Heat trace cable typically is used for freeze protection on pipes and to make up for heat lost due to insulation limitations. Heat tracing also is sometimes used to preheat part of a fluid system prior to initial startup or after a primary heating system shutdown.

Although heat trace may appear relatively simple, there is a good deal of complexity to both the cable and its application. If the cable system is undersized, costs due to frozen pipes or high fluid viscosity can be overwhelming. If the cable system is oversized, money is wasted in the initial cable purchase and in electric power consumption costs every day. Some of the same problems can occur if the heat trace system is not properly controlled.

To ensure that you select heat tracing that satisfies your process requirements, Pittsburgh-based Chromalox recommends you follow these steps:

  • Calculate pipe or tank dimensions.
  • Specify insulation type, thickness and K factor.
  • Specify pertinent temperatures (ambient, startup, maintenance, etc.).
  • Describe the operating/ambient environment.
  • Calculate heat loss from the pipe or tank.
  • Select the appropriate cable type and output rating.
  • Specify the cable length needed.
  • Specify/verify controller and electrical power distribution specifications.
  • Complete the bill of materials with electrical connection and mechanical attachment hardware.