Originally Posted by Joey02
Ok have emails a few places and I am awaiting replies.
Is a thermostat controller a must have from the get go? Could someone explain the difference between a dimmer and pulse version? Which is better suited?
Yes a thermostat controller is needed for any heating element going into the tank as it controls the element to make sure it doesn't overheat the enclosure and the animal. Also higher end ones have separate surge protection to help protect your electronics more from surges and prevents bulbs blowing more.
Thermostats come in three main variations. On/off, dimming or pulse. The all work based upon how the thermostat sends power from itself into the heating element to switch it on. Fairly obviously and on/off has two states it can switch the heating element, on or off. For a dimming it will allow a variable amount of voltage to pass through into the heating element so you would get the element turning on at different strengths, i.e. if the temperature is significantly over the target amount it will turn to 0%, if it is only slightly over it may reduce it down to 50%. Where as a pulse thermostat works by leaving the heating element on until it reaches the targeted temperature and will maintain this temperature by pulsing power into the heating element, turning it on and off rapidly.
Now each of the different variations will have different uses, for example you can't use a dimming thermostat with a combined heat and UVB lamp as UVB lamps need a high amount of energy to start the initial chain reaction and most reptile ones are not designed with a dimmable electronic ballast. But also heating elements that are designed to only have on or off states such as radiator style heating elements as they require cool down and heat up times.
Pulse thermostats can be generally attached to the types of heating elements that have only on or off states, but don't require cool down and heat up times so they can be more efficiently controlled. While you can use spot lamps and the likes on pulse thermostats, I would advise against it as the most stressful time for the bulb is turning it on and off, especially at higher temperatures. So by pulse power through you can significantly reduce the lifespan of the bulb, this is more apparent in cheaper or more poorly designed bulbs, like own-brands and Exoterras.
For the standard white spot lamp used for beardies it is best suggested to go for a dimmer thermostat as it prolongs the life of the bulb and can be more efficient. One thing to note is the fact that all thermostats measure air temperatures via their sensors and do not measure surface temperature. So while you are targeting the basking surface temperature of 45C, if you set up the thermostat to be 45C you will risk it going well above that temperature. Hence why it is best to pick up an IR temperature gun as well and in the set-up phase of the tank work out what the correct setting is for the thermostat in comparison to the surface temperature. In my old bearded dragon set-up it was set in its location for 22C and on the slate surfaces temperature went up to 46C.