Trace heating cable can be used on pipes made of plastic, but it’s important to take into account the plastic’s durability and thermal properties first. Plastic is 125 times more resistant to heat than steel, but it is also more vulnerable to damage from high temperatures. The key thing when heating plastic pipes is to use a lower temperature and spread it out as evenly as you can, so all the heat isn’t focused in one place.
It is always beneficial to use electric trace heating products that have an automatic thermostat and control, but this is particularly the case when using heat trace on PVC pipe. An automatic heat trace control can check and control the temperature of the system, alert you to any problems, and turn off the heat cable to avoid any damage.
There is heat cable on the market that is specifically designed for use with plastic pipes, thanks to it being self-regulating and having a limited wattage. Self-regulating heat cables include a conductive core in the middle of two bus wires that become increase in conductivity when they’re cold. This system adds more power to the cold spots and limits it in the warmer parts, which creates a more even heat source.
The manufacturer of the plastic pipe should be able to give you more information regarding the maximum temperature it can withstand and how close the heat cable can be spaced or wrapped onto the pipe to avoid any deterioration. Certain applications might need heat cable to be added to opposite ends of the pipe at a lower temperature to spread the heat more evenly, and to prevent one direct area of focused heat which could seriously impact the pipe.
It is recommended that you put in place a foil material between the pipe and heat cable to stop any direct contact and help to offer better distributed and even heating. If you go down this route, put the heat trace control thermostat directly onto the pipe with no foil over the top of it or between it and the pipe to help achieve a more accurate temperature reading.
To answer the overarching question of this article, yes you can use heat cable on plastic pipes as long as you take care and follow the precautions. These include understanding your pipe’s thermal capabilities, choosing a self-regulating, low wattage heat cable, and using an automatic heat trace control with safety functions. By following these guidelines, you can avoid damaging your heat trace system and extend its lifespan.
How can TRM help?
If you’re looking for help with trace heating UK, our team at TRM can help. As professional and experienced trace heating suppliers, we can explain how an effective trace heating system is used to compensate for heat loss, using an electrical heating part, which is put in physical contact with the surface of pipelines, vessel, tanks, etc.
This will help to ensure your manufacturing is working as it should be by maintaining or increasing temperatures where needed. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with your trace heating and general temperature management in your operations.