Les Wilson, marketing and product development for the Rock Hill, S.C., company. "The NEO-therm fully submersible electronic heaters feature a modern, superflat design with an easy-to-set ‘one touch’ control system. The advanced electronic thermostat is accurate to plus or minus 0.5 F, includes an LED that displays both the Set Temp and Tank Temp simultaneously, and has a Set temperature range from 66 F up to 96 F.”
Other industry trends see more manufacturers offering heaters with external controls/monitors and stores recommending higher wattages so that heaters don’t have to work so hard.
"Finnex heaters that have external displays and controls have become more popular,” said Jason Boczar, manager of The Pet Advantage in South Burlington, Vt. "They are two to three times more expensive than just a heater, but high-end customers really appreciate them.”
"Finnex heaters are constructed out of titanium, the material of choice frequently used in aquaculture,” said Bryan Lowe, director of operations for the Countryside, Ill., company. "The continuous cycle of heating and cooling puts extreme stress on traditional heaters, which can lead to premature failure and shattering.”
Using larger wattages and multiple heaters for larger tanks
is seen at many stores.
"We’re seeing a migration toward higher wattage heaters,” said Allen Fefferman, owner of Old Orchard Aquarium in Skokie, Ill. "They operate more efficiently, and it makes sense for larger tanks.”
Lifegard Aquatics has introduced a new line of aquarium heaters, all UL Listed with thermal protection.
"They’re designed for safety and accuracy in freshwater or saltwater tanks from 25W up to 300W sizes, and available models include the Adjustable Quartz Glass series, containing an easy to set thermostat with LED power indicator light showing operation,” said Neal Dulaney, co-owner of the El Monte, Calif., company.
The Pre-Set Quartz Glass series is precalibrated to 78 F with no temperature adjustment needed after installation, and the Pre-Set Carbon Fiber series, is manufactured of durable carbon fiber tube, according to Dulaney. All styles include a 6-inch power cord and suction cup mounting brackets, he added.
Retailers said chiller sales have dropped off precipitously due to the advent of LED lighting, which gives off virtually no heat.
"I’ve sold most of my chillers to school teachers who are doing trout tanks,” said Adam Zweig of Adam’s Pet Safari in Chester, N.J. "And there is a really interesting new chiller called the IceProbe that does not use a compressor.”
"The IceProbe is a totally new technology,” said Ulf Moren, product and sourcing for NovaTec in San Rafael, Calif., manufacturer of the IceProbe. "We use thermal electric technology with solid-state chips of dissimilar metals that do the chilling. Electricity delivers heat from one side of the chip to the other.”
Currently the IceProbe Chiller is sized for producing a 6 to 8 F drop in a 10-gallon tank; NovaTec is developing models for larger tanks.
All Under Control
As the technology of heaters themselves has evolved some over the past few years, temperature controllers
have made big strides forward.
"American Marine is introducing the Pinpoint Calibration Thermometer,” said Lou Dell, owner of the Ridgefield, Conn., company. "This is a quality temperature instrument for the most important measurement parameter of every aquarium.”
As with other instruments in the AMI line, the integration of measurement and control is seamless, Dell added.
"Neptune is the controller that we carry,” said Old Orchard Aquarium’s Fefferman. "It has a virtually unlimited number of points to monitor/control. Ours is a very ‘hands-on’ hobby, and to be successful hobbyists need to be in touch with their fish.”
Some heater manufacturers offer both standalone and integrated temperature controllers.
"Rather than the standard single relay incorporated in most controllers, the Finnex HC-810M Digital Controller features dual relays for an additional level of protection,” said Lowe of Finnex. "If the second relay is exercised, the digital controller will signal a continuous audio alert and power down the heater, further avoiding the dreaded overheating of the aquarium heater users know as ‘sticking on.’”
For larger tanks, with bigger heating requirements, "Aquatop recently introduced the DDC-800 controller and titanium heaters in 500W and 800W sizes for large freshwater and marine aquariums,” said Frank Kudla, vice president of sales for the Simi Valley, Calif., company. "The DDC-800 controller features high and low temperature alarms, and push button ease of use. The unit displays both the actual aquarium temperature and the ‘set’ temperature.”
Cobalt also offers a controller that makes the control technology of its new line of heaters available compatible with other heaters.
"The Neo-Stat electronic temperature controller turns any aquarium, terrarium, reptile heater, pad or heat lamp into a precision controlled device,” said Wilson. "The advanced circuitry looks and feels like a NEO-therm and takes the place of the original thermostat more accurately and safely.”
What effect does the use of LED lighting have on the requirement for chillers in reef tanks?
"We’re seeing fewer people requiring chillers when they use LED lighting. LEDs give off such little heat that a chiller is usually not necessary.”—Jason Boczar, manager for The Pet Advantage in South Burlington, Vt.
"The effect of LEDs for highly lit reef or planted aquariums is where the industry has seen effects on the chiller market. Chillers are almost gone from the marketplace. And for reefkeepers in colder climates, they have all of a sudden realized that they need heaters.”—Les Wilson, marketing and product development for Cobalt Aquatics in Rock Hill, S.C.
"The widespread adoption of LED lighting for aquarium use is good for both the environment and aquarium temperature regulation. I anticipate a reduced demand for chillers, but there will always be a need for them in cold water marine systems.”—Frank Kudla, vice president of sales for Aquatop Aquatic Supplies in Simi Valley, Calif.
"They don’t throw off any real heat, and LEDs have really killed chiller sales.”—Adam Zweig, owner of Adam’s Pet Safari in Chester, N.J.
"Less heat from LED lights means more need for aquarium heaters in the future.”—Neal Dulaney, co-owner of Lifegard Aquatics in El Monte, Calif.
"Chillers are absolutely on their way out due to LED lighting, but here in Chicago we still need chillers if the room the tank is in is not air conditioned; summers are very hot here.”—Allen Fefferman, owner of Old Orchard Aquarium in Skokie, Ill.
"Heaters and chillers will still find their way to users’ aquariums, as they keep the aquarium temperatures at a constant. From experience, exchanging my HQI +HOT5 combo unit to a single LED fixture did not omit the need for my chiller on my 90-gallon aquarium, though it did significantly reduce the time the chiller was in use.”—Bryan Lowe, director of operations for Finnex in Countryside, Ill.
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