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Your Guide to Band Heaters

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Ceramic Band

A band heater is a useful item for a variety of different industrial applications, but they’re mainly used to indirectly (and externally) heat pipes and tubes.

In this article, we’ll cover how these heaters work, the different types, and how to test them.

Let’s start by explaining what a band heater is.

What Are Band Heaters?

Band heaters are ring-shaped devices that clamp around and externally heat cylindrical surfaces. All these heaters use electrical conduction, although some types may use a combination of electrical conduction and radiation. Most heaters are made with metals because they are exceptional conductors. The three main types of band heaters are mica, mineral-insulated, and ceramic, which we’ll discuss in detail in the next section.

Types of Band Heaters

As previously mentioned, the three primary types of band heaters are ceramic, mineral-insulated, and mica. You can also divide them up further by using factors like installation, mounting, dimensions, termination type, sheath material or sleeve, and performance specifications.

Mica Band Heaters

close-up shot of a mica band heater

Mica heaters feature mica, which is a group of minerals. Wrapped around the mica core are wires. Together, the core and wires are bent into a band. Mica heaters have a lower maximum temperature of around 900 degrees Fahrenheit, but their resistance to water and chemicals means they are a popular choice for harsher operating environments.

Mineral-Insulated Band Heaters

Two mineral-infused band heaters

Like the name suggests, this type of band heater is made with mineral insulation that has higher thermal conductivity than mica and ceramic. It’s the perfect solution when you need the highest maximum temperature possible, as they can reach temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. They also provide more efficient heat transfers.

Ceramic Band Heaters

Collage of seven ceramic band heaters

Ceramic heaters feature inner resistance coils that are spirally wound and threaded through insulated ceramic tiles. This type of heater uses conduction and radiation to externally heat cylindrical elements. The main advantage of a ceramic heater is that they can decrease energy consumption and overall operations costs. They typically have a maximum temperature of approximately 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Do Heating Bands Work?

As we covered before, band heaters mainly use electrical conduction to heat up elements. Heating bands are metal filaments that have a protective covering encasing them and that protective covering turns electricity into heat. After that, the heating band will transfer the heat energy via a controlled method to another object. The heating band will do this via either conduction.

How Do You Test a Band Heater?

To ensure optimal performance, you should always test your band heater before you install it. If your heater is already installed, but you’re not sure whether it’s performing optimally, a test will help you better understand the answer. For safe testing and less downtime, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Turn off the power going to the heater.
  2. Disconnect the heater’s lead wires.
  3. After that, you must locate the number that is engraved on your heater; this number specifies the voltage and wattage.
  4. The next step is for you to measure the resistance between the two post terminals or the two lead wires. It depends on the type of heater that you have. The heater’s resistance should be approximately the heater’s voltage squared divided by the heater’s wattage; the formula for this is R = V2 / W.
  5. After you have the total resistance number (measured in ohms), you’ll want to then perform another test using an ohmmeter.

The standard tolerances are as follows: if your heater is operating at room temperature, the resistance measured by the ohmmeter can be 10% less or 5% greater than the total you calculated using the formula above. If the resistance value falls outside of this range, your heater is not operating as it should be.

Always consult your specific heater manufacturer’s installation and operation manual for best practice and maintenance procedures. All electrical wiring should be done by a qualified electrician.

Want to Learn More About Band Heaters? Contact Hi-Watt Today!

Hi-Watt is a leading supplier of band heaters and other industrial heating solutions. You can view additional information here. If you have questions about our band heaters or want to request a quote, please fill out our convenient online form.

Insertion Heaters

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insertion heaters

An insertion heater is an industrial heating element that is inserted into one or more drilled holes. This tube-shaped heater can be used to heat metal parts from the inside or heat a process liquid to a specific temperature.

These types of heaters range considerably in size, material and temperature range. The operating temperature can be very low and designed to keep a metal block warm, or it can be as high as 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit to quickly heat materials. There are many industries that use this style of heater, so the features and characteristics vary.

How Does an Insertion Heater Work?

The heating element of an insertion type heater is a resistance coil. This is wound around a ceramic core and surrounded by dielectric. The entire unit is encased in a metal sheath to protect against corrosion and damage to the resistance coil.

A major difference between insertion heaters, rod heaters and other industrial heaters is the cartridge design. Special- or general-purpose holes are drilled into a container or casing to allow the heater to be inserted. The hole can be larger if the temperature application is low, because this allows for easy installation and removal. For high-temperature applications, however, a tight fit is required.

Benefits of Cartridge Heaters

Cartridge heaters offer several significant benefits for various industrial applications. Depending on the location of your temperature application, a cartridge heater can offer the following benefits:

  • Versatile use: Heat water, air, metal and chemical solutions with this versatile heating element. Choose the optimal sheathing material to improve conductivity and avoid corrosion or other damage to the heating element.
  • Convenient heat application: Compared with other industrial heater designs, cartridge heaters offer convenient, consistent temperatures. Connect one or more units to a single controller and prepare for a high-temperature operation or maintain low, even temperatures.
  • Compact size: Cartridge heaters find their way into control panels, scientific equipment, closed circuits and many other applications thanks to their small size and powerful output.
  • Efficient heat transfer: Instead of heating an entire engine block or using additional transfer media, insertion type heaters provide directed heat to the specific point or medium required. In many cases, this makes it more efficient than other industrial heaters.

Cartridge Heater Applications

While the category of cartridge heaters offers excellent flexibility and efficient heat transfer, the particular unit you select can be custom-made to your application. Consider the applications of cartridge heaters before choosing a type and size that fits your specifications. Here are some common areas where an insertion type heater can efficiently power your process:

cartridge heaters
  • Die casting
  • Engine sump
  • Chemical solution
  • Food production
  • Control panel
  • 3D printing
  • Rubber molding
  • Closed circuit
  • Medical devices
  • Injection molding

Most situations where heat needs to be applied internally or to a specific point can benefit from a cartridge heater. Whether you’re heating a process liquid from a center point or providing specific heat to an oil reservoir, these heaters offer the dedicated temperature control you need.

Types of Cartridge Heaters

The most basic definition of a cartridge heater is an element that’s embedded in a housing. This heating element is then attached to, or inserted into, a material to be heated. Beyond that basic definition, these heaters can vary in type. Here are three common types heaters to consider:

  • Immersion
  • Square or round cartridge
  • Fin

Immersion Heaters

Immersion heaters are immersed in the material to be heated. This is usually a liquid, but can be another material. Instead of being submerged into an open barrel or reservoir, these heaters are inserted into the container.

A gasket prevents leakage, while a screw, flange or bolt connects the heating element to the wall of the container, engine block or other objects. Immersion heaters for water must have a watertight sheath that resists corrosion to heat efficiently in this environment. In some cases, the sheath must be made of food-safe or medical-grade materials.

Square or Round Cartridge Heaters

Most cartridge heaters have a tubular design. While not exactly the same as a tubular heater, these round cartridge heaters offer consistent heat around the entire surface. They don’t have any corners or hot spots.

A square cartridge heater can be used for specific applications. This shape may decrease the consistency of heat due to corners and other features, but it may be a suitable shape for your industrial process.

Fin Heaters

Fin heaters aren’t often thought of as cartridge heaters, because they aren’t inserted into a reservoir or other heating application. Instead, they heat an adjoining surface. This style of heater is still considered a type of cartridge heater.

The heating element is inserted into a fin housing, typically made of aluminum. The fins directly connect with the cartridge, creating efficient heat transfer. The fin heater is then adhered to a surface to provide the specified amount of heat.

Insertion Heater vs. Tubular Heater

While insertion and cartridge heaters can be used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms and tubular heaters. Explore the differences to determine the optimal heating element for your application.

Insertion Type Heaters

This types of heater is a straight tube. It can be rectangular or cylindrical, but it doesn’t have any curves, bends or other shaping. The purpose of this straight heater is to provide consistent heat after being inserted into a hole drilled in a material.

Flexible electrical leads connect the heater to a power source and controller. These heaters range in size from 8 feet down to less than an inch in length. The sheathing used and the operating temperatures may vary, but insertion type heaters typically have this basic design.

Tubular Heaters

Tubular heaters, however, are typically shaped to provide more complex heating areas. Curves, bends and other geometric shapes allow these heaters to expand the heating area and create a more custom approach.

A tubular heater doesn’t necessarily need to be inserted into a hole. Many of these heaters are welded or otherwise installed directly to a surface. Some are even cast into metals. Ovens and other heating chambers often use this style of heating element.

How To Choose an Insertion Type Heater

Navigate the diverse options of these heaters by carefully reviewing your application and heating needs. If you’re expanding your heating process or looking to improve the efficiency of an existing process, use these features to choose an insertion style heater:

  • Gap
  • Watt density
  • Application

Cartridge Heater Gap

This type of heater needs to fit in the hole drilled into your reservoir or another component. If you already have a hole drilled, this narrows your search for the ideal heater. A temperature heater must fit with very little gap between the heater and the hole. Lower temperature operations can be more flexible in spacing.

Optimal Watt Density

The heat flow is measured in watts per square inch. This watt density describes how powerful or efficient your chosen heater is. A high watt density offers high temperatures but often comes with a shorter service life.

Your Application

Heating plastic for an injection molding process doesn’t have the same requirements as heating a vat of fry oil in a restaurant setting. Insertion type heaters need to be tailored to your specific application to achieve optimal results. Without industry- and application-specific features, your heater may not achieve your temperature or service life goals.

Common Types of Industrial Electric Heaters

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Band Heaters

Create conductive heat through a pipe or other cylinder with a band heater. These heaters are categorized by maximum operating temperature, AC voltage required and recommended watts. The dimensions can vary considerably. For best performance, consider choosing a heater with an inside diameter measurement that matches the outside diameter of your pipe or other cylinder.

Most heating bands use aluminum, steel, iron or other durable material for the sleeve. Insulation, when used, is typically ceramic. Uninsulated band heaters are available, but are typically less energy efficient. Mount a band heater by clamping it into place using flanges, tabs or barrel nuts. Use terminal boxes, screw terminals or armor cable leads as a termination type to fit your industrial application.

Duct/Air Heaters

Duct heaters aren’t thought of as a part of the manufacturing process, but are still critical to safe operations in your commercial facility. These heaters heat air which is then forced throughout your building to maintain a comfortable interior temperature. Choose either flanged or insert type heating elements to slip in or secure the elements into the air duct.

Compared with gas heating, electric duct/air heaters are safe and energy efficient. Choose a heating element with ceramic insulation to improve the efficiency of your system, prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and reduce the risk of a fire. Size your air heater appropriately to increase its lifespan and reduce the cost of heating your large facility.

Electric Infrared Heaters

Create clean, energy-efficient heat with an electric infrared heater. These versatile units can be used as part of the manufacturing process or to create a comfortable interior temperature for the safety of your employees and equipment. As process heaters, electric infrared heaters are used in these industries:

  • Automotive
  • Energy
  • Medical
  • Mining
  • Thermoforming
  • Construction

Choose an infrared heating element for convenient heating in a number of applications. These heaters rely on radiant heat, so you don’t need a process liquid or air ducts.

Cable Heaters

Distribute heat in a 360-degree circle with a cable heater. These flexible, high-performance units typically come in a small diameter and use fully annealed coils to snake their way through equipment. The high ductility and low mass of these heaters make them useful in a range of difficult environments.

Maintain optimal heat levels in sub-freezing, high-vacuum or liquid-immersion environments. Depending on the situation, these heaters can be used for convection using either gas, air or liquid as the medium.

Flexible Heaters

If you need electric heat at precise levels around an irregular shape, then a flexible heater is a great option. These units are capable of reaching intermittent temperatures up to 500 degrees in harsh environments. The screen-printed, chemically etched or wire-wound heating element uses silicone or other material to create a chemical- and moisture-resistant component.

These heaters are common in military, commercial and industrial applications. The size, temperature and material options are surprisingly diverse. One application for these heaters is melting ice on automotive mirrors.

Strip Heaters

Strip heaters are used to heat air through convection. They use a durable sheath material to prevent oxidation during the process. Common materials include chrome steel, stainless steel and rust-resistant iron. Common types of strip heaters include:

  • Finned strip heater
  • Ceramic insulated heating strips
  • Ring heating tapes

These heaters are durable and unobtrusive in most air duct applications. They work most efficiently in air heating processes, but can also be used to transfer heat through liquids. It will be important to consider optimal thickness and sheathing material of your heating strip prior to purchasing one of these heaters.

Cartridge Heaters

Apply high levels of heat consistently and efficiency with a cartridge heater in your industrial process. These heaters create localized heat up to 800 degrees in a sealed environment. The tube-shaped body of a cartridge heater is inserted into a uniform hole in the side of a container. Flanges or tabs are used to secure the heater and create a firm seal.

The sheathing material varies, but stainless steel is a common option. Be sure to choose a cartridge sheath material that won’t be corroded or otherwise damaged from your process liquid. Both imperial and metric sizes are available to fit a pre-drilled hole.

Immersion Heaters

Compare screw plug, flanged and over-the-side immersion heaters to find the best option to heat a liquid. Barrels or other containers of salts, solvents, oils and water need to be heated at a specific, uniform temperature for your manufacturing process. The shape and sheathing material of immersion heaters may change, but they all are capable of being submerged in the liquid.

Consider the optimal sheathing material to protect your immersion unit. Titanium, steel, copper, cast iron and other materials can all be used to combine chemical resistance, energy efficiency and other performance features your facility needs.

Tubular Heaters

Use a tubular heater in your construction, retail food or manufacturing process. Compared with other types of units, tubular units offer incredibly precise temperature settings. The shape and related controlling mechanisms allow tubular heating systems to be used in virtually any application.

Choose stainless steel, titanium, Incoloy or other sheathing material to create a long-lasting unit. These dynamic units use radiation, convection and conduction heating to deliver heat through liquid, solid or gas systems. Use a tubular heater to warm up grease, maintain a water temperature or heat up oil for optimal lubrication in your construction equipment.

Commercial Heating Specialists

We connect commercial customers with durable process heaters that meet targeted requirements and perform specialized tasks. Our thermal products are designed to give you outstanding value and long life, while also meeting your specific budgetary requirements. We distribute standard and custom electric band heaters, nozzle heaters, cast-in heaters and more.

Our industrial and commercial heaters offer operational innovation, generating the rapid, reliable heat transfers you need for successful outcomes. From flexible silicone rubber heaters to comprehensive thermal control systems, we help to solve space, shape or application heating challenges. Hi-Watt is dedicated to quick response times and fast turnarounds. Call us today to take advantage of our thermal expertise and personalized service.