What Is a Heat Trace System? Heat trace systems help to regulate the temperatures of pipes and the contents they hold. To accomplish this, the heat follows a set of paths that generate electricity. This electric heat then passes into the pipes. Heat trace systems are crucial for stopping substances from freezing and protect pipes and other structures from bursting during cold weather.
Sometimes, it is possible to purchase a premade heating cable or comparable system. You can then plug and play and have immediate heat source protection. The more complex the plumbing and operations are at a site, the more likely it becomes that you will need a custom system.
Common Types of Heat Trace
Whether you buy a premade solution or create a custom option, you will need to start by choosing a type of heat trace. Most will fall into broad classes of either fluid or electric heat. Common types of heat trace include:
- Electric Resistance Heat-Tracing: Most industrial applications rely on electric heat tracing because of its accurate temperature control, cost-effectiveness and ease of installation. Some common systems that fall under this header include self-regulating heaters, insulated cable heaters and zone heaters.
- Fluid Heat Tracing: The most common and cost-effective type of fluid heat tracing is steam. The downside to using this is that steam systems can leak and tend to create excess heat with limited temperature control. Circulating media provides better temperature control, but it is also the most expensive option on the market.
- Impedance Heat Tracing: This type of heat trace system focuses on making the actual piping the source of heat, instead of adding equipment. It accomplishes this by creating a resistance to current flow. While it is a tidy solution, it can also be very expensive.
- Skin Effect Tracing: This is a complex way of heating long pipelines and is only cost-effective for those applications. Once the project falls below 5,000 feet, the cost is no longer worth it. That said, it does an excellent job of maintaining temperatures and repairs are fairly easy to complete.
- Induction Heating: Induction heating relies on the use of metallic pipelines and alternating-current magnetic fields to generate heat. It can be useful for generating very high temperatures, but for the most part, it is expensive.