Heating mat question

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I have been thinking about purchasing a heating mat for next year. The cost made me gasp! I don't want to invest such a large sum of money in something that will last only a season or two. Could y'all let me know how long I can expect one to last?

Thanks for your help.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

I have 2 heating mats-one holds one flat, and the other holds 2 flats- yes they are pricey, but I have hed mine for several years and they still work fine. It is best to have a thermostat for them, but I never did-they are high, too! You will get your moneys worth- it makes a huge difference in germination-especially with peppers & tomatoes

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Hi HoneybeeNC, I bought two heating mats 5 years ago for $20.00 apiece at a Menards store here in Chicago. They are the ones that hold 1 flat. They come with a plastic tray that holds the heating mat and you can insert another tray with your seedlings on top of that. You can use the mat with the holding tray or without. The mats work great and hold up very well; mine look brand new. I can't say the same for the holding tray, it's thin plastic and the corners started to tear at the bottom. But Duck Tape can fix anything!

I don't know the going rate for mats now but as for their durability, I've used mine for going on 6 years now.

Here's a pic of the kind I got.

Toni

Thumbnail by toni5735
Lombard, IL(Zone 5a)

Toni- I just purchased the same exact mats from my local Menard's store and they were $20 each, but that was for the mat only, no trays. I too wondered how long these things are expected to last. I was encouraged to know that your mats have lasted 6 years and still look new.

Honeybee- I checked amazon.com before I bought mine and they're all in the $20 range, pretty much. The mats that Toni and I have are the Hydrofarm brand. I could use another mat or two, so if you stumble across any that are cheaper, please let me know.

Good luck!


Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Thanks for all the replies. You've given me tthe confidence I needed to purchase one.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I bought my 48" heating mat this year and I wish I did before.
My seedlings sprouted so much faster and they are so healthy and willing to grow on top of the mat.
I really suggest to also buy the thermostat, otherwise the mat will get too hot.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

drthor - thanks for the update. I've put a heating mat and thermostat on my Christmas wish list.

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Honeybee I have four 48 inch ones and Drthor is correct the mats are much better with a thermostat because the way they work is they sense the ambient temp and heat it to about 20 degrees more.If you are using it in a house at 70 it will heat to 90 and thats to hot even for peppers to do well.

One way to beat the heat without a thermostat is raise the flat above the mat and let some air flow in. How far can be determined with a thermometer.Ernie

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm going to cruise Goodwill and Salvation Army for an aluminium cookie sheet. I only have one heating pad (10"x20") and four trays of inserts. Even when I buy another pad, i wnat to spread the heat around.

I got two squares of drywall (2'x2') from Home Depot for bottom insulation, and I figure that doubles the amount of heat that goes up.

Corey

Helena, MT

I have two 48" heating mats and one theromostat which I never use. I also have two heating mats from Growers Supply which I use in my garage which stays around 50 degrees. The Growers Supply heating mats do not come with a thermostat and can get pretty hot so I use a timer with these. One thing I should point out about Growers Supply is there shipping prices are exorbant in some cases. Always check first before you make your purchase. They will gouge you if you don't and they will negotiate on shipping if you don't like the price.

Rochester, IL

I have found these soil heating mats to be identical to the foot heating mats often used by office workers. I bought five foot heating mats a couple years ago over the Internet from some discounter for $10 apiece, and got some shelving at Menards to put below them so they weren't touching the shelf.

The pads will heat up to around 100 degrees. Seedlings need a range from 68 to 86 depending on the plant. I have found raising the beds four inches above the mats does the job, but a thermometer is essential.
I picked up a small Air King fan with a clip to attach to a shelf that worked great for circulating the air. And used cinnamon powder to conteract the dying off fungus.

Thumbnail by lukerw
Carmel, IN(Zone 5b)

I've got the same mat/tray setup from Menard's that Toni has. I've had mine for 2 years and really like it. I agree the plastic tray is a little flimsy, but so far it's holding up OK.

I also have a 2-tray Hydrofarm heat mat. My first one only lasted 2 years before it just died; I hope my new one holds up better (I'm currently starting my 2nd season with it). I don't use a thermometer, and so far it hasn't been an issue.

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

A couple of years ago there was a co-op for the Hydrofarm Heat Mat for about $39 through Grower's Solution. I see they offer the two tray 20"x20" for $41.95 with free shipping. http://growerssolution.com/page/GS/PROD/heatmats/MT10008 The one tray mat is 9" x 19 1/2" and costs $31.95 with shipping. http://growerssolution.com/page/GS/PROD/heatmats/MT10008
The two tray one is definitely a better bargain.
One can maybe find the same mat cheaper on the Internet but then the shipping makes them more expensive. I have had my first mat for at least 6 years and the new one from Grower's Solution for 2 years. Never had a problem with either of them and don't use a thermostat. They make all the difference in germination.
I am editing to add Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Hydrofarm-MT10006--19-1-2-Inch-Seedling/dp/B0001WV010/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1302398092&sr=8-1) as an even better deal since they also offer free shipping on items over $25 and offer the two tray one for $37.65 which is like getting 2 one tray mats for about $18.83 each - not bad at that rate!
Even better is the 48" x 20" for $55.79 which should accommodate 4 trays. That would be equivalent to 4 one tray mats at $13.95 each! If I didn't already have 2 2 tray mats I would opt for the largest one.

This message was edited Apr 9, 2011 9:29 PM

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

gardadore - thanks for posting the grow mat info.

Helena, MT

This may or may not be relevant to the discussion here but I was reading a thread started by and engineer "Russ" who was experimenting with those seed block makers and Russ actually placed the heater inside the tray or flat which held the seed blocks. He also used a layer of sand over the bottom of these trays to even out and get the maximum benefit of the heat pad. The plastic seed flats puss the grated inserts which many of us use can lose much of the benefit of the heat mats based on their design. The flats have several dimples on the bottom and groves inside which tends to reduce the amount of transfer heat. The ambient temperatures of my germination areas are either 60 or 50F and starting hot peppers requires a different approach for me since these heat mats do not provide the warmth necessary to get good germination of the pepper seeds. I use peat pots to germinate my tomato and pepper seeds, and I place up to twenty seeds per pot. I prefer to use a flat, square ceramic dish which holds four of the 3.5 inch square peat pots for both tomato and pepper seed germination. I water these peat pots initially with warm water containing a 1:32 dilution of hydrogen peroxide to water since I use grated spent vermiculture media as my germination mix. I have found that maintaining a layer of water in the bottom of the ceramic dish also helps, even in addition to misting the surface of the peat pots three times a day. Mold or dampening off has not been a problem with the use of hydrogen peroxide, but I have a small fan available if necessary to combat these problems if they should occur. So, for what it's worth, I think these heat mats are beneficial in germinating all types of seeds.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

My daughter purchased a windowsill heat mat for me as a Christmas gift, so I'm going to experiment with this.

http://www.amazon.com/Hydrofarm-MT10004-Windowsill-Heat-Mat/dp/B0044U4F5I/ref=sr_1_1?s=garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1325174140&sr=1-1

My garden room's air temperature is usually in the 50's during the winter months, so if this mat heats up the soil into the 70's that should be good enough to start vegetable seeds. I'll invest in a larger mat later, if I like this trial period.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I am very fond of my heating mat.
I am sure you will like it. My heating mat is now set at 85 degrees for the tomatoes.
If you will buy a larger one you may consider on investing on a termostat too. The heating mat can get really really hot.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

drthor - do you know what your ambient air temperature is where you use the heat mat? I'm assuming from what you wrote that the thermostat prevents the mat from getting too hot.

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

I'm using mine right now in the greenhouse to set my Elephant Ear, an Avocado tree and bottles of rain water on to keep them warmer during the winter. Works great in that situation. Come late February or March I will start my tomatoes and peppers using it. Since it stays cooler in the GH it really doesn't get too hot for the seedlings. I used it last year inside a spare bedroom with no thermometer and the seedlings just burnt up, hardly any germination.

Doug

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

HoneybeeNC
My growing shelf is in my laundry room. So it is normally at the temperature of the house.
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers and okra sure love the extra heat.
My mat is 4' long and I don't know if : bigger the mat = hotter the mat ... but I really did toast the seeds before using the thermostat ...
Definetly it is worth it a lot. My tomato seeds germinatd in 3 days !!!

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Sounds like Hydrofarm has come out with a new size, Honeybee. I had not seen the window sill version but it sounds very practical. I have had my two Hydrofarms for years and wouldn't be without them in the spring. I wish you all happy sowing as well as a productive NEW YEAR!!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I'm on a budget. So, last January, I sowed my seeds into potting mix that I sterilized in the microwave. It was warm to the touch when I sowed the seeds. I immediately watered them gently with WARM water. Then I quickly shoved the flats into large plastic hospital bags with the drawstrings and left just a tiny vent for some air. The bags fogged up. Then, I put them on the floor under my light shelf, in the dark, in the warmest room in my house.

They popped all at once. On the third day....in the dark...no heat mat.

Just used the free heat I had available....

Out of 212 seeds sown, 212 came up. 208 made it into healthy seedlings. 4 perished only because by the time I had potted up the 208 and looked over at the 4 remaining runts, I was weary enough to just toss them.

"Murder, she wrote..."

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from Gymgirl :
I'm on a budget.


The simplest (and cheapest) "heating mat" I've ever used was a shelf placed above a set of fluorescent lights I was using to keep some tender plants alive through the winter. It worked fine, but you have to play with the spacing to control the heat.

-Rich

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I also love my heating mat. Don't recall what brand, but I got it from Home Depot 6 years ago, and it is still going strong. it holds one flat. I don't have a thermostat. It sits on a wire shelf with the flat on top of it. As soon as the toms or pepper's pop up, they get moved off the mat (only one heat mat, and too many seedlings to start). My toms & pepper germination has been near 100% since I purchased the heat mat. My laundry room, where I start seeds, gets down to 40 at night during the winter. My wire seed shelf setup gets covered with plastic and the heat mat mitigates the temps inside by a degree or two.

Have fun experimenting with your new heating mat.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Thanks for all the good wishes and experiences with heating mats. I'm going to have fun experimenting.

Gymgirl - I know what you mean about being on a budget. I just finished my end-of-year tally, and there's only a little over $500 between my opening and closing balances! BUT - I'm in the "black" - YAY!

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

In the Black is Good!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Translation: "I have enough left to go buy a heat mat -- or, two!" ^^_^^

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Check out the Amazon link I posted above since the costs are still low and you don't pay postage on any order over $25. The mat for one tray is $21.99. They offer the three sizes so just click on the one you are interested in to bring up the current price. That still seems to be the best price around for the Hydrofarm mats that I have found! Happy growing everyone in the New Year!! I won't begin until end of March with seeding so envy you in the south for being able to think about it now!! I'm still compiling lists and ordering seeds!

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

What a timely thread! I have gift cards to Amazon. Let the shopping begin!

Ramona, CA(Zone 9b)

The temperatures here swing 20-30 degrees a day and my seeds will not be in the house this year, so I think I should consider a thermostat.

How do the thermostats typically work? Are some heating mats sold with a built-in thermostat or is the thermostat always a separate purchase.. or ?

This message was edited Jan 4, 2012 9:02 PM

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

The thermostat I bought at Amazon has a probe on the end of a wire that you place where you want the temperature measured. I believe that would be best put between the mat and the middle flat, to avoid cooking your seeds. The thermostat itself plugs into the wall and has an outlet into which the mat is plugged. There is a digital readout and controls on the front to set the temperature. Pretty simple really.

Ramona, CA(Zone 9b)

Thanks rjogden. I was wondering how a separate thermostat would know the temperature of the mat, so the probe makes sense. The digital readout sounds nice and simple as you say. It seems like it would be even simpler if someone would just make a mat with a built-in thermostat. But I guess this way, they can sell us more products. :)

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Actually it is better to insert your probe (Rich) directly into the soil of one of your flats or pots. This way the thermostat measures the temperature of the soil, not the temperature of the mat itself. All things being equal (size of pots or flats, depth of soil, etc) having the probe in a flat or pot with that one telling the thermostat to turn off and on then all the other flats/pots will be that temperature as well.

Tleaves, they do may mats, as well as heating cables, that have built in thermostats but usually those are the ones they turn off at a preset factory given temp. Those will be ones that show "heats soil 20 degrees above ambient temperature". Ideally you'll want a minimum of 70 for most veggie seed germination; if your room is 40 degrees those mats would be hard-pressed to bring your soil temperature past 60.

Shoe

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

A tip I read recently suggested inserting the probe into a pot of soil that does not contain seeds so as not to disturb the roots.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Yep, you can do that, Honeybee. The "probe pot" should be the same size as other pots or trays being used on the heat mat though so you know the soil temps in all trays are the same.
As for me, I've used probe thermostats for more years than I care to admit and have never damaged any seeds or roots, the probe is very slim and easily slides in or out of the medium.

Shoe

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

Glad your're not a Proctologist Shoe!

Doug

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Hah! *grinnin' here...
Nope, definitely not my line of work!

Hope you're warm over your way.

Shoe (who's favorite phone message was, "Shoe, the proctologist called. They found your head!") (heheh, I think someone was mad at me that day!) :>)

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

My version of that one "his head was so far up there, that I couldn't see his elbows!"

>> if your room is 40 degrees those mats would be hard-pressed to bring your soil temperature past 60.

I agree, but it helps to "keep the heat in" by putting insulation under and around the tray or pots. Drywall is good. You can keep a dome or film OVER the soil until seeds emerge, but then you have to let humidity out and fresh air in to prevent damping off.

Florescent lights won't heat the soil, but metal halide (not HID) or incandescent sure will. Beware cooking the seedlings!

Corey

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Hehehe, too funny, Corey. *grin

Ditto, what you said, about holding heat in. I keep my pots of rooting cuttings and such on a heat mat and in a plastic grocery bag with the top tied. This holds in heat very well. Opening the top from time to time to allow an air exchange and excess moisture out is necessary.

Shoe.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

I have scrounged several styrofoam Grape containers from our Winco store, and plan to use them as perimeter insulation for my seed flats that will be on the heat mat. They are the perfect shape and size. I'll take photos and post tomorrow. Sure getting antsy for Spring!

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