Nitrous oxide has become the power adder of choice for everyone from grudge night racers to six-second outlaws. Nothing gives quite the same bang for the buck as a nitrous kit, but to get the most out of it you need a way to control the bottle’s temperature and pressure, and to do it safely. ZEX has come up with solutions that solve that problem, whether you’re spraying your daily driver, a tube-frame doorslammer, or anything in between. Their selection of three different electric bottle heaters means they’ve got a way to keep anybody’s nitrous system kicking. ZEX Nitrous Systems has been producing bolt on nitrous systems and nitrous related products for over ten years. To learn more about the importance of bottle pressure and find out how to pick the right heater, we spoke with Matt Patrick of ZEX.
The Importance of Correct Bottle Pressure
While the purpose of a nitrous bottle heater is to keep a bottle warm (of course), what you’re actually doing is maintaining pressure. Any time nitrous oxide is released from the bottle, the temperature of the remaining nitrous drops, and the pressure follows in lock-step. Because the air/fuel ratio of the nitrous system is directly affected by nitrous pressure, if the bottle temperature isn’t controlled the tune-up will be constantly changing. “Nitrous bottle pressure is directly determined by its temperature,” Patrick explains. “Optimum operation of a nitrous system occurs within the range of 900-1000 PSI. Pressure higher than 1000 PSI will produce excessive flow of nitrous that can cause lean spikes and engine damage or cause the solenoid to lock closed, preventing nitrous flow. Pressure lower than 900 PSI will produce an excessively rich condition resulting in horsepower loss.” What’s needed is a heater that can bring a bottle up to the proper temperature in the staging lanes, even on a cold night at the track, and keep it there between runs without overheating.
Three Different Solutions
ZEX understands that the guy with the 75-shot dry kit on his street/strip car has different needs than the pro racer, and they’ve developed their three electric nitrous bottle heaters with very different features to meet those needs. Two are thermostatically controlled, while the third uses an adjustable pressure sensor, but all three are designed to be easy to install and use safely.
Thermostatic Bottle Heaters
Both ZEX temperature-regulated heaters contain dual thermostats that will automatically turn the heater on and off to maintain the correct bottle temperature. The thermostat electronics are molded into the heater body for durability. The difference between the two lies in the power of the heating element and how they connect to the car’s electrical system.
The plug-in ZEX bottle heater (p/n 82045) takes “easy installation” to the extreme. This bottle heater is for an enthusiast with multiple nitrous powered applications, or for someone who wants a set-up that’s easy to remove. To use it, all that’s required is wrapping the heater element around the bottle, then plugging the power cord into a cigarette lighter, just like a cell phone charger. This makes it easy for the bottle heater to be removed and switched onto another bottle in a totally different car. “The Plug-in Bottle Heater is the ultimate in convenience. No need to drill holes in your dash, as this unit easily plugs into any cigarette lighter or power point outlet. It is thermostatically controlled and features an on-off switch that is designed into the plug-in itself,” added Patrick. While the total wattage of this heater is the lowest of the three due to the limits of powering it through the cigarette lighter, the thermostat means you can turn it on and leave it running to maintain bottle pressure. Pros will also appreciate the fact that if you have a portable jumper box with a lighter outlet, you can use this heater to keep a bottle warm in the lanes without draining the car’s battery – a great plus if you’re not running an alternator on your car.
The other thermostatic nitrous bottle warmer (p/n 82006) is designed for hard-wiring into the car’s 12-volt power. The installation process is pretty easy. Mount the included switch and run a wire and fuse from one terminal to a suitable power source. The other terminal gets wired to the bottle heater, and then the bottle heater is grounded. In addition to being easy to install, the direct connection to the electrical system lets ZEX equip it with a powerful heating element. “The standard bottle heater is thermostatically controlled and designed to be hard-wired into the vehicle,” says Patrick. “The hard-wired design allows this heater to have a much more powerful heating element than the plug-in style heater.”
Adjustable Nitrous Bottle Heater
This third ZEX heater (p/n 82369) is intended for the user who needs precise control of nitrous pressure. “The ZEX adjustable nitrous bottle heater differs from our other two bottle heater models by its use of a fully adjustable, precision pressure control switch,” explains Patrick. The switch mounts to an included T-fitting placed between the bottle outlet and the supply line inlet, or it can be screwed directly into an unused gauge port on the bottle itself. This not only lets the user adjust the heater to keep the bottle between 400 and 1100 PSI, but having the heater controlled by a pressure switch results in the most consistent and reliable way to receive the maximum performance from the nitrous bottle. With the 240 watt heater it is equipped with, it has no problem heating the bottle up quickly. One caution – if the pressure switch is installed in the T-fitting, care must be taken to never leave the heater on with the bottle valve closed, because the sensor will not be able to monitor pressure inside the tank.
Which Bottle Heater Should You Choose?
No matter how you’re using nitrous in your car, Zex has you covered. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:
Thermostat control maintains pressure between 900-1000 PSI
Easiest to install – just plug and play
Can be used on multiple vehicles
Can be used outside the vehicle
Thermostat control maintains pressure between 900-1000 PSI
Simple 2-wire hookup with included switch
Higher power than plug-in heater for faster pressure recovery
Fully adjustable pressure sensor can be set to activate from 400-1100 PSI
Powerful 240-Watt heater element warms cold bottles in minutes
Best choice for pro users who need total control of bottle pressure
When you spend the time and money putting a nitrous system into your vehicle, you expect it to work at peak efficiency. This can only be done if you get your bottle pressure to the right spot, which often means you need to heat it up. A temperature- or pressure-controlled bottle heater is the safest, most convenient way to accomplish that goal, and ZEX has a heater for any nitrous racer, from part-timer to pro.