Which heaters are good, better, best? We test accuracy and rank them!

randyBRS

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Hey guys!

Today we are bringing you another installment of BRStv Investigates and in this episode, we put some industry leading heaters to the test.

Take a look at what we found for accuracy and variance of these heaters and let us know your thoughts on the ones you use in your tank! :)

-Find all of our reefing videos HERE!
 
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revhtree

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Thank you for the kind words about our community in the video Ryan and BRS! Also thank you for the great video again!

Heaters are always a big point of discussion because there are so many options, so many prices, and soooo many stories both good and bad. I recently started using the Finnexx version of heaters and my experience goes right along with your findings about them being a little bit lower temp than the set point. That being said I am pretty happy with them so far.

What are your thoughts on the different types of material heaters are made of? Glass, Plastic, Titanium, etc.
 

benapilot

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Thanks for the research, BRS! You guys always go above and beyond.

I've got two Cobalt Neo-Therm heaters connected to one outlet on my Digital Aquatics controller. I have the heaters set at 80 degrees (failsafe) and the controller set point at 78.7 degrees with a hysteresis of 0.30 degrees. My tank temperature has a median temperature of 78.4 degrees.




Is it harder on a heater to cycle its power on/off so many times via an external controller or should we just let the internal heater thermostat do the work (especially with the precise 0.1 degree swing of the Neo-Therm)?
 

SharkLaser

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Interesting points made. I always considered heater reliability and accuracy as my main/only concerns. Variances in on/off cycles are certainly worth considering as well. Thanks for pointing that out!

The argument of what device to use to switch the heater on and off from the durability standpoint is somewhat debatable. What is more costly, losing the relay in the heater's own controller or the one in the Apex energy bar? :)

From my personal experience, I've had the same titanium Finnex FI-HMD-300 for almost 10 years in my tank and it's still running great.
 

Ryanbrs

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Interesting points made. I always considered heater reliability and accuracy as my main/only concerns. Variances in on/off cycles are certainly worth considering as well. Thanks for pointing that out!

The argument of what device to use to switch the heater on and off from the durability standpoint is somewhat debatable. What is more costly, losing the relay in the heater's own controller or the one in the Apex energy bar? :)

From my personal experience, I've had the same titanium Finnex FI-HMD-300 for almost 10 years in my tank and it's still running great.

Fair point on the longevity of the controller vs heater, particularly in relation to the expensive of replacing it. That said, I think most people use the aquarium controller to control the heater because the controller cane be calibrated and the on off accuracy window can be defined.
 

DarkSky

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I use my controller to control the heater at 78F, and have the heater set to 80F. I use Ehiem heaters (with the metal bar that toggles the heater on and off). I should switch it around and have the controller kill the outlet at 80F and have the heater set to 78F, but I didn't like the large variance that went with it. I might have to take a look at the cobalt heaters...
 

Finatik

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I just recently purchased Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm heaters for my two tanks. Glad to see that they scored well in your tests.
 

saltyhog

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I use my Apex to prevent over heating disasters so thermostat ( the proper term IMO) accuracy isn't too important to me. I can adjust till I get the temp I want and set up my Apex to shut it off if it fails on the "on" position. I'm more interested in maintaining the same temp consistently and reliability. Therefore, on-off cycle is the most important thing to me just as Randy said
 
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jason2459

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You guys keep posting videos on topics I've been posting about recently. Ha! I currently run two 800 watt Finnex Titanium heaters bought from BRS too.

So, I'm going to copy paste instead of retyping and I don't have a specific thread to point to this time.




I hate heaters. They all will fail at some time in some way. I change my heaters out every two years. Any even number year is how I remember it.

Good reads
http://www.beananimal.com/articles/aquarium-heaters-what-you-need-to-know!.aspx

I would always recommend at least two methods of controlling the temp. The temp control on the heater being either the primary or backup or if it doesn't have a built in thermostat two external ones which is my preference. There are many choices out there now.

I've used the Ranco controllers for many many years. Never one issue. I also bought a Reefkeeper light many moons ago too to help be a backup to the ranco plus some other basic functions like ATO. I've since upgraded the reefkeeper many times and also switched to an Apex since then.

I also switched from the Jagers to a more compact titanium heater and much higher wattage. But does not have built in controlls which is better IMO. My options were then to use the Ranco as the primary or the Apex as the primary. Both had some draw backs. The Ranco allows full degree swings in temp before kicking on and off. The Apex has tighter resolution and controll but the tighter you get the more often the heater will kick on and off which is ok for the heater but the outlet relay will eventually wear out which is an expensive outlet. All switches will wear out and usually stuck on and why you want redundant heating controllers.

So, I got another controller. Inkbird gets some good reviews which are cheap. I decided to go with another option with a bayite dual stage prewired controller.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B01K...ler+bayite&dpPl=1&dpID=41yjLXWgVqL&ref=plSrch

It supports .1 degree resolution and I really liked it's compact design.

You can see the Rancos and the Bayites I have mounted here


One for each heater, each is plugged into a different power bar, and each power bar is connected to a separate dedicated GFCI/CAFCI 20amp circuit.

I would suggest multiple heaters over a single one. So, my heater itself is on or off thats it. The Bayite is the main controller. It is maintaining temps between 79.2-79.5. The bayites are plugged into the Ranco (which I trust more then any other controller). The Ranco is set to shutdown at 82 degrees. Then the Rancos plugged into the Apex Powerbars. The Apex will shut those down if the temp hits 83 degrees.

I'm pretty well set and protected against a heater/controller stuck on, a heater/controller stuck off by having multiple heaters (800 watts each), and a single breaker/fuse blowing by having two of everything and two separate dedicated circuites.

Some will advocate multiple smaller heaters in case one gets stuck on but if one gets stuck off the redundant heater needs to be able to pick up and heat everything. I'd rather have multiple redundant controllers and a heater if needed to run by itself to be able to heat everything it's supposed too. That's just my opinion and strategy to cover multiple ways a heater could fail. The GFCI to protect me from leaking voltage which has happened and the CAFCI to protect the house from burning down due to a faulty heater which has happened. Then a good surge protector to protect the controllers.


A heater could potentially last many many years. Some, a few days. YMMV

Only problem with a heater failure is they are usually deadly failures. If they are fully submerged they often start leaking and could at best shock you and at worse electrocute you. GFCI is a must. The leaking voltage could cause all sorts of issues with life in the tank.

Sometimes they just burst and at best leak nasty stuff into the water that again life in the tank won't like. And at worse the side of the tank its by cracks and drains out all the water. And at the very worse cause a fire. CAFCI is highly suggested here. GFCI won't be enough at times.

Then most common is they get stuck on which at best if you don't scale down the heater and run multiple of them or don't have redundant heat controllers is your tank runs a little hotter then normal stressing your tank inhabitants. At worse runs your tank a lot hotter then normal killing life in the tank.

And sometimes could get stuck off causing at best the tank to run a little cooler then normal or at worse a lot colder.

All will cause some kind of irritation and possible death or damage to something. All has happened and unfortunately will happen again to someone.


When dealing with equipment electrical safety should be thought of. When dealing with heaters this is multiplied as they are like shoving a toaster into your water with a thin protective layer over it that can be compromised.

My standard copy paste for electrical safety concerns and recommendation for a CAFCI and GFCI circuits.

On CAFCI, GFCI, and Surge Protection to protect your house, yourself, and your equipment.

I like redundancy and as much protection against equipment failures as possible. Things like Heaters and power strips in our hobby have created more havoc then necessary with the occasional fun dip of lights into the tank...


I would also suggest a CAFCI along with GFCI

CAFCI will help protect your house from fire
GFCI will help protect you from electrocution






And a good surge protector will help protect your equipment.

Individual one shown above. Tripplite makes some good ones. Be warned some newer surge protection devices will stop power from flowing all together once it can no longer provide surge protection. This is actually a good thing IMO for many things like computers/tv/etc but NOT a good thing, again IMO, for many other things like refrigerators, freezers, our aquariums, etc. Some will make an audible alarm when exhausted which is nice too.

Plus a whole home. None last forever and will need replaced eventually based on how many surges and intensity of surges they've been hit by. Surges can come from outside your home, not just lightening strikes, and from inside the home.

Eaton Ultra and SquareD hepd80 are a couple good whole home surge protectors.



Plus having more then one circuit with life support spread across them. I have two additional circuits then what's pictured above to my main tank on the first floor with GFCI at the receptacles so its easier to reset them if tripped. Then the two shown in the picture above go to my basement sump with the GFCI at the breaker. Along with being a CAFCI. There are also AFCI breakers but don't protect against as many arc faults as a CAFCI.

And don't get confused by combination AFCI (CAFCI). That doesn't mean it combines GFCI with it. The packaging has to specify GFCI as well to support both CAFCI and GFCI. Sometimes called dual.




Here's some visuals




And CAFCI protects against both of these where AFCI only parallel


In the US the NEC will typically require a class A GFCI protection in places like a bathroom (fishtank) which trips at 6mA. Some places like commercial applications can use class C, D, or E that trip at 20mA.

http://m.csemag.com/index.php?id=9575&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=102229&cHash=89c8746cdc4a7fd8a3cb93f1d51ba57a



So, to sum it up
I highly recommend at minimum two ways to control and more importantly stop the heater from running.
I highly recommend at least two heaters which means double the ways to control the heaters.
I highly recommend each heater on a completely separate electrical circuit
I highly recommend each circuit to be both CAFCI and GFCI and the use of a good surge protector
I recommend each circuit to be dedicated to the tank.
 

don_chuwish

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I've been using the 'dumb' Finnex Titanium with my Apex just fine, but I realize the danger there.
I just wish the 300W Jagers weren't so dang long. I don't have any bays in my sump that can take 20". Especially two of them.
For some QT tanks I've been using the preset 78f Aqueon heaters - very inexpensive, small, and so far I'm quite impressed. I think I have a 100, a 150 and a 200W - three different tanks all showing same temp. They max out at 200W though.
The Finnex HMO, HMA and HMX don't thrill me just because of the big chunky display/controller on the cord. Gotta manage that somewhere.
Neo-Therm - way too $$$ for me.
I'm kinda stuck.
 
Lazys Coral House

Areseebee

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I bought an ebo jager for my QT tank thinking I could just rely on the internal thermostat, I couldn't figure out what the heck it was doing. I tried to calibrate it but the natural fluctuations were like +/- 3 degrees so I gave up and bought a cheap temp controller to put it on. I still have nightmares that it just won't come on because of that internal thermostat which seems almost impossible to predict and horribly hysteretic. I wish there was more information about how it was SUPPOSED to be functioning so I could develop some intuition.
 
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randyBRS

randyBRS

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You guys keep posting videos on topics I've been posting about recently. Ha! I currently run two 800 watt Finnex Titanium heaters bought from BRS too.

So, I'm going to copy paste instead of retyping and I don't have a specific thread to point to this time.
**************************************************************
So, to sum it up
I highly recommend at minimum two ways to control and more importantly stop the heater from running.
I highly recommend at least two heaters which means double the ways to control the heaters.
I highly recommend each heater on a completely separate electrical circuit
I highly recommend each circuit to be both CAFCI and GFCI and the use of a good surge protector
I recommend each circuit to be dedicated to the tank.

I always love seeing your indepth analysis and input. :) Your approach to testing is much like what we try to achieve and in some cases, you out think what we would've!

Keep up the solid tests!


-Randy
(P.s.- I didn't get through your entire test just yet, but I'll give it the attention it deserves this weekend!)
 

salty150

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I am confused, lol.

Or I didn't watch the video correctly :)

After watching, I was under the impression that the Finnex TH Deluxe Titanium heater with an outboard heater controller (once calibrated) was the best option...?

It also has be best reviews on the BRS website...

:confused:
 
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120reefkeeper

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I previously ran the Colbalt Aquatics Neo therm heaters controlled by my Neptune Apex Classic. I set the temperature 2 degrees higher than my desired set point. I made sure my Apex temp probe was calibrated and even have a second probe in case of failure. I ran my system this way for about 1 year and my primary heater did fail and the apex caught it.
I think that you are correct in saying that the electronics in some models aren't designed to turn on and off thousands of times. I would also suggest that if you want to run a tank this way the Eheim Jager is the way to go. I have mine set to very about .3 of a degree and this set up works wonderful. You can also set up a backup heater the same way a few degrees lower to catch the temp if a failure occurs.
After 1 year I remove my primary heater and dispose of it and my backup now becomes my primary. I replace 1 heater each year this way.
Thanks again for a great video!

@benapilot
 

JoshuaBrown

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I have been having really good luck with The Inkbird Dual Stage Digital Temperature Controller (15.99):
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0152LYY0I/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
It's dual control, so heating and cooling. It's basically a fancy relay. Outputs 110v to power different equipment.
I use it in conjunction with an analog heater and 5v computer fan to keep my temps within 1 degree of set temp. And this combo of heater set to 80, with controller set to 79, creates redundancy if the heater or the controller fail. If they fail at the same time, good luck everyone.
It does have to be built into something. I used a plastic 2 receptacle box, and cut holes in the front for the controller, and receptacle holes in the back. It all barely fit, but it did, and it's clean.
~$30 in parts for a so far really reliable controller.
Initially I kept verifying it's temp (because china) with probes and infrared meters. It's solid.
Highly recommend.

When constructed:
20161104_121440.jpg


Now. Runs that fan.
20170324_231013.jpg
 

jason2459

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You can also get pre-wired inkbirds too for those not inclined to wire and box them up.
 

don_chuwish

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Looks like the Inkbird INK306T might be just what I need between the Apex and my 300W Finnex Titanium Tubes. At only $27 I really should have two, one per EB8, per heater. Oddly I'm more turned off by the added clutter than by the added $27.
Are the stainless steel temp probes really OK in saltwater?
 

tjnorthdakota

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So you guys brought up an interesting point about the finnex heaters temp probe interference from the heater since it was so close to the heating element. This brings up a question I have long wondered about were the best place to put the apex temp probe to control temp off of? If you put it in the sump and the heater is in the sump wouldn't it be warmer than the water in the tank, especially with all the pumps and other equipment running next to it? I have mine 3-4" down in my overflow box but I often wonder if I am getting the right temp or if heat from my metal halides might be interfering, warmer water rises after all.
 

don_chuwish

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So you guys brought up an interesting point about the finnex heaters temp probe interference from the heater since it was so close to the heating element. This brings up a question I have long wondered about were the best place to put the apex temp probe to control temp off of? If you put it in the sump and the heater is in the sump wouldn't it be warmer than the water in the tank, especially with all the pumps and other equipment running next to it? I have mine 3-4" down in my overflow box but I often wonder if I am getting the right temp or if heat from my metal halides might be interfering, warmer water rises after all.
As long as water is flowing through the sump at a decent rate I don't think it'll make much difference. That said, I have the probe 'upstream' from the heaters. I also have them turn off for a while at Feed A and Feed B since the flow stops.
 

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