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  • Writer's pictureCraig Drabyk

Heat Tracing Regulates Pipe Temperatures & Prevents Freezing

Electric heat tracing is a system that employs a heating cable that runs between piping or a vessel and insulation to maintain or raise the temperature of the pipes. Heat tracing is typically used on domestic water, chilled water, steam condensate, and on certain process systems.

Reliable electric heat tracing was developed in the 1960s, and most systems worked using the same basic principal: when the ambient temperature dropped below a certain point, the heat tracing turned on. Some systems included auxiliary contacts to alarm if the heat tracing failed to operate when temperatures fell, while others used a current transformer to verify amperage.

Modern electric heat tracing systems are far more reliable due to technological advances. Microprocessor-based controls monitor surface temperatures to operate heat tracing only as needed, and can hold process pipe temperatures to extremely close tolerances. Cable integrity is monitored by measuring surface heating performance and resistance and providing self-diagnosing alarms when an irregularity or failure occurs. Increased precision and reliability translate to lower energy use, increased longevity, and reduced maintenance costs.

Because electric heat tracing systems have become more complex and are no longer the simple on/off devices of yesteryear, greater knowhow is required for system installation. This lesson was learned at a facility this past winter when pipes burst during a cold spell, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Omni technicians called in to assess the heat tracing system found that the installing contractor ran the wrong voltage to the controller, and the system was never tested and commissioned. Modern technology is changing in leaps and bounds, so it is increasingly important to make sure a contractor is qualified to work on specific systems and equipment.

About Omni

Omni Instrumentation & Electrical Services, Inc., located in New Jersey and Maryland, is a premier instrumentation and electrical contractor, providing superior total care solutions since 1986. Services include instrument installation, tubing installation, instrument calibration, control loop testing, startup and commissioning, power and lighting, process control wiring, BMS wiring, telecommunications and data wiring, fire alarm wiring, security wiring, process network wiring, and control panel fabrication. Omni Instrumentation & Electrical Services, Inc., is certified in Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, DeviceNet and ASI-Bus installation.

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