Reptiles, being exothermic, or cold-blooded, depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature. For proper digestion, they must have an area of increased heat, while at other times they may prefer cooler temperatures.
There are a number of suggested temperature "recipes" for keeping snakes. You can use specially made heat lamps, heat pads or heat cable to warm one end of the snake's enclosure. The idea is to give the snake a thermal gradient, allowing it to choose the temperature that best suits it at any given time. This is very important for the snakes health and digestion.
Here is what we use: We keep the room at an ambient temperature of around 71-72 degrees. Some fluctuation is acceptable. On one end of each snake's enclosure, we use a Zoo-Med Mini (4x5) undertank heating pad to achieve a warm spot of around 88-92 degrees. We do not use other brands of heating pads or heat lamps, and we don't use other sizes of heat pads for our snakes as they can get too hot.
We are also experimenting with Zoo-Med heat cable, which looks almost like a thin extension cord with a plug on one end and a cap or terminal on the other. We've had great luck with this product so far. It is safer than many other heat sources, allows for custom installation and is the best value in my opinion.
PLEASE FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER'S DIRECTIONS FOR ANY HEAT SOURCE TO AVOID POSSIBLE FIRE HAZARDS AND ALSO TO AVOID BURNING YOUR SNAKE.
It's important to get an accurate temperature reading of the floor of your snake's enclosure. Don't bother with stick-on type aquarium thermometers, as they will only give you a reading on the cage wall. There are a few solutions for monitoring temperatures. I recommend using a thermometer with a remote probe which can be placed inside the cage. These can be purchased at any pet store that deals in reptiles or online. I also recommend a temp gun. This is a small device about the size of a pack of gum that can be aimed at a spot to instantly tell the temperature of that area. These can be found online and in some finer pet stores and cost around $30. It is worth the investment.
Next time: A Place to Hide