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DIY Heater, build your own 2000 watt heater for $20 ***DONT USE COPPER OR NICKEL ELEMENTS!

submersible virsion... ...this how-to has the link for the stainless elements.

After many variations, this is the simplest heater I've been able to build. I had to come up with this last year while waiting for my $600 heater to be built and delivered. when it finally arrived, I just left it in the box and continued to use the home built unit.

DO NOT USE THE COPPER ELEMENT FROM HOME DEPOT!  YOU MUST ORDER A STAINLESS STEEEL ELEMENT.   ....This is a 2000 watt element from Home Depot, a 1-1/2" to 1" reducer, a 1-1/2" uniseal, and a fitting with net pots to keep the fish off the element. I found that a heavy duty timer works for a thermostat. I run it for 15 mins on the hour to keep my 150 gallon tank toasty. this would be adjusted according to your needs. i have used this on as much as 600 gallons, but would recommend going to the 240 volt, 4000 watt for anything over 400 gallon. Note - the 2" net pots slip right onto a male threaded 1-1/2" nipple.

The top pipe is optional, i like to keep it as tall as the water level will allow. This will create a convective flow of water across the element. Works great!

here is the newer version...

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Make sure you don't buy a copper one :) I'd be a lil scared running that in plastic tho. If your pump runs dry and the heater is on, your stuffs going to melt pretty darn quick as well as burn out the heating element.

FYI: don't plug these things in unless they are under water. It will burn em out.

Hey Rob

I live in southeastern Oklahoma where the temps drop into the teens in the winter. Would you think it possible to heat the IBC tote through the winter months with this? My setup is outside but I should have some sort of covering before it gets too cold. Right now I've got two 300 watt aquarium heaters for my 100 gallon tank. These aren't doing the trick.

Rob Nash said:

in central Texas it gets cold enough for the heater to run for two or three months. i have not used a kilawatt meter to see how much power it uses in that time. but i will warn you... what ever heater you use, you will notice it on the electric bill

Justin, the 1800 watt heater will heat the ibc, but you will have to insulate it to do any good.

here is the link to the submersible version with the thermostat.

I do have one layer of insulation on it. I figure that's better than not having insulation.

Rob Nash said:

Justin, the 1800 watt heater will heat the ibc, but you will have to insulate it to do any good.

here is the link to the submersible version with the thermostat.

The only stainless element I could find at Lowes just now was a 4500 w 240v

When submerged this won't melt the PVC will it? 

Ok, here's my heater.  4500w 240v

Works like a charm.  Thanks guys!!

i like the hybrid design... im guessing the wires are going up and over the edge of the tank?

Rob I like your design.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears you are relying entirely upon convection to move the water through your heater.   Due to the construction of my plywood tank I don't see how I could do the same, but the problem I've had with mine is I'll forget that the heater is on, and for some reason like a maintenance issue I'll unplug the pump.

Within seconds after the water stops flowing my heater will burn out.  But it looks like you have found the perfect design!

Nice Bob. 

I used a stainless steel element (120v 1700watts=13.8 amps) to build something similar.

Only difference is that I installed the element at the end of PVC capped pipe (with only the element exposed), and then I built a pvc pipe frame covered with a "noodle" kids swimming pool foam tube to keep the heater afloat....and the whole thing resides in my sump tank - it floats up and down with the rising and falling water in the sump tank.  The thermostat sensor is also in sump tank. The therrmostat knob/control box is inside my shed adjacent to the sump tank to get it out of the weather. (The floating frame is made such that the heating element cannot touch the sides of the IBC or the bottom of the IBC.) When the water level in the sump drops way down...the floating frame lands on it's 3 legs on the bottom, but in such a way that the element is always in water so as to not burn it up.  Works great.

I chose to place the heater in sump tank so that fish cant get to it, and also so that the mixing of the water temps occur in the sump tank before being pumped up into the fish tank so that temp changes in fish tank is more gradual.

If anyone needs me to, I'll take pics and post...just let me know.

Bradly, keep an eye on the element at the top... when the heater runs, it will create tiny air bubbles, which will collect in the PVC fitting and burn out the element.(it only takes about 1/2" air space to burn)   i advise folks to be sure and keep a little bit of tilt to avoid the bubbles collecting.

Bob, i didnt realize you were pumping water through it... did you see the submersible version,,, its for folks who cant drill a hole in the side of the tank.


Do we know what kind of solder they are using as well in these connections? I assume it has no lead in it if this is being used for drinking water in homes. The lead will leach if it has any....

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