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  1. #101
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    7,039

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Could it be the heat pad? May I suggest before breaking everything, try a 50W reptile heat lamp, as an experiment. That's what my PID is using, in a bigger cubic area than yours, and it will bring the temp up to 95 no worries even if the outside temp is 40.

    I am interested in what you are doing Phoebee, because I would prefer to use a heat pad also, for the reasons you stated. But my technical guy didn't think it would get the temp up but the science he threw at me was beyond me.

    Will follow your results with interest.

  2. #102
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Manassas, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    1,312

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    I think this must be the thread my mentor has been following, because he mentioned the reptile heat lamp. I have no doubt that works fine. I prefer not to use incandescent lamps because if they burn out the system goes cold, and because we may be putting some water in this to get the humidity up. I like the idea of a nice gentle heating pad (safe for damp contact and with the heat spread out. BTW, I kept a corn snake for 24 years ... she had a heater made from a coffee pot warming element. The heating pad is slow but safe. Just to be sure, though, I have a 110W flexible silicone heater on order (designed to heat engine oil pans). I have the system rigged so I can just plug in any heater that uses 120 V and less than 3 amps.

    I also like that this little heating pad was $15.

    I'm doing a couple of backup measurements, but the preliminaries say the insulation is the culprit. A temperature gradient test is underway at the moment comparing temperature drop across the ice chest top and across some R11 foam on top of that is showing that the lid R value is definitely less than 2. The sides are thinner than the top, probably where the majority of the heat loss is occurring. Adding insulation around the ice chest gets the temperature up dramatically.

    A quick on-line search of reviews of ice chests shows little evidence that anybody actually tests these things in any meaningful quantitative way. I don't consider myself an expert at this but it is not my first involvement in this sort of testing. In the past I've been involved with tests of insulated containers used for shipping blood and other products, cold weather footwear, pizza bags, and some other odds and ends.

  3. #103
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Murray County, Georgia
    Posts
    297

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    I bought a 40 dollar chicken egg incubator at Tractor supply. I keep a wet wash cloth in it and keep it at a steady 92-93. Several batches of queens have developed and hatched normally. It beats the problems with keeping them in the hive until the near hatch date.

  4. #104
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Manassas, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    1,312

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    There is no reason in the world why an egg incubator can't be made to work ... and with the cost of electronics these days it may be just as cheap to put a PID controller in one as to use a mechanical thermostat.

    I have not installed it yet but I've got the parts on had to put together a backup thermostat for the PID controller. I've had PIDs fail. We had a $210k machine at my last job that had several controllers, one of which had a bad habit of locking up full on. Another used solid state relays that failed about once a year. If one of these things fails ON it can do a lot of damage. Overheating was a problem, but our cooling used liquid nitrogen, and that can be just as bad. So for critical jobs they also sell backup limit controllers and put alarms on them. For my system, I'm putting a mechanical thermostat between the PID controller and the heater, inside the incubator.

    The thermostat will be set for around 98-100 F. It is a wall-mount power thermostat intended to control electric baseboard heaters. It cost $20, $2 more than the PID controller.

    The question is, which ones actually have decent controllers? Obviously, a lot of you have tried egg incubators that have excessive temperature swings.

    If this is the one you bought, I notice it says it has a solid-state thermostat.

    http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/stor...-air-incubator

  5. #105
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Pearisburg,VA
    Posts
    99

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    If you go to Honey Run Apiaries in Delphous, Ohio, they sell incubators and prewired temperature controllers. There is also plans for building your own incubator. When I needed one they were on back order, so I used their plans and bought the prewired controllers and built my own, plus I built two for friends of mine. I have been well pleased with the results. I keep the thermostat set at 92 plus or minus one degree. I use two 40 watt light bulbs for heat. If the incubator was larger I would go with two 60's. When it gets to where I cannot get the bulbs that heat, I will have to go with another heat source. If you are not very smart like myself the reason for two bulbs is to have a back-up if one should go bad. Too bad oldtimer, if you lived closer, we would build you one. I have a power inverter in my truck to change the 12 volt to 120 volts if I want to haul cells or grafts. If we are grafting several miles from my cell builder/finisher, I place the grafts upside down wrapped in a wet towel for moisture with temperature at 92 degrees. Good luck everyone.

  6. #106
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Posts
    2,175

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    I have one of Honey Runs controllers and heat pads in an incubator at work. It works well for our purposes there but has a wider temp swing than most have mentioned on this forum for cells. Perhaps a plus/minus of only a degree so is over kill.
    Janne....first hives April 2013, 19 hives, treat, plant zone 8b, at sea level, latitude 49.13, longitude 123.06

  7. #107
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    1,302

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Redneck (and Jim Lyons earlier) brings up the issue of portability - I had not thought of that.

    I'm now bringing the breeder hives, the shaker box, and the grafting tent to the mating nuc' yard (the cell builder and drone colonies are already there) for open-mating, as it is less to move than the nuc's, then haul them back to the ranch (with the CB colony) for the I.I. setup, which is the only reason I'm building an incubator.

    Maybe a smaller, well-insulated, 12-Volt incubator that fits inside the freezer-converted-to-incubator when I get back home would work well (?)...but the truck bed will need air-ride first - what the heck?, it needs it anyways. Still, this is a risky thing. I think it is better to move 2-day-old cells (and add a queen pheromone lure) than capped cells.

    Still, moving cells made in one place would be easier yet if it could be done reliably, leaving the nucs queenless for a much shorter time period.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 05-08-2015 at 11:20 PM.

  8. #108
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    1,302

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebee View Post
    Sheesh, this result is so off I have to wonder if I know how to calculate this stuff.... We stuck the heater and control thermocouple into a Coleman cooler with interior dimensions of about 14 x 13 x 19 inches. The interior is not exactly a cube but I'll approximate it as 9.49 square feet.
    14" x 13" x 19" = 3458 cubic inches, just barely over 2 cubic foot (3456 cubic inches, just short of 15 gallons, somewhere around 55 or 56 litres, i think).

    50 Watts is arbitrarily large for a two cubic feet, well-insulated space.

    A large power source in a small volume can produce very large temperature spikes.

    I think this could be your problem.

    As far as design goes, start with "How many queen cells?" capacity desired. Use realistic measurements for the cages / frames / other devices that it will be holding. Add additional volume for an over-sized water container heat sink, and for a fan system.

    2nd design priority could be power available, or one could throw money at that and wire in enough power.

    Next design priority is maintaining 93.5 degrees F +/- 0.6 degrees F (or tighter, but not necessary) for temperature range. Calculate in reverse to determine wattage (or BTU's/unit time, etc.) for your chosen volume. Determining how much power over need is different for the digitally-controlled system than for open-loop systems. Digital systems are probably best kept closer to minimum overpowering, open-loop systems are likely best calculated for adverse conditions outdoors, then the incubator placed in good conditions - indoors in a controlled room, that is, although one should consult with someone like Daniel Y, who has built more of these than I have! As designs vary, these power matchings to YOUR system could be entirely reversed. Power is indeed linked to insulation/sealing and recovery time.

    Also high on the list would be reliability, so a redundant, independent control system (both heating and cooling) with an alarm for whenever secondary circuit takes over as primary to alert you to trouble in the primary circuit. Also, the decision mechanism (and sensors) for which system, primary or backup, needs to be dead-reliable. I prefer mechanical devices over electronic devices for high-reliability applications, as cool as computers are, THEY ARE STILL NOTORIOUSLY UNRELIABLE. Because the PID controller is highly stable, make it primary, but make the open-loop system secondary and easily able to take over if the PID controller goes bonkers.

    Daniel Y is clearly correct about minimizing heat spikes by keeping the sensor close to the heat source, and having an accurate thermometer located right at the queen cells, then adjusting your offset as necessary (set the control however high it needs to be to get the thermometer at the queen cells at the 93.5 degrees F +/- 0.6 degrees F ). This should have the added benefit of keeping your controller working for a long time.

    Next design priority could be efficiency - this is where good insulation and sealing can be a very cost-effective option, and the incubator-inside-an-incubator strategy approaches state-of-the-art. The controlled room could be insulated by straw-bale construction, giving something like an R-30 insulation value, or perhaps even better. Locating such a building on a North-facing slope (South-facing in the Southern Hemisphere) should also help by reducing diurnal solar heat variation, and could also serve as a wintering house for your bees in extreme environments. One could plant deciduous trees on the sunward side of the building to stabilize annual solar heat cycling - the exact species choosen well for bee forage while you're at it

    A few additional thoughts: 1) A well-designed, well-insulated, open-loop system as independent backup to a high-precision, semi-smart, closed-loop, PID-controlled system could prove a very good combination; 2) Arbitrarily LARGE heat sinks (such as water tanks) improve temperature stability AND reliability of any system, giving a watchful eye more time to detect trouble and react to it; 3) Queen cell hatching container design is of great importance, queens ABSOLUTELY MUST be kept separated!; 4) Holding time should, indeed, be minimized. Get them into the mating nucs (or the queen banks with worker attendant cages if waiting for I.I.) without unnecessary delay.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 05-09-2015 at 12:18 AM.

  9. #109
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    3,218

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    I can place 98 queen cells in a 1 cubic foot chamber. That is setting the cells in the top of a 20ml vial for the queen to emerge into. Works pretty good but the random queen will manage to escape the vial so watch them closely. I would prefer to have hair roller cages just have not ordered them yet. something that is fully closed once the queen emerges at least. here is how it looks in my restored mini lab incubator. 10271440_627250540693144_2245868752937692256_o.jpg
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  10. #110
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
    Posts
    235

    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    The best design would be one that allows the user to adjust the R value on the "box" while at the same time adjusting the output of the heat source (light bulb).
    Ideally you'd eventually settle on a certain watt bulb that was lit the most amount of time. If you could get the exact right watts to where the heat source almost never stops the temperature would be much more stable.

    A heat and air conditioning guy that has a system that is too powerful would say that it "short cycles". We don't want that because it causes instability. Rapid temp swings. The controls have little to do with this phenom. Work on getting your system "tuned". Add or subtract watts and insulate or remove insulation. Eventually you'll get to a happy stable place and when someone does....please post the details, dimensions, materials etc.

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