In my northern prairie climate, it’s a sure sign that spring is giving way to summer when the coat racks at the office/plant are bare. Summer might seem like an odd time to discuss heat trace, but it’s a great time to evaluate your electrical heat trace system and adjust before cold weather sets in again.
Plant heat trace can be a notable energy expense. A constant 100A draw from a heat trace panel running year-round could cost $12,000 or more a year. Considering many plants have multiple panels – it starts to add up. But, more importantly, what happens if a circuit fails? What does a day or two of unplanned outage cost?
By automating heat trace using your existing plant automation system, you can avoid using energy when you don’t need it and gain the advantage of monitoring the health of the system at the same time. You can use temperature transmitters on important lines to maintain a setpoint or put multiple transmitters on mission-critical lines. Having eyes into the system from your operator workstation will allow you to adjust those setpoints. Couple this control with current monitoring of each circuit, and you can not only receive alarms for broken lines, but you can literally plot the health of your system as it ages (the dielectric in heat tape degrades over time).
Make it a priority to find out about situations that can cause downtime before it’s too late. To start this discussion for your site, here are some questions you can ask:
• Is the system on 24/7/365?
• Do you rely on staff to turn on breakers in September and turn them off in April?
• Do you have line or ambient thermostats controlling a few circuits?
• Are setpoints set 20, 50, or even 100°F higher than they need to be?
Contact us to learn how we can help with your heat trace automation needs.
Eric Oordt, Instrument Engineer