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Electric Trace Heating - FAQs

Q. Can I cut the heating tape anywhere?

Only if it is a parallel type - so you’ll need to identify the type of heating tape that you have. You can identify any ‘type’ of heating tape by simply looking at the end of the heating tape. If you have a self-regulating heating tape, you will see two wires (sometimes referred to as ‘buswires’ or ‘conductors’), surrounded by a narrow, black material (a semi-conductive core). The two conductors act as your ‘live’ and ‘neutral’ wires - it doesn’t matter which one you use as which. Surrounding that will be either a RED, BLUE or BROWN insulation. You may then have one (or two) further ‘layers’ depending on the other options taken when ordering. If this describes what you’re looking at, you have a self-regulating heating tape.

However, if you have a constant wattage heating tape, there are a number of styles available. The choices available from Heat Trace are i) a ‘flat foil’ heating tape, and ii) a ‘spirally wound’ heating tape. Both work on the same principle. However, on either style, you will have two conductors. If you look at the end of a spirally wound, constant wattage heating tape, you will notice two round buswires - fairly close together. Surrounding these wires will be a jacket providing insulation. Spirally wound around this jacket will be a fine wire heating element. If you can see all of this, you have a Spiral Wound Constant Wattage heating tape. If you don’t see any of these, it sounds as though you’ve got a ‘flat foil’ constant wattage heating tape. If, when looking at the end of heating tape you see three equal ‘conductors’, you have a Series Resistance heating tape. You must not cut this type of heating tape to length without reference to Ezeheat. If in any doubt, call us.

Q. Where do I cut it?

Now that you have identified the type of heating tape that you have, you’ll be pleased to know that you can cut a self-regulating heating tape anywhere. If, however, you have a constant wattage heating tape, you will need to know how it has been constructed. Basically, your spiral-wound constant wattage heating tape has ‘nodes’ cut-out of it. Nodes are points along the heating tape where the fine wire heating element make contact with each of the two conductors in turn along the heater. The nodes are cut-out approximately every metre, on alternate buswires. Each section between two alternate nodes is a heating zone. If you cut between the nodes, the distance between your cut and the next node is designed not heat-up (this acts as your ‘cold-lead’ into your junction box). A ‘flat-foil’ heating tape will have been riveted through the foils. The heating element is a flat, glass-woven ‘layer’ underneath the foils.

Q. Do I join the bus wires together?

No, you must NOT do this. The current in an parallel circuitry heater does not flow down one conductor, and back up the next - but across from one conductor to the other. If you join them together, you will cause a ‘short-circuit’. The heating tape has ‘live’ and ‘neutral’ buswires and, as you would not join ‘live’ and ‘neutral’ wires under any circumstances, you should not do this with heating tape either.

Q. Do I spiral the heating tape onto the pipe, or do I run it along the pipe?

Your heating tape will have a ‘Watts per Metre’ (W/m) rating. Your pipework has heat losses that are measured in W/m. If your heating tape gives more W/m than the pipework loses heat, you can run the heating tape along the length of the pipework - ideally in the 4 O’Clock, or 8 O’Clock positions - but not, if you can help it, along the very bottom of the pipe. The person/computer program that selected your heating tape will be able to offer advice on spiraling the heating tape should you need it. If you can straight-trace, we recommend that a ‘snake’ or a turn or some other pattern is applied at regular intervals to limit the possibility of all the expansion effects gathering at one point.

Q. I’ve just opened my box and I see black cap at the end of the heating tape. What is it for?

It is simply a protective covering and should be discarded.

Q. Do I need to use thermal insulation?

Yes. Insulation is a critical component of any heat tracing installation. Without it, your heating tape will not have the desired effect. Heating tape simply complements insulation - it is not a replacement for it. Without insulation, there is no application for heating tape.

Q. How do I fix the heating tape to the pipe/vessel?

Adhesive fixing tape is available for use up to 200 Deg C, whilst plain glass fabric tape is available for higher temperatures.

Q. Do I need a thermostat?

You don’t always need a thermostat - but it is advisable. If your heat tracing system has been calculated to have a ‘stabilised design’ (ie. if, on a hot summer day it can be proved (using mathematics) that your heating tape will not (potentially) get too hot for the pipework/lagging/liquid or substance in your pipe), then you do not need one. However, without a thermostat, your heating tape will remain switched ON - all the time. This could prove to be uneconomical. A thermostat would allow the heating tape to switch off when it’s not needed.

Q. How much heating tape can I take out of the thermostat?

Ideally, you should not terminate a heating tape directly into a thermostat - but via a junction box. However, you are restricted only by the maximum ampacity of the thermostat you are using. You can calculate the load that your heating tape will use by multiplying the Power Output (W) x Total Metres of Heating Tape (m), and dividing by the voltage (V).

Q. Can I join the heating tape together?

Yes you can. Splicing kits are available for a selection of our heating tapes - but not all. If we cannot provide a splice kit, you must use a junction box/termination kit method of joining the heating tapes.