There are devices called variacs that are essentially big variable transformers. They plug into the wall, and the output can be adjusted from 0 to 120V
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would i be able to plug the heating element in to it? i was also thinking about using resistors, but i tried to use some, and they all started smoking. would i need a resistor rated at a higher wattage, or what? the heating element says 250 watts on it
Yes, the variac has a standard 120 outlet that is varied by the knob on top. Resistors would need to be very highly rated to withstand the current you are pulling with the heater. A variac is a better choice because you have full progressive control of the voltage
Couldn't you rig up a dimmer switch? Or the pet store has this thing called a rheostat that would work the same way.