The Winterization of My GOC

Dr O

Veterinarian
hello all,

i would like to continue to show the evolution of my GOC (Giant Outdoor Cage). for those unfamiliar with it, the construction can be seen here https://www.chameleonforums.com/my-new-goc-85088/. the region of Florida that i live in on the east-central coast has a much different climate than south Florida; it changes about 100 miles south of where i live. much cooler weather overall, 40-50° nights in winter months with the rare freeze, and 55-75° days. before i had built the GOC i thought that i would be bringing them indoors for the winters into my mother-in-law suite, but the functionality of the GOC has been so conducive to their overall health and bringing that many chams indoors for a few months had it’s own set of headaches, so i decided that i would modify the enclosure to keep them outdoors year-round.

the original basics of what i would need were 2 things; some kind of siding and roof that would be waterproof and allow me to have UVB lights in the enclosure, and heat sources. that became undoable as i started to put together how many electrical components were necessary with their watering system. the risk of electrocution for them or myself was too high. at that point i began looking at UVT (ultraviolet-transmitting) materials. although common knowledge has it that the UVA and UVB spectrum is completely blocked by glass or plastic, that isn’t necessarily true. some modified plastics and glass allow partial transmission, and others can be designed to allow full pass-through of the wavelengths. zoos and greenhouses are good examples of situations that require these materials. after weeks of research, emails and phone calls i had decided on Acrylite Alltop which is a multi-channeled plastic that allows over 98% of the necessary rays to pass through, but is also UV protected so that it won’t break down, brittle or yellow. as the enclosure is 10’x20’ i was planning on using it just for the roof and clear tarps for the sides. since it would be a seasonal situation, the manufacturer was going to cut it into six 11’x4’ sections that when laid out would cover the roof as well as providing an 1’ rain overhang on all four sides. the material was going to be extruded and cut in Toronto and then trucked down to Florida. i devised a system to attach the pieces together so that they would be lightly bolted down but could be easily removed and accordion-folded at the end of the season for easier storage. it was quite pricey, but i didn’t see any other options that were less expensive or reusable. so i placed the order.

in the meantime i had ordered clear, polyethylene, reinforced tarps for the four sides. they were attached to the tops with zipties for seasonal removal, had several eyebolts and hooks along each edge to hold it in place but still allowing air to circulate freely, and 2x4’s were placed along the bottoms so that they could be rolled up and held by bungee cords at the top when the weather was better. for the tarp over the door there is a wonderful $8 product sold at hardware stores that essentially allows you to adhere a zippered opening onto a tarp and then the tarp is cut, so one can pass though a zippered opening to enter the enclosure

as we were putting the tarps up on a sunny October day i decided to see how much UVB they were blocking as polyethylene should block almost 100% of the essential rays. to my utter shock, the tarps blocked about 75% of the rays but the 25% transmission in the Florida sun was still 5-10x as much UVB as a Reptisun 5.0 or Powersun/Active UVB lamp!! my immediate reaction was that the Solarmeter was malfunctioning, but holding up any glass or other plastic material that we had around did drop the level to 0% transmission. this was completely unexpected, and as an additional tarp for the roof cost literally less than 1% of the Acrylite Alltop i quickly ran to the phone and cancelled the order in time. by that point i had several conversations with some of the technical staff at Acrylite and when i told them what happened with the tarps they were as surprised as i was. one of the techs even worked on it for several days, and came back to me with the information that my tarps should indeed have been blocking all the rays and the fact that at least 25% was passing through just was not in their databank. finally a second UVB meter confirmed exactly what mine was reading, so the direction changed again. i bought a tarp for the roof, eyebolts and hooks for the edges and a 2x4 to roll it up when not needed. some slits were made in the roof tarp to allow rainwater to flow through and not puddle up.

with tarps covering the sides and roofs a wonderful greenhouse effect was produced, so a typical 65° day would be 78-80° in the enclosure while also keeping the humidity in the 60-70% range from the 4-5x daily watering. however i still needed a source of heat for the really cold nights. i wound up buying two midwave infrared heaters and stands that are the most powerful one can buy without access to a 220v outlet. i ran two 12g extension cords from separate circuits into the enclosure, used waterproof covers over the plug connections, stabilized them on the slightly uneven ground, and then had 3000w of very directional heat. on a 50° night they would throw the heat 12-15’ to a comfortable 65°. however, as the enclosure is 20’ long, it still wasn’t enough for the colder nights when they occurred. luckily i already own a 40,000 BTU patio heater that runs off of propane tanks, so when that was brought in i was finally set. i needed to even keep the propane heater on the low setting since the heat was not only thrown in a 360° circle but also gave off a tremendous amount of ambient heat. it was no problem at all to heat the enclosure into the 60’s or higher on a mid-30° night. when burned, propane turns into water and carbon dioxide molecules, but designing the enclosure with all edges slightly open and my breezy backyard there was no problem with any concern over CO2 buildup. the greenhouse effect worked so well during the day that i never once had to run any daytime heat. through the last 6 months i have refilled my propane tanks about a dozen times. while a PITA, at least it wasn’t terribly expensive at about $15/refill.

everything has worked like a champ thus far. however, those cold nights would still make me nervous enough that i rarely slept, constantly checking the temperatures or replacing a low propane tank. if it was a 48 hour cold snap or less i would use the system, but if it was going to be 3 days or longer then i wound up bringing everyone indoors due to the cost of keeping them outside and my lack of sleep. the guest bedroom and several of the large, 6-compartment collapsible cages that i have sold at shows worked perfectly for some temporary indoor housing. i would rely on hand misting and non-aggressive insects to feed them, but typically kept it dark in the room so that they mostly just slept the few days away.

an addition made to the enclosure unrelated to the winter situation but not shown on the previous thread was a method of placing a visual barrier between cages. after coming up with several ideas and options, i decided on this plan. i bought a roll of the green “SunShade” material that is sold in hardware stores, many dowels, a gallon of polyurethane and fasteners. i brought the fabric to a local tailor and had them cut the sheets to my specifications and sew channels into the top and bottom for the dowels. after i cut the dowels to size rather than paint them over and over i just soaked them all for about two weeks in a plastic tub with the gallon of polyurethane, rotating them around every day so that some would be drying while others soaked. doing this repeatedly added a very thick layer in and on the surface of the entire dowels which are exposed to water constantly. i then pre-drilled one end of the dowels after they had dried, and attached them to the hardware cloth enclosure using 5” lag screws and some large washers. the final result in an excellent visual barrier that still allows air flow and should withstand the elements for some time.


the entire tarped enclosure:
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the zippered door:
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close-ups of the tarp material, attachments, ventilation and roof rain slits:
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infrared and propane heaters on at night (different positional setups were tried):
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sample piece of Acrylite Alltop:
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(to be continued)
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
the GOC with all sides and roof rolled up during nice weather:
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Solarmeter 6.2 levels outside, full sun:
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outside, full shade:
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inside tarped enclosure full sun:
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inside tarp and screen cage, full sun:
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inside tarp and screen cage; full shade:
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greenhouse effect inside on a 63° dry day:
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the cage visual barrier system:
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calling all reptiles for a winter enclosure!:
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and that is that!! if i happened to have a nesting female she and her cage were separated from the others and placed under standard bulbs, otherwise everything worked out quite well. the replacement of the Acrylite with the tarp was a huge bonus pricewise and assembly-wise, but i’ll take it after all of the other expenses. as always, i am happy to answer any questions or heed any advice. i hope you enjoyed this thread, and perhaps it may be of specific use to anyone building a similar enclosure.


dr. o—
 

babyjoe

New Member
That is an amazing set up is love to have an outdoor cage but in Ireland even the summer would be too cold.do you cover the cages individually at night or does the night time heaters affect them sleeping at all
 

reptoman

Avid Member
At your current level of obsession, I can see a future metal building /field house with a retractable roof replacing your GOC, lol. Looks great!
 

vgaines

Member
I just have to ask... What kind of flowering plants do you have in your enclosures?

I think that your GOC is awesome. Great job and great thread...:cool:

Never mind on the flowers. After taking a closer look I think they are fake...lol
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
no, the cages have never been covered unless i have a particularly shy female laying.

yes, fake plants. as the cages are suspended real plants and potted soil are too heavy for the bottoms.
 

coldbloodedAL

Avid Member
Very nicely done Doc!

Few questions... If you don't mind me asking, How much was the transmissive plastic you were going to use? I realize expensive, but could be a great alternative being up here in the cold north for a cham outhouse.

Two, What brand tarps are those that you use?
 

Saldarya

Established Member
Outstanding Info Dr. O. I live in a very similar climate (South Central Louisiana) and have been looking into options, In addition to above questions, can you share a bit more as to where you got the tarps from as well as the infra red heaters.

In addition, what if any issues do you deal with in the deep heat of the summer. It is not unusual here for July/August days to get to 95+.

Misters around the enclosure possible to cool down the area? Thanks!

Bobby
 

maxttu

New Member
I love the detail in your pics and description! This is almost to a "T" what I have envisioned building this summer. I'll def be using some of your ideas and modifying to fit my needs. Great write-up!
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
I love the detail in your pics and description! Great write-up!

thanks, max! you know it’s the teacher in me….:p


This is almost to a "T" what I have envisioned building this summer. I'll def be using some of your ideas and modifying to fit my needs.


wow, that’s pretty cool! you know i’m happy to advise anything i can, and i’m sure i’ll pick up some ideas from you. nice that the idea is universal. :)

it’s been so much fun to work all of this out from scratch. it’s not like there are ready-made kits out there or any diy’s that universally apply. it’s been a good time thinking this whole thing out.

my one mistake…..i should have gone bigger. i’m practically bursting at my seams already unless i go double-decker. which i can and still allows great sun for everyone (was in the original design idea), but the gutters and water barriers necessary will be a pain. since it was designed to be modular i can just expand it out in various ways in two directions, but i’ve been playing around with another completely different cage design in my head lately. anyway, point is that i can expand but i wish that being not even one year old i would have made it bigger from the get go. though i’ll tell you what, that thing looked freakin’ HUGE when it was first built and empty!! :D
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
Outstanding Info Dr. O. I live in a very similar climate (South Central Louisiana) and have been looking into options, In addition to above questions, can you share a bit more as to where you got the tarps from as well as the infra red heaters.

In addition, what if any issues do you deal with in the deep heat of the summer. It is not unusual here for July/August days to get to 95+.

Misters around the enclosure possible to cool down the area? Thanks!

Bobby


hi bobby, (you do know i’m a tulane/lsu vet school alum? i freakin’ LOVE la!)

tarpaflex.com has an awesome assortment of tarps, i don’t think i paid any shipping charges, and they were here quick. the tarps that i bought and apparently even stumped the phd’s at Acrylite are here http://www.tarpaflex.com/acatalog/clear-heavy-duty-tarps.html. i also notice the prices went up by a few bucks, but compared the the terrible selections and 3x the price tarps at wal-mart or the depot, this was the best site i found.

i know what you mean about the weather, i lived there for 10 years, most summers included. we’ll get that heat right around august, and i have 2 nozzles in the cages, a 5 spoked “waterfall” dripper and a mister/fogger (yes, that is what that model is called since it’s right in-between). the fogger is amazing about cooling things down, so between the timer and me occasionally hitting a button they've done just fine. the big difference is that you’re much more humid than we are. since melbourne is on the coast, pretty much every afternoon a cooling effect occurs due to the ocean winds. and that’s during the hottest hours and it helps significantly. just thinking further, heavy misting in la is tough since with the humidity excessive mistings may increase chances of respiratory or fungal issues. something to think about.

the heaters and stands are sold separately. i bought the first one from a vendor which took so long that when i realized i would need at least two, i purchased the second from amazon for virtually the same price. i did look at heaters a lot, and these are outdoor/moisture approved, as hot as one breaker can handle, and for me the best benefit was the “mid-wave” infrared. i had mentioned that we have a pretty breezy backyard, and infrared is unaffected by air movement. so on the stands they were ideal. there are many heat options; forced air, radiant panels, many propane/reflector systems, radiators. for anyone doing a “winterization”, think about all of the options there are as every one has a pretty good pro/con list for your application. here’s mine:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/UFO-1500...-Electric-Infrared-Heater-Unit-S-15/202849234
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
At your current level of obsession, I can see a future metal building /field house with a retractable roof replacing your GOC, lol. Looks great!

except the roof would have to be made of Acrylite!! do you know how much that would cost??

but you’re right, i am headed that way……..;)
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
Very nicely done Doc! you don't mind me asking, How much was the transmissive plastic you were going to use? I realize expensive, but could be a great alternative being up here in the cold north for a cham outhouse.

tell you what, i’ll PM you the details. and if someone else wants to ask me about it for a project that they’re working on please PM me, but i probably don’t need it out here for posterity. :cool:
 

maxttu

New Member
Series of questions:

1. Which tarp did you go with? I went to the link above and there are so many options!

2. The heater- instead of using the stand, do you think that I can suspend it from the ceiling? Do you think one is sufficient fro a 12x10 enclosure? I'm in Houston and we get into the upper 20's (rarely) - lower 30's occasionally...

3. I might have missed it, but how TALL is your enclosure? I'm thinking 7ft max for my setup. Two foot base, 4 ft enclosures, 1 foot of clearance for lighting, misters, etc...

4. I remember you mentioning something about the ground being uneven. Did you do any leveling of the surface?

5. You also mentioned and illustrated that your tarps do not overlap, creating gaps. This is still good enough to retain most of the heat? How much more heat could you retain if you overlapped the tarps? Could you perhaps do away with at least one of your heaters?

I think that's it for now. Sorry for all of the questions... :eek:
 
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Pap

Member
very impressive... I only have one cham right now but i could totally see myself at this point sometime later on down the road... love it.!
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
Series of questions:

1. Which tarp did you go with? I went to the link above and there are so many options!

2. The heater- instead of using the stand, do you think that I can suspend it from the ceiling? Do you think one is sufficient fro a 12x10 enclosure? I'm in Houston and we get into the upper 20's (rarely) - lower 30's occasionally...

3. I might have missed it, but how TALL is your enclosure? I'm thinking 7ft max for my setup. Two foot base, 4 ft enclosures, 1 foot of clearance for lighting, misters, etc...

4. I remember you mentioning something about the ground being uneven. Did you do any leveling of the surface?

5. You also mentioned and illustrated that your tarps do not overlap, creating gaps. This is still good enough to retain most of the heat? How much more heat could you retain if you overlapped the tarps? Could you perhaps do away with at least one of your heaters?

I think that's it for now. Sorry for all of the questions... :eek:


1. that link takes you directly to the clear poly tarp page, they just list about 50 different sizes. but it’s all the same tarp.

2. yes, it’s designed to be mounted directly on a wall or ceiling without the stand and has several tilting points that it can be locked into. initially i thought i would do that, but the placement wasn’t working well enough so i bought the stands. however, i don’t think it’s enough heat for you. despite their claims, i will say that it’s heat probably travels significantly enough to a 8-10’ maximum, and it’s really a direct line. they give off a tiny amount of ambient heat but not nearly enough to add ambient heat to an enclosure. the manufacturer advises against buying several of too small of a model vs. one larger one that will really throw the heat, but you will need 220 outlets for those models. 2 of these 110v were still not enough and i was never even close to the temps that you are talking about.

3. it’s 8’ high, discussed in the original build thread. 10x20x8. that’s part of it’s modular build as the lumber comes in 8’ lengths and don’t need to be cut to any size.

4. no. it’s not bad, just a grassy yard that slopes a bit. but i just can’t risk a heater tipping over for whatever reason and causing all sorts of mayhem. so i just weighted the legs down on the stand, but the stands can be screwed into place for whatever surface you are on, just means less mobility if needed. i had also put tent stakes though those holes.

5. well, i wanted ventilation to some extent even before i went with the propane addition, particularly with the amount of water that is created in there. many heat sources can give off some sort of byproduct fumes, except pure electric like radiators or infrared. if the top had been the Acrylite it would have insulated much, much more than the tarp did. the tarps themselves certainly provide some insulation but not much. bottom line, even if i had shut it up tightly i don’t think the 2 infrareds would have been enough, particularly if i were fighting agains 20-30° weather. and needless to say, a power outage or malfunction would equal dead lizards very quickly. i have a remote thermometer so i can check the temps while i’m inside my house, but am still looking for one with an alarm if the temperature falls or exceeds a certain level.
 
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