Are the new BRS Heaters and Controllers the Best of 2019? We think so!

Stoney

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Aw cmon, no response? I'll admit I could've worded my first post a bit more politely. Had a bad experience with BRS support that day and was taking it out in that post, sorry that was uncalled for. But how are those not legitimate questions? I'm not just pointlessly debating this either, I was ready to buy 3 of the controllers and heaters before I even saw the video. After watching it the first time, I figured I have to be missing something, this is a BRS product. So I watched it again and read both threads, all of which confirmed my initial impressions.

I'll assume you guys are right about the higher temperature resolution, but the replaceable probe and temp alarms don't appear to be new features and I still don't think two heater outlets is a selling point if there's only one relay. From what I can gather, it seems like you guys are comparing the controller to a specific inkbird model that doesn't have these features when many of them do.

There are a few reasons we didn't go this route. Heaters with internal thermostats don't tend to be as accurate at temp regulation as a heater with a remote temp probe. If the internal thermostat does go, you have a useless heating element that you have to toss and replace, even if the heating element is still good. The thermostat is the most likely portion to fail.

We believe the Schego heating elements are the best available, and building on that product, we needed a temp control system to support it. Unfortunately Schego doesn't produce a controller that's compatible with US wiring needs. If we had gone with a different brand that had an internal thermostat built into the element, we'd essentially be selling you a standard heater, plus a temp controller. If you wanted to go that route, you can buy any old heater we sell and plug it into our controller. By using the Schego heating elements without an internal thermostat, we are able to eliminate a failure point and point of inaccuracy.
Now that you brought this up, the cobalt heaters go down to 0.05 IIRC and are more than accurate enough with their internal thermostats. I think I have 6 of them at this point, and they're still accurate even after 3 ish years of use on the older ones. Shouldn't the best heater of 2019 be able to do what a heater from 2015 can? I know that sounds a little snarky, not my intention, just don't know how else to word that.

I believe most heaters get stuck on, not off. So if a thermostat failed and the heater got stuck on, it would then be reduced to the same functionality as the schego heater right? I also don't understand how an extra thermostat is a failure point. Maybe if they were independent and didn't limit each other, but they work in series so if either one failed the backup would take over. If these controllers are expected to fail in around a year, then I think a backup thermostat in the heater would be pretty useful. Especially if it's not normally in use, making it less likely to fail.

Please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this. I know I sounded pretty sure of myself in the first post, but that was the frustration talking. Whenever I buy something, I always goto BRS first because I know I can trust the information and reviews. I also want to support a company that has someone like Ryan at the top. I like to imagine that every shipment going out has Ryan at the final checkpoint going "nah man, not good enough....man" lol. So that's why I have a hard time letting this go. Honestly if you guys just marked it up $20 and said "it's the same thing, but support us because of BRSTV", I'd still buy it.
 

homer1475

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My original finnex titanium heating rod is about 5 years old and still rock solid with a ranco and apex controlling it. Single handedly the most rock solid piece of equipment I have ever bought for my tank.
 

Bulk Reef Supply

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Please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this. I know I sounded pretty sure of myself in the first post, but that was the frustration talking. Whenever I buy something, I always goto BRS first because I know I can trust the information and reviews. I also want to support a company that has someone like Ryan at the top. I like to imagine that every shipment going out has Ryan at the final checkpoint going "nah man, not good enough....man" lol. So that's why I have a hard time letting this go. Honestly if you guys just marked it up $20 and said "it's the same thing, but support us because of BRSTV", I'd still buy it.
Hi @Stoney I can definitely understand. We all have some days that just aren't going our way, and it's hard to separate those things from other interaction. We appreciate your support, and I hope the below can answer some of your questions. Okay, so here we go (doing my best!)

I'd say much of what you mention isn't wrong, but perhaps there's some misinterpretation of what we've been saying. You're right that over the line of Inkbird controllers, some of the features exist. The Inkbird line of controllers as a whole offered many of the things we were looking for in a controller, and our experiences with their products have been positive, which is why we went to them. We presented them with a set of features we were looking for, and they didn't all exist in a single controller model they had available. So, we asked them to make one the way we wanted it, which is a unique feature set. We're really not trying to claim anything more than that.

-There are some unique features in the programming, which I think shouldn't be overlooked. As far as I'm aware, none of their standard units offer a temperature differential (the amount the temp can fall below the set temp before turning on) as low as .3F (also .3C). You mention the Cobalt heaters because they have a very tight on/off cycle. I'm not sure of Cobalt's programming, but I would be surprised if it was actually set to a on/off cycle around a .05F difference, as that would cause the heater to cycle on and off constantly. We could have gone as low as .1F on the Inkbird, which would have maintained about the same window, but were advised by their engineers that this was inadvisable due to the added wear such a small temp window would cause with constant on/off cycling. .3F seemed like a perfect balance of a very small window of precision and an acceptable duty cycle.

-The standard aquarium model (306) has a temp range that goes up to 210F, and their alarm only goes off if the temp exceeds 210F. We had them lower the temp range to a max of 99F, and asked them for an over-temp alarm linked to the set temp, rather than the max temp. At the time they had not presented us with the option for adjustable over-temp alarms on this unit, but even if they had, this would have introduced another level of complexity to programming the heater, and I'm not sure if this would appeal to most people. In the end, I think a 3 degree over-temp alarm satisfies the range of safety needed.

-Replaceable temp probes aren't new to Inkbird, but their models we had to select from either came with the wrong type of temp probe, or didn't have the temp probe replaceable. We asked to have both in one unit.

I also don't understand how an extra thermostat is a failure point.
-I wasn't suggesting an extra thermostat was a failure point, just that thermostats are typically the failure point in heaters in general. An extra thermostat can be a source of redundancy. In the case of Schego heaters, this is not a feature available, but we believe they are still the highest quality heating element available, and having the temp sensor and thermostat external from the heater does remove some of the likelihook of inaccuracy and likelihood of failure.

There may be some differences in opinion or preference about the value of these things, but I hope we can agree that it's just that.

[email protected]
 

dmolavi

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My original finnex titanium heating rod is about 5 years old and still rock solid with a ranco and apex controlling it. Single handedly the most rock solid piece of equipment I have ever bought for my tank.
+1 on the Ranco. Using that as the thermostat, with two separate temp probes as reduancy, and my tank is always within 1 degree of my set temp, going on 5 years now.
 

Feet4Fish

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I had the chance to hold these heaters in my hand at RAP Chicago. This heating element is solid, unlike any hobbyist level heater I have ever used or seen. Regardless of the controller option you choose I think it would be thought to beat the quality of the heating element which far exceeds its price point.
 

Stoney

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I appreciate the response Zack, I know these aren't the easiest questions to answer.

We presented them with a set of features we were looking for, and they didn't all exist in a single controller model they had available. So, we asked them to make one the way we wanted it, which is a unique feature set. We're really not trying to claim anything more than that.
So you're not claiming it to be the best heater of 2019? I guess that could mean the best heater in 2019 or the best heater released in 2019, but the latter would be a rather pointless comparison since it was the only heater released this year.

There are some unique features in the programming, which I think shouldn't be overlooked. As far as I'm aware, none of their standard units offer a temperature differential (the amount the temp can fall below the set temp before turning on) as low as .3F (also .3C). You mention the Cobalt heaters because they have a very tight on/off cycle. I'm not sure of Cobalt's programming, but I would be surprised if it was actually set to a on/off cycle around a .05F difference, as that would cause the heater to cycle on and off constantly. We could have gone as low as .1F on the Inkbird, which would have maintained about the same window, but were advised by their engineers that this was inadvisable due to the added wear such a small temp window would cause with constant on/off cycling. .3F seemed like a perfect balance of a very small window of precision and an acceptable duty cycle.
I have no reason to doubt the tighter temperature differential, I can only set it to 1 degree F on my 308S so yea that's definitely a useful feature. As for the cobalts, I don't have a way to reliably measure temperature down to 0.05F, but my QT tank with a cobalt heater always measures 80.1F so it's pretty close. Perhaps they use some sort of solid state switching device like a TRIAC or SCR. I'm not too familiar with the different types and applications, but I know they have lifespans several orders of magnitude greater than mechanical relays. Maybe something to look into on the next iteration?

-The standard aquarium model (306) has a temp range that goes up to 210F, and their alarm only goes off if the temp exceeds 210F. We had them lower the temp range to a max of 99F, and asked them for an over-temp alarm linked to the set temp, rather than the max temp. At the time they had not presented us with the option for adjustable over-temp alarms on this unit, but even if they had, this would have introduced another level of complexity to programming the heater, and I'm not sure if this would appeal to most people. In the end, I think a 3 degree over-temp alarm satisfies the range of safety needed.
Probably have to agree to disagree on this one. Takes about 30 seconds for me to adjust it and it only needs to be done once. You guys could also preset them to 1 or 2 degrees and charge an extra dollar for the time.

-Replaceable temp probes aren't new to Inkbird, but their models we had to select from either came with the wrong type of temp probe, or didn't have the temp probe replaceable. We asked to have both in one unit.
That's a fair point, I've been using the stainless steel probes and wouldn't mind the plastic versions. Having said that, I haven't had any of my probes rust. They do tend to fail after about a year, so I haven't had one continuously submerged for longer than that.

-I wasn't suggesting an extra thermostat was a failure point, just that thermostats are typically the failure point in heaters in general. An extra thermostat can be a source of redundancy. In the case of Schego heaters, this is not a feature available, but we believe they are still the highest quality heating element available, and having the temp sensor and thermostat external from the heater does remove some of the likelihook of inaccuracy and likelihood of failure.
I don't doubt that the Schego heaters are the highest quality heating elements. I'm still considering buying a couple of those. I agree that theoretically removing the thermostat results in less complexity and lower likelihood of failure, but in practice internal thermostat heaters can do this with enough reliability that IMO the difference is insignificant. I'm not sure exactly what component in the cobalt heaters was failing, but apparently it was limited to the larger models. In my experience, the lower power heaters have been 100% reliable so far and 80.1 for a setpoint of 80 is accurate enough for me. I guess this comes down to the "best heater of 2019" claim. I probably wouldn't have much to say if that wasn't part of the discussion.

Once again, thanks for the response Zack. I know you're a busy guy so I won't feel hurt if I don't get a response. Probably beating a dead horse at this point anyway lol. I'll keep doing my part to support BRS, but I'll probably be more skeptical about the recommendations and "best of" titles.
 

wadesims2000

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I recognized what the controller was when I watched the video and honestly I just came here just to see whether BRS was going to be upfront with where they got the design and as always I’m happy to see their clear and forthcoming with it definitely a great feature set that you can’t get on any single controller. Adding it as a redundancy to my apex
 

Entz

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You guys really need a distribution Center in Canada ;)

I know its not your fault, but $42 shipping on a $48 heater (or combo) is too much to swallow. I would love to try them though.
 

PhilT

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We're definitely not trying to hide that this is a product developed with Inkbird. We've been doing a lot of hands-on testing with various units over the last couple years, and felt that they had the basis of a good controller, but not everything we wanted in one package. There are a number of key differences that we have built into our units based on customer feedback and our own internal testing.

-Ours has a replaceable temp probe. Their standard aquarium controller does not. The probe is a primary failure point as they will wear out over time. When that ones probe goes out, the whole unit is junk.
-Ours can be set to maintain a temp range as small as .3 degrees Fahrenheit or .3 Celsius.
-Ours has a 3 degree temp alarm, meaning if you set your temp to 78 and it gets to 81, you get an audible warning and the heater shuts off. Theirs will only alarm if the temp goes outside of the units temp setting range, which is -58F to 210F--not super helpful.
-Perhaps most importantly, if a regular Inkbird fails, you have to go to Inkbird to get help from them. If you buy one of our custom heaters, WE ARE THE WARRANTY SUPPORT! In the rare case you might have an issue with either the heating element or controller, you come to us and we take care of you, end of story.

[email protected]
I don’t have a cooler so my tank can get to 81 in the summer easily (in Chicago area). I don’t think that’s too dangerous for the fish? So if I have the temp set to 78: is that alarm going to be sounding off continually unless I unplug it? I have the Finnex controller currently and the alarm settings are separate from the temperature control.
 

Sleepydoc

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Kudos to BRS for developing these and also for the honest, candid answers in this thread. The Schego heater seems like a solid heater and I'll definitely be considering them. Of course my Jaeger heaters keep humming along, so who knows when I'll actually need one!

For the people with questions regarding the controller and its price, it appears that BRS has worked with Rainbird to develop a custom controller that incorporates features of the other available controllers. Given that, I don’t think they’re gouging us on the price when you consider what Inkbird probably charges them and add a reasonable profit margin. Like any product, if you think another model is a better value for you, by all means, go ahead and choose it.

My setup of choice has always been to use the Apex as the primary controller and have the heater thermostat set higher. This keeps the heater thermostat always on so it doesn’t experience any wear. If the apex outlet fails on then the heater serves as a backup. If I end up getting the BRS element I’ll need to get a separate controller for redundancy and will probably get either the ink bird or BRS one.

I’m not sure I completely agree with them dismissing the utility of a thermostat built into the heater, though. In general, you should have 2 smaller heaters rather than one big one. this minimizes the risk if any one element fails. On top of that, if the heater thermostat fails on, you have your controller as a backup. If it fails off (much more uncommon) then your tank will cool off a bit, but the remaining heater should still keep it at a safe temperature, and the consequences of the temperature dropping too low are much less severe than those of it overheating.
 

TheHarold

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Hi @Stoney I can definitely understand. We all have some days that just aren't going our way, and it's hard to separate those things from other interaction. We appreciate your support, and I hope the below can answer some of your questions. Okay, so here we go (doing my best!)

I'd say much of what you mention isn't wrong, but perhaps there's some misinterpretation of what we've been saying. You're right that over the line of Inkbird controllers, some of the features exist. The Inkbird line of controllers as a whole offered many of the things we were looking for in a controller, and our experiences with their products have been positive, which is why we went to them. We presented them with a set of features we were looking for, and they didn't all exist in a single controller model they had available. So, we asked them to make one the way we wanted it, which is a unique feature set. We're really not trying to claim anything more than that.

-There are some unique features in the programming, which I think shouldn't be overlooked. As far as I'm aware, none of their standard units offer a temperature differential (the amount the temp can fall below the set temp before turning on) as low as .3F (also .3C). You mention the Cobalt heaters because they have a very tight on/off cycle. I'm not sure of Cobalt's programming, but I would be surprised if it was actually set to a on/off cycle around a .05F difference, as that would cause the heater to cycle on and off constantly. We could have gone as low as .1F on the Inkbird, which would have maintained about the same window, but were advised by their engineers that this was inadvisable due to the added wear such a small temp window would cause with constant on/off cycling. .3F seemed like a perfect balance of a very small window of precision and an acceptable duty cycle.

-The standard aquarium model (306) has a temp range that goes up to 210F, and their alarm only goes off if the temp exceeds 210F. We had them lower the temp range to a max of 99F, and asked them for an over-temp alarm linked to the set temp, rather than the max temp. At the time they had not presented us with the option for adjustable over-temp alarms on this unit, but even if they had, this would have introduced another level of complexity to programming the heater, and I'm not sure if this would appeal to most people. In the end, I think a 3 degree over-temp alarm satisfies the range of safety needed.

-Replaceable temp probes aren't new to Inkbird, but their models we had to select from either came with the wrong type of temp probe, or didn't have the temp probe replaceable. We asked to have both in one unit.



-I wasn't suggesting an extra thermostat was a failure point, just that thermostats are typically the failure point in heaters in general. An extra thermostat can be a source of redundancy. In the case of Schego heaters, this is not a feature available, but we believe they are still the highest quality heating element available, and having the temp sensor and thermostat external from the heater does remove some of the likelihook of inaccuracy and likelihood of failure.

There may be some differences in opinion or preference about the value of these things, but I hope we can agree that it's just that.

[email protected]
That is a fantastic explanation.... super in depth. I can totally see buying one for my next heater. Though I will NEVER just give it a single controller..... something as simple as accidentally pulling out the probe from the water could nuke the entire tank. I have an apex for that.

Quick question: what happens when you pull the removable probe from the controller? Presumably it reads error, and will not heat?
 

TheHarold

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I don’t have a cooler so my tank can get to 81 in the summer easily (in Chicago area). I don’t think that’s too dangerous for the fish? So if I have the temp set to 78: is that alarm going to be sounding off continually unless I unplug it? I have the Finnex controller currently and the alarm settings are separate from the temperature control.
If your aquarium is cycling from 78 to 81 daily, I would recommend adjusting that base point to 79 to reduce variation. But that is a good point.
 

PhilT

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If your aquarium is cycling from 78 to 81 daily, I would recommend adjusting that base point to 79 to reduce variation. But that is a good point.
Not really cycling daily but summer it will get to 81 often while winter I will heat to 78.
I just ordered one and the instructions say the alarm will stay on until it drops under the temp limit. You can also hit any button on the controller to cancel the Alarm.
 

Bulk Reef Supply

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Quick question: what happens when you pull the removable probe from the controller? Presumably it reads error, and will not heat?
Exactly this. If the probe shorts or is disconnected, the heater will error, alarm, and stop heating until corrected.
 

reef_daddy

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Most people here are trying to find a balance between cheap and reliable. And BRS has been very helpful in being transparent when reviewing all of their products, but one of the biggest takeaways I’ve found from all of the BRS videos is that the heater is the one piece of equipment with the highest risk of failure in your tank as well as one of the most important for life support.

With that said, Ryan has recommended a very sound methodology of replacing your heater by the time the warranty has expired, at least. Because if the manufacturer can’t stand by the product for that long then you shouldn’t either. And I agree.

So my question, to everyone, is since BRS has set the controller as the shortest warranty in the system (one year), is it actually worth investing in the BRS heating solution and replacing the controller once per year ($50)? Or is it a better to just buy something like a new Eheim Jager ($30) every year? (My tank requires a 150W heater for reference)

If anyone does answer this, I want to know why? What is the life-limiting failure mode we are trying to solve? Is it the temperature prob failure? Is it the heating element? Is it the relay in the controller? Is the glass enclosed heating element of the Eheim a higher risk of breaking over the titanium BRS element? Is the additional $48 BRS titanium heating element that much more reliable?

Also, keep in mind that based on Ryan’s methodology you’d also have to replace the BRS element after that 3 year warranty ran out, so add that $48 to the 3 year cost.

I ask because I’m in the market for a new heater and I’m willing to spend the extra money on the BRS one, but it’s a much greater expense year over year and I’m having a hard time justifying based off of Ryan’s methodology.

3 year cost would be:

Eheim: $30+$30+$30=$90
BRS: $48+$50+$50+$50=$198

Ryan’s Methodology reference:

YouTube: What’s your favorite heater and target temperature? Live with Ryan & Randy
Time stamp: 8:10

YouTube: 52 weeks of Reefing Series - Week 8
Time stamp: 13:49
 

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