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Old 10-31-17, 08:58 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Black out / Power Outage

Hey all. So yesterday my neighborhood lost power for a little over 24 hours. It's the first time this has happened since I started keeping snakes.

I woke up and found the temp in my Corn snake's terrarium was 68 F. I totally freaked. I have an uninterruptible Power supply (UPS), but my Herpstat thermostat doesn't work with a UPS, even though it provides AC power. I had to run the RHP direct, driving it at 100% and draining the UPS in a little over an hour. It did buy me another couple hours at manageable temps, though.

After that heat dissipated, I hit Walmart, bought a sterilite tub and a ton of hand warmers. The terrarium is 4'x1'x2', so I figured I had a better shot at maintaining temps in a much smaller tub. I was able to keep her at 72 F, but 92% humidity (yuck!), for the duration.

The problem is, I'm really getting off on this snake keeping thing, as I'm sure you all understand, and I want to get more, and more interesting snakes. So perhaps the power outage was a blessing in disguise in that I can work out a solution should this happen in the future when I have more snakes that are more sensitive to temps.

Therefore, I'd like the communities input.

I have a few ideas. I could go the route of a UPC, but that would require a new thermostat. Does anyone know of a good quality thermostat that functions on AC power from a battery. For about $500 I could get a UPC that'd keep me running for at least 24 hours.

For about the same money I could also go the route of a portable gas generator. I've never used one and I'm unsure if thermostats can run on the power they supply. It could be used to run my freezer and fridge in addition to the snakes heaters, but then I may be investing in something that'll be used only very rarely, if at all. But the real drawback is that it'd require me to be aware that it's needed. If I were asleep or out for an extended stay that could be a problem. A UPC would take over without my intervention.

So what are your thoughts? What do you guys do to safeguard your animals?

Thanks!
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Old 10-31-17, 09:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

I am glad you caught the temps and was able to warmed your snake. I had been thinking of what if about power as I am just setting up my first snake cage in 20 years. I had thought about the hand warmers too. I don't know why the UPS doesn't work on the thermostat. I have never used one but it is on my list of what to get. I think I will put a UPS on the list. Now I may get yelled at for this so anyone tel me.As I wouldn't try it without asking a lot of questions But if you have a gas stove where the pilot stay on NOT turning the oven on AND leaving the door open could you put a snake in it. I only suggest it because I bake bread and use the oven with just the light on to help in bread rising when the temp in the kitchen is to low. Again I would NOT try it with a snake unless I heard from experts snake handlers that it was ok. I would be concerned about the fumes even with the door open a bit.
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Old 10-31-17, 10:40 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

It seems that these proportional thermostats need a specific "clean" or "pure" sine wave to work proportionally. The ones that are either on or off don't have these issues and can be used with a UPC.

Thinking on the issue.
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Old 10-31-17, 10:54 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

Thank you a lot for this thread, recently a neighborhood near me just lost power. I never really thought about it till now, but I should prepare temporary enclosures for all my herps. Thank you. In regards to your situation, do you have a friend or family member near you? It may be helpful to have plastic bins ready so you can bring them to their house temporarily. Sorry this happened, but I am glad to hear everybody is okay. Corn snakes can do pretty well in temperatures at about 65F for short periods of time, they have been known to hibernate in temperatures as low as 50F. Of course there is pre steps to take however. Additionally, I use a pellet stove to heat my house, it is cheaper then electric, and still provides no fumes. It also is not affected by black outs. If the power were to go out near me, I could move them into that room to keep them warm. If you have any species such as pythons or boas, it should be more important to have a back up plan. If you need anymore help, or have any questions feel free to ask.

Last edited by DJC Reptiles; 10-31-17 at 11:05 AM..
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Old 10-31-17, 11:34 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

I did find this on another forum board. Hot packs for power outage during cold

You want to use the 40 hour heat packs ONLY. They peak at a safe temperature.

The hand and foot warmer ones get way to hot and can harm your snake.

If the power outage is short, keeping the animal in its enclosure is fine. I did it for my ball pythons when I lived somewhere that we would lose power semi-often (once every 2 months or so). If the enclosure is good at retaining heat and humidity losing the hot spot for a few hours or overnight isn't a big deal.

If its for longer than that, a cooler (Styrofoam or plastic or whatever as long as its insulated) and putting some hot water bottles on the bottom and snake in pillow case or Tupperware) would probably be the best. You just want the animal to be able to keep warm.
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Old 11-01-17, 06:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

68F for a day or two isn't gonna hurt a colubrid.
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Old 11-01-17, 09:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

I actually ended up putting a 22Kw, whole house generator in my house last spring. While I didn't do is solely for my snakes, it was certainly part of my decision. We lost power for 12 hours during hurricane Irma and the generator kicked right. It runs off of natural gas and starts automatically after 15 seconds. I almost felt guilty having power and watching TV while all the neighbors were sitting in the dark. That said, I got over the guilt feeling and I'm very glad that I made the investment. Now, if we're out of town for a number of days, I know that my babies will not be left in the cold.
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Old 11-02-17, 09:24 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

A gas generator is a pretty slick! I have natural gas at my house also. I'll need to look into that.

I'm sure the corn is fine, but I was worried that the power outage would last more than 24 hours and/or that temps may sink below freezing. I live in the Northeast and it was late October, freezing temps at night are not uncommon.

I came up with this idea; So the terrarium is heated by an 80w RHP regulated by a Herpstat 2 (channel two is for the next snake and is presently controlling the lighting). Since the Herpstat can't run on a UPC, I'll set up a strip of flexwatt on the hot side of the terrarium under the hot hide. The flexwatt will be controlled by an inexpensive on/off thermostat (Zilla, Jump Start, or something like that) plugged into the UPC, on which it can run. That thermostat will be set to a temp lower than what the RHP maintains, say 80 degrees or so. So basically the flexwatt will never be on so long as the RHP is running.

In the event of a power outage, the Herpstat and RHP will go down. Once the temp drops significantly the flexwatt will kick in and maintain a reasonable temp in the hot hide. I understand that flexwatt is very efficient, using some 20 watts per square foot so the UPC should hold out for quite a while.

Just throwing this idea out there for people to pick apart or maybe adopt if they think it'll suit their situation.
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Old 11-03-17, 04:02 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

For a corn snake it's not actually that big of concern. I worry some if they just ate but usually that will lead to regurgitation without permanent damage (complications are possible) and they will still be fine after a short recovery period. With my house electrical system I've had entire power strips of heat lamps blow overnight. I was worried about investing in them with the frequency of bulbs going pop around here but CHE turned out to be far more durable to our electrical system. While they are naturally warmer and more humid climate snakes than most of what I have, I do have rosy boas with one originally Magdalena plains locale that is an extreme desert, corn snakes can be brumated in the 50s F like many other North American colubrids but you generally prepare them by letting the digestive tract empty and then bringing them to a normal room temp for awhile. That's why I'd worry if they got fed recently. Otherwise with my North American species it's not too big of concern. I have mammals that will die first and humans have killed themselves in winter trying to use various heat sources that need ventilation without doing so when everything would have been fine insulating what heat you can for a couple days. If you might face several week disasters in very cold temps then you probably should own a generator.

Beyond that aside from some less commonly kept unique species most on this continent evolved to sometimes have temp and humidity swings and to often cool down for months at a time unlike more tropical or species from more consistent climates. Unless I got something more demanding at most I'd keep some appropriate warming packs on hand since we do see subzero in winter but not typical store bought hand warmers. They can cause burns and making mistakes trying to heat a snake will kill it a whole heck of a lot faster than letting it get cool for even days provided we mean cool and not outright cold like Iowa winter and that we aren't talking tropicals. You can get long lasting, low temperature heat packs they use for shipping reptiles from online sources.
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Old 11-03-17, 01:33 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

I have mulled various options from a ups to a nice big generator. A ups to power my snake room would be mega bucks for anything that would power it for more than a couple of hours and a generator would need to be sited outside or have some form of exhaust outlet from the basement. This would not be too difficult to achieve and is something I may explore.

That said, power outages in UK cities are so very rare it's hardly worth the effort. The last I can remember was 2007 due to flooding and that lasted a couple of days.

Given the temperature in my basement is pretty constant I think I'd be better just getting a portable gas heater and heating the room for a while or just not bother at all and ride it out.

Snakes, even most tropical species, are very hardy - particularly when it comes to cooler temperatures. They are far more likely to die from being too hot for too long than too cold.
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Old 11-03-17, 04:11 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Black out / Power Outage

Normally it's no more than a day here and usually just a few hours so even in extreme cold the house doesn't drop that far. Enough to mess with my cold weather asthma but never near freezing the pipes even when it's -20F(-28C) out. There has only been one incident where our farm about a 30min highway drive from any large town lost power for 2 weeks because an ice storm broke the poles all the way down the line. They didn't have enough poles for all the damage across the state so we had to wait for them to get through the ice storm with trucks to bring in more from other locations. Luckily a heat wave followed the storm and it didn't even stay below freezing the whole time with the house having huge south facing windows on a hill so it could heat up to 90F occasionally in the dead of winter. I have a far draftier, shaded, low light old farmhouse now but it still hasn't gone lower than dig out all the blankets you can find. Even the massive flood where the state was basically one giant lake not that much lost power. Those without power generally were without a house too because it was flooded so bad they shut power off to those sections.

Usually by the time you truly need a generator here you've got more pressing problems but people just don't want to be uncomfortable and rely on blankets and hot water or they panic so every year they kill themselves with attempts to heat areas without ventilating heat sources that need it. There are plenty of deaths to the cold but they are usually not at home. It's people trying to travel during or after the storm that also took out the power. Some get out the snowmobile to take it down paths they never have in order to avoid the risk of getting a vehicle stuck in a ditch only to fall in water sources they didn't know about or plain get lost until they run out of gas too far from a house. In your house you are best off usually just waiting, insulating things with blankets or foam, reducing ventilation or not opening fish tanks/cages, and using minor, safe heat sources to avoid extremes that might trigger hibernating animals and similar until the power returns. I had african hedgehogs that die if they attempt tupor because they lost the ability but not the trigger when spreading to warmer climates. Most people are less likely to kill themselves and their various animals that way than trying creative ways to produce heat and overheating a small container or destroying the air. You can often get hot water out of your water heater for a considerable time and for the opposite we keep frozen bottles in the freezer because the chinchillas dislike over 75F and are at risk over 80F when it can also clear 100F here.

Overheating is much harder to delay in power outages and a far bigger reason for me to get a backup power source even in a cool climate because you often only have 10-20F before things (including people) might start to suffer and the sun plus any warm bodied humans and critters heat up the house or cages a whole lot faster than the cold pulls it out of an insulated structure. At 68-70F inside and 100F to a little over outside we could gain 10F in an hour but we might take 4hrs to lose that amount across the whole house when it's subzero out.
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