Your heat tracing has been protecting lines and vessels from
freezing. But winter isn't over and, as each day passes, the likelihood
of a heat tracing failure increases due to time in service. How can you
improve the odds? The following tips will keep your system warm and
- Check the bonding. Is your system connected to the earth, or
is it properly bonded? See the NEC Art. 100 definitions of bonding and
grounding to make sure you fully understand the components in your
- Protect against leakage. Are your branch circuit protection
devices ground leakage equipment devices? If not, consider upgrading. If
yes, how will you know when they trip (see the next tip)?
- Look at the latest offerings of heat trace monitoring
products. Many of these can increase heat trace reliability. Some
can also provide cost savings by eliminating unnecessary maintenance and
alerting you to problems.
- Look at the latest offerings of heat trace control products.
These include useful features that may have been unavailable when your
system was installed, such as energy management, remote access, data
logging, and trending.
- Protect against ground faults. In the event of a fault, a
system without ground-fault monitoring could suffer extended downtime.
Bring your system into compliance with the current NEC [427.22].
- Review ground-fault protection implementation. Use GFCI for
people protection (3mA to 6mA trip), not for equipment protection (30mA
Fluke 62 Mini digital thermometer is the perfect introduction to
infrared (IR) thermometers. It’s compact and portable for technicians
to diagnose HVAC problems and monitor the temperature of electrical
motors and panels without contact. Rugged enough for industrial
environments with its protective rubber “boot” and handy nylon belt
holster to take quick temperature reads.
Your heat tracing has monitoring so that operators get an
alarm if a break occurs. Last week, an outdoor storage tank lost heat
tracing on its overfill line. A couple of days later, it lost heat
tracing on its fill line. Yesterday, it lost heat tracing on its drain
line. Today, the overfill line heat tracing failed again. In each case,
the heat tracing was broken.
Techs prevented freeze-ups by making splices promptly. The shift
supervisor remarked, “As extremely cold as it's been, we're lucky they
fixed the heat tracing in time to prevent lines from
How can you track down the cause(s) of these failures, and could they be
Visit EC&M's website
to see the answer.
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At your facility, is the scenario for repairing heat tracing
something like this?
All this walking back and forth wastes time. The solution is to keep a
heat tracing repair checklist (specific to the protected equipment) in
your CMMS. By preparing for the job with this list, the repair tech can
walk once to the piping and once back.
- Walk out to the piping and look.
- Walk back to the shop to get a few tools.
- Walk back to the piping.
- Make a roundtrip for a tool you forgot.
- Make a roundtrip to get your DMM.
- Take some measurements.
- Walk back inside for break time.
Must industrial facilities submit plans to the AHJ before
commencing work? The correct answer is no, but you must permit the AHJ
to review the plans [Annex H, 80.21(A)]. So if you want to be
legalistic, you comply with the NEC if you don't ban the AHJ from seeing
your drawings. Technically correct is one thing, actually right is
In some cases, it's better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission.
Electrical installations are never among those cases. For these
installations, it's better to get design issues addressed before
construction than to encounter the costs and delays of rework.
So, let's say the AHJ approves the plans. You do the work in compliance
with the plans. Then the electrical inspector identifies a code
violation that requires significant rework. But you stand on your
AHJ-approved drawings as proof that you have an exception to the code
requirement the AHJ is relying on. Who's right?
To read more on this story, visit EC&M's website.
Advances in test equipment open possibilities for reducing
the window of exposure. Some innovations have eliminated some
“routine” tasks altogether (for example, power monitors). Other
innovations reduce total exposure time, but newer versions reduce it
even further. For example, clamp-on ammeters and DMM inductive
accessories solve the problem of having to break connections to measure
But the jaws you have may not be shaped for all of the wire access
limitations you face. Even if you have an impressive collection of jaws,
you might spend extra time in front of energized equipment pulling on
cable bundles and cutting ties to allow your clamp to fit. That problem
is now greatly alleviated by flexible clamps.
Cable testing during non-shutdown conditions is often necessary. Sure,
you de-energize the circuit under test, but you're still working within
range of an arc blast. Compared to previous generations, today's
insulation resistance testers are faster, easier, and safer to use.