Heat tape, or heat trace cable is a great solution to preventing frozen pipes. This guide will show you how to use heat tape to keep your pipes from freezing. Every winter, people all across the nation deal with frozen water pipes. Not only is this an inconvenience due to having no water, but often the freezing causes the pipes to break and leak once they thaw out.
To prevent broken pipes that are frozen, pipe-thawing methods must be applied before the ice in the pipe reaches the point of pressure that ruptures the pipe. This can cause extensive property damage at its worst, and even if the leak are caught in time, often expensive plumbing repairs will have to be done in order to restore water service. To prevent this from happening, your water pipes should be insulated, especially wherever they are exposed to chill by cold air flow. Often underneath mobile homes, in drafty crawlspaces, or poorly insulated attics, pluming pipes freeze up due to the exposure to wind chill and freezing weather. When insulation is not enough, homeowners turn to wrap-on heating cable, otherwise known as heat tape.
Heat tapes are thermostatically controlled electric heating cables that are installed tightly against water pipes either pressed tightly and taped with electrical taped, or wrapped in criss-cross patterns to cover all areas of the pipe. The electric heat traced pipe is then insulated to keep the heat inside near the pipe, instead of heating the cold air around the area. Even the best heat tape cable, installed perfectly should be insulated.
Not only will it help the freeze protection performance of the heat tape, but it will prevent the heat from being wasted, and hiking up your electric bill. All heat tapes use electrical resistance in their wires to generate heat, some are controlled by small thermostats, while some are self-regulating, such as the self-regulating polymer utilized in Frostex Pipe Freeze Protection Cables.
Heat Tape for Pipe Freeze ProtectionThe simplest heat tapes come with a plug already installed and set lengths already predetermined. These are the easiest to install, simply wrap the heat tape, tape it tight to the pipes, insulate it and plug it in. The downside to this style is that you have to guess which length of heating cable to buy, and often the heat tape is either too long or too short. In the case of more serious professional installation, heating cable can be purchased in reels and cut to the exact length needed. After cutting, it is a fairly simple task to install a plug end and a termination cap on the heating cable.
The main safety issues you want to watch out for is the inherent danger of electrical wire in general. Always follow the manufacturers instructions, and make sure to install the heat tape in an above-ground, dry area, and plug it into a grounded receptacle. The last thing you want is a heat tape malfunction that causes an electrical fire or shock! So make sure to follow all safety precautions, or hire a professional to install the heating cable to code.
Popular heating cable brands include Easyheat, Heatline, Frostex, FreezeFree and Tycothermal electric heat trace cable.