Heat Trace Automation: What does an unplanned outage cost you?


Fluids are the life-blood of your facility. An inefficient or non-functioning heat trace system can bring production to a grinding halt if they fail. Freezing within pipes can lead to flow restrictions, pressure build-up, cracks, and damage to facilities and personnel. The best time to execute a heat trace project is before a failure catches you unaware. 

Heat Trace Auditing

With regular auditing, you can identify non-functioning or potentially problematic heat trace and avoid a painful plant outage. Here are two places to start with auditing 

  1. Meggar Testing: Insulation breakdown is one of the most common issues that will cause heat trace to malfunction. Meggar testing checks the resistance of the heat trace core to the shield and will indicate if the insulation is breaking down. 
  2. Capacitance Testing: A break in a heating cable can be difficult to locate through visual methods. Capacitance testing can approximate the length of the cable, warning you if the cable is severed in its run. 

Plant heat trace can be a considerable 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? Taking time to complete an audit can save you from the costs of unplanned downtime. 

Easily Monitor Heat Trace

By incorporating heat trace into your plant's automation system, you can use energy when you need it and gain the advantage of monitoring the system's health. Temperature transmitters can be placed at critical locations along the line to maintain the optimal setpoint. Your team can then monitor and adjust the system from an operator workstation. Interfaces can allow the operator to adapt setpoints, receive alarms for broken lines, and evaluate the system's health as it ages.  

When does it make sense to automate this audit? Start asking a few questions. 

  • Does the plant's system run 24/7 for 365 days a year? 
  • 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? 

Interstates offers various solutions to ensure the facility's heat trace system functions as intended, from design and installation of new systems to audits of existing systems. Contact us to learn how we can help with your heat trace system. 

This article has been reviewed and updated on November 15, 2021. 


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