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Old 01-01-2012, 08:13 PM
EvilLost EvilLost is offline
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Default Designing a Vivarium Controller: What features/price do YOU want?

Hey all,

In building a "high end" enclosure for my panther chameleon, I have been researching controllers.....and they are lacking....severely.

Please educate me if I am missing anything but our options are....

1) Ecozone (VERY pricy)
2) Various REEF controllers (also pricy and not specifically designed for our use)
3) Individual controllers per unit (separate lighting timer, pump timer, thermoterer, etc).

Due to this issue, I have been looking into designing a more useful vivarium controller that is more of a "mid-market" price point. Currently things like the ECOZONE are awesome, but the price is just absurd imho (and probably partly due to the complete lack of competition).

Long story short, I have been working with a friend recently in possibly designing a mid-level vivarium controller for use in frog, chameleon, and other vivaria...

I would like your feedback on features, price points, and the like that would interest you.

Currently, I am working with the following considerations:
-Temp/humidity probes
-Multiple (4?) power outlets
-INDIVIDUALLY programmable dimmable timers (to the 1 second) for EACH outlet.
-Water/humidity proof casing

Other considerations:
-LCD/LED screen?
-Remote control / Internet controls

I am looking at 2 initial models, "basic" (price point) and "everything" (performance)


1) What do you consider to be *NECESSARY* features (ie things the "basic" model MUST have)?

2) How important is a DISPLAY on the unit? Is a visual showing of current temp/humidity(/time?) really worthwhile for everyday use? I realize the benefit of a screen when PROGRAMMING the unit, however this aside, is there really any benefit to it?

3) Do you need to CHANGE the programming often? (I am assuming it would be, roughly, a set once and forget it kind of thing).

3a) Does it matter to you HOW you program it? (If you have to use your computer, use LEDs/buttons on the device itself, use an LCD on the device, etc). ***This can affect the final cost substantially and is why I ask in conjunction with question 3. If a drop in price is worth a tiny headache in programming since you only do it once as I am assuming, it seems to be worth the price drop.

4) HOW MANY outlets do you typically need for *ONE* enclosure? I am currently assuming 1 water, 1 power. I realize chameleon enclosures in specific tend to have 2 lights; do most of you need 3 outlets?

5) What price point would be reasonable for a "basic" or "everything" model? I am currently aiming/hoping for roughly $139 and $199....are these still too high to warrant their use?

6) 1 vivarium controller per enclosure is my current design. Is this foolish? I am looking at high-end large-scale vivs that would need to be individually controlled, but that is simply what I work with. Those of you with LARGE frog or chameleon (or w/e) you have any desire for a master controller or somesuch? What controls (consistent factors) do you have among your tanks (generally, I would guess sunrise/sunset/humidity/etc would be mostly the same, at least on a per-species level). What factors are DIFFERENT / unique to each individual tank that would not/should not be controlled by a master controller? How beneficial is the modular ability to add additional temp/humidity probes?

7) How important is a built-in DIMMING function / timer ? To me, this is essential...but perhaps it is not necessary for a "basic" model?

8) Would it be plausible to require a 24/7 always on PC connection for the unit to work properly? Or would such a requirement be a "deal breaker"? One consideration currently is to have the entire unit controlled and programmed by the PC, but this would require a PC that is always on and always connected to the unit to receive/analyze the data.

9) Are there any SPECS in particular that are of high importance? If so, please tell me the spec and WHY it is of importance. Minimum voltage/amperage requirements, types of dimming signals, etc etc.

10) For those who do have experience with other vivarium controllers (ESPECIALLY reef-controllers or high-end viv controllers such as the Ecozone) can you tell me the best and (more importantly) WORST features of these controllers? What are they doing wrong or simply not doing that they SHOULD be doing?

Thanks for the input all!

Please direct any private questions or comments to me via PM or email me at [email protected], but I would appreciate all comments openly on this thread
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