How To Use Heat Tape For Your Home
It’s winter, and you’re putting on layers and layers of clothes to keep warm. The same goes for your home’s plumbing lines as well. They need to be insulated lest your home gets chilly which could affect your mobile home cost, and one of the ways you can do that is by using heat tape. Here is all you need to know about heat tape and how it keeps your pipes warm.
What Is Heat Tape?
Heat tape prevents metal and plastic pipes from freezing during winter and is pretty common for people who live in sub-freezing areas since they’re cheap and effective. Unlike its name, it’s not a tape you stick onto something – rather, it is a heat-conducting wire that conducts heat with electricity. As a result, this keeps your water from freezing when placed near your water lines.
There are several things you might want to consider before getting a heat tape, though, especially if your mobile home is older. If your water line material used is from before PEX, then it might be too thin for the heat tape temperatures, even if you get the lowest temperature-conducting one. Mobile homeowners should only look for shielded heat tape that is approved especially for their homes. Furthermore, many heat tapes that are light and thermostatically controlled are not for older homes. If you live in one, then you can only use brands that are UL listed.
Lastly, if you own an old mobile home, then you should be careful of aluminum wiring because it doesn’t work well with heat tape. Aluminum wiring can wear and tear easily, thus electricity travel becomes very dangerous. You will only potentially hurt yourself should you use heat tape in such an unstable environment. Ensure that you replace your aluminum wiring first before you get the heat tapes.
Type of heat tapes and installation processes
There are two ways of heat tape wiring installation. Firstly, we have the hardwired heat tape, which is connected to the electric system and controlled by its own breaker. This is only installed by a professional, so it’s not that common. The other is to have an outdoor extension cord and a GFCI outlet.
Self-regulated heat tape
Self-regulated heat tapes are newer and ideal as they save you on your energy bills. Because they are self-regulated, they know only to increase their temperature when the weather gets colder. This way, it helps you to save energy by decreasing its temperature when it’s not necessary to do so. It’s also convenient because you don’t have to turn them off and on constantly.
Silicone heat tape
There are also silicone heat tapes or braided heat tapes. The former is a one-piece heat tape that cannot be overlapped nor have any significant twists. For silicone heat tapes, you should place them at the end of the pipes because they are the coldest. As for braided heat tapes, they are the most ideal for mobile homes. However, they are more complex in their installation process and how much you need to buy.
The braided tape is better than the silicone tape, however, in the sense that they are able to be overlapped without any danger, and are used by many contractors. Should you choose to use braided heat tapes, then do note that they rust much more easily because they have no moisture barrier unlike the silicone heat tape, so they don’t last as long.
Where should you install your heat tape?
Heat tapes can only be installed on pipes that are not covered and should be outside your house. The most popular areas to place heat tapes are on water supply and drain lines underneath your mobile homes because they are the most common places where freezing water lines occur. Although they might not seem visible, they are still exposed to the cold air during winter. With that, you need to know what equipment you need to install the heat tape, which includes:
- Sufficient heat tape, cut
- Scissors and knives
- Extension cord for power
- Electrical tape
- FIberglass pipe insulation
- Measuring tape
- Vapor seal wrap
- Protection for your hands and eyes
- Rags for cleaning
Usually, you need to know how big and long your pipes are to know how much heat tape you should buy. Talk to the manufacturer if you are unsure. It is important for you to have enough because when you are installing the heat tape, there has to be consistent contact with the water pipe.
How to Install Heat Tape
There are two ways to install heat tape.
Firstly, you can install your heat tape in a parallel fashion, laid flat against the side of the pipe that is the most exposed to the air.
The other way to install heat tape is to wrap them around the water pipes in a spiral fashion, with short intervals. This is a much ideal way to install heat tapes if your water pipes are vertical and have a wide area of exposure to the air.
After installing your heat tape, ensure that it remains dry. Next, it is advised that you wrap insulation over the heat tape so that the temperature of the heat tape remains consistent and lasts longer. Make sure to get only fiberglass insulation because they are fire-resistant, lest you create a fire hazard.
Lastly, you need to install a moisture barrier. They are installed in a similar way as insulation, but they need to be wrapped in the opposite direction. Make sure that you don’t install it too tight as the insulation stops working if it gets wet.
Replacing your heat tapes
Heat tapes can only last for three years because they are always exposed to water and electricity, and so you should replace them at least every three years.
With that, it is important to note that heat tapes are preventative measures and not solutions to your frozen pipes. Always prepare yourself beforehand and install the heat tapes before winter comes, because they will not unfreeze your pipes. If you are worried that your lines may freeze even with heat tapes, you can always install freeze alarms so that you know if the lines get too cold. Freeze alarms are installed inside your house with a cord attached to your water line and can be installed easily. Now you can have a winter with peace of mind.