Inline Heater or Waterbed heater?

I missed a post last week. I'm sorry! To make up for it I'll be making two posts this week. Thanks everyone! When the waterbed heaters underneath our Floatarium float tank died, the choice between waterbed heaters and inline heaters was an easy one. We weren't about to completely disassemble the tank, re-spray foam insulator (the old insulation would have to be removed to get access to the old heaters), and then put it all back together. It was just too big of a project when such a simpler option was available. But what choice do you make when installing waterbed heaters is just as simple as installing an inline heater? What are the pros and cons in choosing one over the other? Today's post will discuss these questions and help you make the right choice for your float tank business.

What are the differences?

First, lets talk about the most common method of heating float tanks: waterbed heaters. Waterbed heaters are placed underneath the length of a float tank and keep the water at a relatively even preset temperature throughout the day. Most float tanks ship with these pre-installed. Inline heaters are installed as part of a tank's plumbing. It will heat the water in your tank only during the time in which the pump is running. Once a tank is at a preset temperature, the heater turns off, even while the pump continues to run. During a customers float, the water temperature is slowly dropping. This temperature change is so slow that it is imperceptible to the floater during a 60-120 minute float. This is where the pros and cons come into play...

The Tradeoffs

While a floater is not going to notice a temperature change during a regular length float, it will drop to an uncomfortable temperature level during extended lengths of time such as during an overnight float. A waterbed heater is going to continue maintaining the proper temperature throughout the night. Waterbed heaters may provide constant temperature, but they will eventually die, and they don't just flat out stop working, they tend to start making noises. Whether it's a buzzing sound or a crackling, it will start out as an imperceptible noise, then gradually increase in volume. The number of floaters that will be affected by this before you find out and get a replacement heater is a number that makes me uncomfortable. Speaking of replacement, while our Floatarium tank has a particularly odd design that makes heater replacement especially difficult, most float tanks still require a process that is both time and work intensive for changing heaters. Usually the entire tank needs to be emptied. Often times tape or some kind of insulation wrap also needs to be removed to gain access to the heaters (which then need to be replaced after the swap). Inline heaters have an easy removal system that is as easy as twisting loose 2 plumbing parts. Waterbed heaters require electricity on and off 24 hours a day, 365 days a year as they maintain a specific temperature. Inline heaters only require electricity during the times your pump is run. For us, that's about 8 times a day. We have to run our pump about 15 minutes to get it up to temperature in the morning (we already run our pump 20-30 minutes in the morning), about 3-5 minutes gets the temperature back up. A great plus is that we aren't paying for electrical to heat our water at all during the evening. Similar to inline heaters replacing regular water heaters in homes, the electrical use is less which means your electrical bill is going to be cheaper.

Pro & Con List

Waterbed Heaters

  • Relatively constant temperature 24 hours a day
  • Difficulty swapping heaters
  • Slow "death" of heaters can mean unsatisfied customers and delay before replacement
  • Tend toward shorter life span

Inline Heaters

  • Complete silence during a float
  • Easy swapping of expired heating unit
  • Lower electrical use
  • Tend towards longer life span
  • temperature is not constant
  • temperature will not be comfortable for extended length floats
  • pump must be run at least once every 1-2 days so that the water does not crystallize.

What's the Right Choice for You?

You will want to make your choice based on what type of business you own and what type of business you see yourself running several years down the road. For some, offering late night floats is mandatory to their business strategy. For others shorter operating hours are perfect for what they want. If you plan on doing late night floats, waterbed heating will be required. If it's not required, you will want to look at ease of use and cost savings and decide from there. Finally, a combination system is completely reasonable as well. While you can mostly depend on an inline heater for raising the temperature and saving on your electric bill, you could also depend on a waterbed heater to kick on if temperatures dropped too low which would make late night floats possible. What kind of water heater do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!