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How To Install Heat Tape

Installing heat tape to water pipes isn't hard but it does require preparation and some forethought.

There is more to installing heat tape than just wrapping it around the cold water pipes. Heat tape that was installed improperly will not only not keep the pipes from freezing up but can cause a fire that could destroy your home. Installing heat tape correctly is not rocket science but does require some attention to detail and an understanding of the National Electrical Codes (NEC) and the local electrical codes. Always contact your local building codes and permits department before installing heating tape because, in many jurisdictions, you will be required to purchase an electrical wiring permit and will be required to have your work inspected by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Degree of difficulty on a scale of one to ten is a solid 3.

Tools and supplies that you will need for this project.

AHB160 EasyHeat Pipe Heating Cable 120 volts, 420 Watts, 3.5 Amperes, 60 foot with built in thermostatic control, 2 foot power cord.

Application tape

Razor knife

Check all pipes and fittings for water leaks.

Begin your installation by inspecting all water pipes and fitting for signs of water leakage before wrapping them with heat tape. Any contact with water can cause the heat tape to short out and quit working all together. A shorted out section of heat tape can also cause a structural fire. You must repair all leaks before installing the heating tape. There are several methods that can be used to repair leaks in copper and PVC water pipes but repairing leaking pipes is beyond the scope of this article.

Install the heat tape by running it along the side of the water pipe.

Installing the heat tape

Some installers wrap the heating tape around the pipe in a spiral but running the heating tape along the side of the pipe and taping it tightly against the pipe at 6 inch intervals effects better heat transfer. Keep in mind that the heat tape must be in contact with the water pipe along its full length for proper heat transfer and to keep the heat tape from burning out.

If the heat tape is longer than the water pipe it is being used on, it must be wrapped around the water pipe. When wrapping heat tape around a water make sure that there is at least ½ inch between the turns, more if you can manage it. Buy a shorter heat tape if necessary because the tape has to be in contact with a water filled water pipe for it entire length or the part of the tape not in contact with the water filled pipe will melt.

Make sure that the dome shaped sensor of the inline thermostat is making solid contact with the pipe. These thermostats are designed to turn the heat tape on when the pipes temperature drops to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and to turn the heating tape off when the pipes temperature rises to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do not let the heat tape come within ½ inch of any combustible material and do pass it through walls or any other structural member.

You can plug the heat tape into any 120 volt receptacle but plugging it into a GFCI protected circuit is recommended.

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