Your first few brews will be sub-par, that's normal. After I moved and let my scobies sit for a few months, it took until the third batch before my bucha was awesome again.
Instead of a heat strip, I just put a solid piece of glass on top of an old aquarium and put a heater in it. It stays at the same temp all winter, and the warmer bottom isn't a problem because I add a glop of molasses to the sugar when I first brew. The molasses makes the scobies grow as if on steroids and the yeast can't outgrow it.
Definitely get some flip-top bottles for the second ferment! Safest and best carbonation option.
Steak, eggs, potatoes - fruits, nuts, berries and forage. Coconut milk and potent herbs and spices. Tea instead of coffee now and teeny amounts of kelp daily. Let's see how this does! Not really had dairy much, and gut seems better for it.