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by T suneetha (07511A0246)

Electric trace heating, also known as electric heat tracing or surface heating, is a system used to maintain or raise the temperature of pipes and vessels. Trace heating takes the form of an electrical heating element run in physical contact along the length of a pipe. The pipe must then be covered with thermal insulation to retain heat losses from the pipe.

The most common trace heating applications include: Freeze Protection Gutter and Roof De-icing Temperature Maintenance

Freeze protection
Every pipe or vessel is subject to heat loss when its

temperature is greater than ambient temperature. Thermal insulation reduces the heat loss but does not eliminate it. Typical residential applications for trace heating are the protection of water pipes against freezing.

Gutter and Roof De-icing

Placement of heat trace cable on roofs or in gutters to

melt ice during winter months. When used in gutters the cable is NOT meant to keep the gutters free of ice and/or snow. The purpose is to keep a free path for the melted water to get off the roof and down the downspout or drain piping.

Temperature maintenance
Hot water service piping can also be traced, so that a

circulating system is not needed to provide hot water at outlets. The combination of trace heating and the correct thermal insulation for the operating ambient temperature maintains a thermal balance where the heat output from the trace heating matches the heat loss from the pipe. Self limiting or regulating heating tapes have been developed and are very successful in this application.

Different Technologies
Constant Wattage "Series"

A series heating cable is made of a run of high-resistance wire, insulated and often enclosed in a protective jacket

The downside of these types of heaters is that if they are crossed over themselves they can overheat and burn out, they are provided in specific lengths and cannot be shortened in the field, also, a break anywhere along the line will result in a failure of the entire cable.

Constant Wattage "Zone"

Typically series elements are used on long pipe line

process heating, for example long oil pipe lines and quay side of load pipes on oil refineries.

A constant wattage zone cable is made by wrapping a fine heating element around two insulated parallel bus wires, then on alternating sides of the conductors a notch is made in the insulation.

Self Regulating
Self-regulating cable uses two parallel bus wires which

carry electricity but do not create heat.

They are encased in a semi-conductive polymer. This

polymer is loaded with carbon; as the polymer element heats, it allows less current to flow.

Power supply and control

Trace heat cables may be connected to single-phase or

(in groups) to three-phase power supplies. Power is controlled either by a contactor or a solidstate controller. For self-regulating cable, the supply must furnish a large warm-up current if the system is switched on from a cold starting condition. Electrical heat tracing systems may be required to have Earth Leakage (Ground Fault or RCD) devices for personnel and equipment protection.

Control System

: The three phase systems are fed via contactors similar to a three phase motor 'direct on line' starter which is controlled by a thermostat somewhere in the line. This ensures that the temperature is kept constant and the line does not overheat or underheat.


If a line becomes frozen because the heating was

switched off then this may take some time to thaw out using trace heating. . This thawing out is done on the three phase systems by using an 'auto transformer' to give a few more volts, and so amps, and make the trace heating elements a bit hotter

Jane Mary. "Example of a frozen pipe protection kit"

pipe-protection-kit/Retrieved 2010-11-19.