Steam Tracing vs Self-Regulating Cables for High Temperature Industrial Applications

It’s been known for years that steam is a very efficient carrier of heat with a fixed relationship between its pressure and temperature. It can transport heat and gives up its heat at a relatively constant temperature. That’s why steam tracing has been a popular choice for industrial and process applications – but is it now the best choice?  

Due to the rising cost of energy, the need for plants to be more energy efficient is critical. Deploying trace heating systems that are both reliable and have a low cost of maintenance is an important part to managing costs for industrial high temperature applications. While steam tracing has historically been a more common form of heat tracing, advances in modern technology have made electric heat tracing a more desirable choice. 

What is the downfall of a steam heat tracing system?

Steam heat tracing requires more labor to install, requires more routine maintenance than an electric system and operates best when used in short distances. Using electric self-regulating cables offers a more reliable and innovative solution for high temperature process maintenance needs by overcoming these problematic issues. 

When dealing with high temperature applications, the selection of the correct cable is critical. Often, the determining factor in cable selection is not the process maintenance temperature, but the potential cable exposure temperature. 

For instance, if a process line is steam cleaned, the temperature of the steam will degrade and eventually destroy the power output of a self-regulating cable intended for low exposure temperatures. Also, in high temperature applications, sheath temperature considerations become important due to the potential for auto-ignition of combustible gases in the area.  

What does the integrity of a trace heating system depend on?

The integrity of a trace heating system depends upon on how accurately the cable is selected and how well it is installed. An improperly designed and installed trace heating system could result in cable failure and possible physical injury. 

Electric heat tracing systems are intrinsically safe. While steam tracing is a proven method for pipeline and process heating, the advanced technology used by electric heat tracing offers greater capabilities today with its ability to effectively provide temperature maintenance in a safer and easier system overall.

Learn more about process temperature maintenance solutions for your organization.