Electric trace heating, heating tapes or surface heating, is a system used to maintain or raise the temperature of pipes and vessels using trace heating cables. Trace heating takes the form of an electrical heating element run in physical contact along the length of a pipe. The pipe is usually covered with thermal insulation to retain heat losses from the pipe. Heat generated by the element then maintains the temperature of the pipe. Trace heating may be used to protect pipes from freezing, to maintain a constant flow temperature in hot water systems, or to maintain process temperatures for piping that must transport substances that solidify at ambient temperatures. Electric trace heating cables are an alternative to steam trace heating where steam is unavailable or unwanted.
There are many applications that trace heating cables are used in modern industry.
- Frost Protection – To prevent ice formation in water pipelines or storage vessels that are subject to sub-zero ambient temperatures. Trace heating frost protection can prevent costly plant downtime and repair to damaged pipework
- Temperature Maintenance – Used to maintain a liquid at a set temperature to aid with distribution through process systems. Thick oils, greases & food stuffs that solidify at lover temperatures require this method of heating.
- Hot Water Maintenance – To maintain hot water at 50-70°c when the liquid is under no flow conditions. This type of system is used when the hot water pipework does not have a flow and return pipe to the boiler unit. This will ensure hot water is immediately available at each outlet within a few seconds.