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Corporate Engineering Standard

Maintenance and Construction Procedure: PE43

Electrical Technology Network

PE43
Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance
Heat-Tracing System
Table of Contents
1. User guidance.......................................................................................................................................................2
1.1
Scope..........................................................................................................................................................2
1.2
Applicability .................................................................................................................................................2
1.3
Benefit.........................................................................................................................................................2
1.4
Principle ......................................................................................................................................................3
1.5
Definitions ...................................................................................................................................................3
1.6
References .................................................................................................................................................3
2. Commissioning the heat-tracing system ..........................................................................................................4
2.1
Cable testing after installation ....................................................................................................................4
2.2
Functional check and field documentation .................................................................................................6
3. Maintaining the heat-tracing system .................................................................................................................7
3.1
General requirements .................................................................................................................................7
3.2
Visual inspection.........................................................................................................................................7
3.3
Periodic operational check..........................................................................................................................8
3.4
Maintenance inspection checklist ...............................................................................................................8
3.5
Specific maintenance and repair procedure...............................................................................................8
3.6
Troubleshooting heat-tracing systems .......................................................................................................9
4. Safety considerations .........................................................................................................................................9
4.1
Process safety ............................................................................................................................................9
4.2
Electrical safety...........................................................................................................................................9
4.3
Thermal safety ..........................................................................................................................................11
5. Troubleshooting ................................................................................................................................................12
5.1
Common causes of failure ........................................................................................................................13
6. Record keeping ..................................................................................................................................................14
6.1
Recommended records for preventive maintenance................................................................................14
6.2
Hazardous chemical areas .......................................................................................................................14
List of Appendices
Appendix A. Commissioning inspection checklist for electrical resistance heat tracing ............................. 15
Appendix B. Maintenance inspection checklist for electrical resistance heat tracing .................................. 16
Appendix C. Troubleshooting guide for electrical resistance heat tracing..................................................... 17
Appendix D. Heater insulation resistance testing.............................................................................................. 19
Appendix E. Troubleshooting procedure for mineral insulated heating cables ............................................. 23
Red text indicates revisions made in the April 2008 issue.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


Contact Valerie.S.Lamison@usa.dupont.com by e-mail for more information.
This document may be used and reproduced for DuPont business only.
Copyright 2001, 2008 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. All Rights Reserved. (Unpublished)(Engineering)

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PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

1. User guidance
1.1 Scope
The purpose of this procedure is to offer recommendations for commissioning electrical
resistance heat-tracing systems and to encourage the maintenance of the systems.
This recommended procedure includes the following types of electrical resistance heat-tracing
systems:

Parallel heating cable

Self-regulating & power-limiting heat tracing

Constant-wattage (zone-type parallel) systems

Series heating cable

Flexible series resistance (one, two, or three conductor) thermoplastic insulated cable

Mineral-insulated (MI), metal-sheathed cable

Included in this document are checklists that may be used in the field for commissioning the heattracing system (Appendix A) and maintaining the system (Appendix B). Troubleshooting guides
are also included to help solve problems that might arise in the generic systems (Appendix C) as
well as Mineral Insulated systems (Appendix E). In addition, a procedure for testing heater
insulation resistance is outlined in Appendix D.

1.2 Applicability
This document is applicable to all DuPont facilities where electrical heat-tracing systems are
used. It is designed as a procedure for DuPont maintenance personnel and contractors. This
document provides recommended guidelines only, which can be used with properly installed and
documented systems. Because many heat-tracing systems are especially applicable for seasonal
use (e.g., freeze protection), preseason maintenance is especially recommended. Where heat
tracing protects critical processes, maintenance may be completed as allowed by the process
cycles.

1.3 Benefit
The proper commissioning of an electrical resistance heat-tracing system is very important to its
effective performance and can add years to the life of the system. Improper installation is often
realized only after problems occur. Freeze-ups and failure to attain design temperatures can often
be traced to improper installation.
The attention given to heat-tracing systems through proper periodic maintenance can prevent
frozen pipes, process failures, equipment damage, and even environmental incidents. In addition,
preventive maintenance applied to heat-tracing systems can increase personnel safety by
reducing exposure to electric shock and eliminating a source of fire. Reliability of emergency
eyewash and safety showers that are dependent on heat tracing is an additional safety
consideration.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

1.4 Principle
This recommended procedure is based on the principle that electrical resistance heat tracing
must be properly commissioned, tested, and maintained so that process, fluid, or material
temperatures allow electrical, thermal, and mechanical durability of the heat-tracing system. This
provision ensures that the performance of the system poses no danger to the user or
surroundings in normal use (see Section 4). In addition, this procedure recognizes that for the
heat-tracing commissioning to be successful, the system installation must also be properly
executed and documented.

1.5 Definitions
Arc blastenergy released by an electric arc initiated by partial breakdown of circuit impedance.
Electric arcing is the passage of substantial electric currents through what had previously been air
but becomes the vapor of the arc terminal material, usually a conductor metal or carbon.
Equipment protective device (EPD)a system intended to provide protection of equipment
from damaging line-to-ground fault currents by operating to cause a disconnecting means to open
all ungrounded conductors of the faulted circuit. This protection is provided at current levels
(typically 30 mA) less than those required to protect conductors from damage through the
operation of a supply circuit overcurrent device.
Flash hazarda dangerous condition associated with the release of energy caused by an arc
that suddenly and violently changes material(s) into a vapor. Next to the laser, the electric arc is
the hottest thing on earthup to or beyond 19,582C (35,000F)four times as hot as the
surface of the sun. The hazard includes the possibility of radiation burn from the arc blast.
Highly hazardous chemicala substance possessing toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive
properties.
Megohmmeteran instrument (megohm insulation tester, megohmmeter or megger1) used to
determine the insulation integrity of electrical equipment by impressing a test voltage, generally
limited to 5,000 V dc, on the equipment under test.
Note: See IEEE-515 or IEEE-515.1 for a more comprehensive set of definitions.

1.6 References
Corporate Engineering Standards
DE1H

Electrical Pipeline Heat Tracing, Design and Application Details

E7K

Electrical Pipeline Heat Tracing, Installation Details

E10K

Electrical Heat Tracing for Safety Shower Freeze Protection

PE42

Commissioning Checklist (Including Punch List) for Distribution Equipment and Large
Motors

Safety, Health, and Environmental Standard


S14G
1

Lockout/Tagout

Megger is a registered trademark of AVO International

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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Other References
ANSI/ IEEE515

American National Standards Institute/Institute of Electrical and Electronics


Engineers Standard-IEEE Standard for the Testing, Design, Installation, and
Maintenance of Electrical Resistance Heat Tracing for Industrial Applications

ANSI/ IEEE515.1

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standard-IEEE Recommended


Practice for the Testing, Design, Installation, and Maintenance of Electrical
Resistance Heat Tracing for Commercial Applications

NEC Article
210-19, FPN
No. 4

National Fire Protection AssociationNational Electrical Code (NEC)4, Branch


Circuits, ConductorsMinimum Ampacity and Size

NEC Article
426

National Fire Protection AssociationNEC: Fixed Outdoor Electric Deicing and


Snow-Melting Equipment

NEC Article
427

National Fire Protection AssociationNEC: Fixed Electric Heating Equipment for


Pipelines and Vessels

NFPA 70E

National Fire Protection Association - Standard for Electrical Safety in the


Workplace

OSHA 29 CFR Occupational Safety and Health Administration PublicationProcess Safety


1910.119
Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals

2.

Commissioning the heat-tracing system


After the installation and inspection of the heat-tracing system has been performed by personnel
trained, qualified, and knowledgeable in heat-tracing systems, approval documentation
(installation record) certifies the circuit as ready to be commissioned. The attached
commissioning inspection checklist in Appendix A can be used for maintenance or repair of selflimiting, constant-wattage, series resistance, or MI cable electrical resistance heat tracing.
Note:

Class 1 Division 1 installations require higher levels of documentation. Installation,


repair, or modification to a Class 1 Division 1 system requires that documentation be
complete and updated as a condition of agency approval.

2.1 Cable testing after installation


Insulation resistance testing is a reliable indicator of the electrical integrity of the heating cable
and wiring system (see Appendix D for testing heater insulation resistance). Testing is
recommended during installation, commissioning, and maintenance (see checklists in
Appendices A and B).
2.1.1

Heat-tracing cable

Before thermal insulation is applied to the heat-tracing cable, the insulation resistance is
measured. Insulation should be measured with at least a 500-V dc test voltage. However, it
is strongly recommended that higher test voltages be used1,000 V dc for mineralinsulated heaters and 2,500 V dc for polymeric heaters. Under normal dry conditions and
before connection of the device to the associated wiring or control equipment, the minimum
insulation resistance should be 20 M.
Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008
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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Note: Tracers installed or stored in locations with high humidity can sometimes assimilate
moisture during installation and exhibit low test values that rise when placed into
service.
2.1.2

Branch circuit

After the thermal insulation is complete, the insulation resistance of the entire branch circuit
should be 20 M, measured at 500 V dc. If required, each electric heating cable operation is
checked by applying rated voltage and recording current and pipe temperature at steadystate conditions. Time should be allowed for the current to stabilize, because the starting
current is sometimes higher than the steady state operating current.
Note: Disconnect wiring from heating controllers while using a megohmmeter to prevent
possibility of damaging solid-state components.
2.1.3

Thermal insulation

The following thermal insulation checks are recommended:


1. Follow the Engineering Thermal Insulation Specification for a specific site for the
selection and installation of thermal insulation materials. An Engineering Thermal
Insulation Specification for each site is available at:
http://engineering-insulspc.lvs.dupont.com/cgi-bin/sitespec
2. Verify that the type, inside diameter, and thickness agree with the values used to select
the heating cables.
3. Protect against water intrusion during storage, handling, and installation. Use temporary
protection when the moisture barrier is not immediately installed.
4. Seal all penetrations. Penetrations should be in the lower 180 half of the thermal
insulation system. If penetrations must be in the upper 180 half, seal all penetrations
and provide a rain shield to minimize moisture entrance.
5. Cut and fit thermal insulation to avoid air gaps. Stagger segment joints to break up
convective heat loss.
6. Apply thermal insulation to exposed heat sinks, such as pipe shoes, supports, and
appurtenances, and seal with an appropriate weather barrier.
7. Install circumferential closure bands with nonsetting sealer between the overlapped
sections of metallic weather barriers.
Note:

Simply overlapping corrugated metal on horizontal lines or equipment does not


provide an effective weather barrier.

8. Give careful attention to expansion joints when installing thermal insulation on a hightemperature service.
9. Provide pipe supports outside of insulation whenever possible.

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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

2.2 Functional check and field documentation


1. Energize the circuit when the piping system is ready for operation. For new systems,
consider using the vendors field service personnel to supervise final systems checkout and
start-up.
2. The operation of the controller depends on the type selected. Review the manufacturers
instructions on controller setup and operation. Ensure that a controller schedule is available
to verify controller/ thermostat settings and/or configuration. The controller should maintain
pipeline temperature at the preselected set point after the temperature has stabilized. (It
usually takes the piping system several hours to reach operating temperature. Filled lines
take longer.)
Measure pipeline (pipewall) temperature with a portable meter. To measure, add test
resistive thermal detectors (RTD) or thermocouples (T/C) on the pipewall at the time of
construction, or use an insertion probe to penetrate the lower quadrant of the thermal
insulation on soft insulation, or drill small holes in rigid insulation. Use an acceptable method
to repair any holes that are drilled. Check the measurements against controller indication
and calibrate if necessary.
For new systems using microprocessor-based controls, make sure the manufacturers
representative is present during initial commissioning to assist in checkout and to train
personnel who will commission and/or maintain the system.
3. When the system has reached operating temperature, check the pipeline to ensure that all
heating cable segments are operating and check for temperature variation. To complete
these checks, use a noninvasive method such as infrared thermography or follow the
procedure in item 2.
4. Energize branch circuits one circuit at a time and verify proper current. (A temporary bypass
may be required at the controller.)
5. Verify that monitor or alarm circuits are operable. (A bypass may be required at field
contacts.)
6. Complete the commissioning inspection checklist (see Appendix A) for each circuit to
document verification of the following reports:

Electrical insulation resistance values each time measurements are taken

Applied voltage, resulting current, and pipe temperature, if required

Alarm and monitor components operating as intended

Calibration check at the temperature controller set point performed and set at this value

Tagging and identification

Branch circuit breaker

Monitor and alarm apparatus

Heating cable input connection

Circuit number and set point for each thermostat

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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

External pipeline decal (see Figure 1) to indicate presence of electric tracing

7. Tabulate final documentation on a circuit basis and include verified as-built drawings. If
possible, attach an engineering flow diagram that shows the location of each circuit, which
can help resolve abnormal conditions during operations and assist in equipment
maintenance.
8. Commission backup (redundant) systems one at a time. Start up the primary system,
commission it, then shut it down. Next, start up the backup system, then commission it.

3.

Maintaining the heat-tracing system


3.1 General requirements
Maintaining a heat-tracing system that is not properly designed and installed is a very difficult
prospect; therefore, proper design and installation are essential. A satisfactory electrical heattracing maintenance program has the following requirements:

A properly designed and installed heat-tracing system

Qualified maintenance personnel to administer the program and sufficiently document all
portions

A preventive maintenance program


3.1.1

Preventive maintenance program

Establishing a preventive maintenance program helps ensure proper operation and long life
of a heat-tracing system. The preventive maintenance program should include a
documented plan for continuing inspection, reporting, and recording of the condition and
repair of all heat-tracing equipment.
3.1.2

Personnel training

Maintenance personnel should have a thorough knowledge of equipment in specific heattracing systems and have the ability to recognize defects in the system and repair all
components. Changes in personnel and equipment require that training be repeated
periodically.

3.2 Visual inspection


Visual inspection of the system can detect damage and defects in thermal insulation and weather
barriers. Damaged insulation can then be removed, repaired, or replaced. The cable underneath
the insulation should also be inspected for any damage. Inspections should include observing
parts and connections for the following conditions:

Signs of overheating

Leaks, corrosion, and foreign matter

Loose connections

Thermostats and control cabinets that are improperly sealed, contain moisture, or show
signs of corrosion

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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Integrity of thermal insulation. (Any missing, damaged, or temporary insulation should be


corrected. Any entries into the top of the thermal insulation [not recommended] should be
weather tight. Wet thermal insulation should be replaced.)

Visual inspection should be done on a routine basis and when any mechanical maintenance is
completed. Inspections should be scheduled according to the manufacturers recommendations
and frequency of equipment use.

3.3 Periodic operational check


Periodic checks on electric heat-tracing circuits help to maintain reliable, trouble-free systems.
Checks should be scheduled at regular intervals according to the importance of the heat tracing to
the process or plant operation and the use of the system. If the electrical heat tracing is used for
freeze protection, a major operational system check in the fall of the year should include the
following:

Ensure that all circuits and controls operate properly.

Check each circuit for

Electrical insulation resistance.

Continuity of normal current flow.

Properly applied voltage.

Check proper operation of indicators on

Thermostats.

Indicating lights.

Meters.

Controllers.

If the electrical heat tracing is used for maintaining normal temperatures or critical process
control, operational checks should be completed more frequently. After mechanical maintenance
has been performed on heat-traced pipelines, vessels, or equipment, the electrical insulation
resistance and heating cable continuity should be checked to ensure the integrity of the heat
cable before the equipment is reenergized. EPDs should be periodically tested before the heattracing system is energized and at each repair.

3.4 Maintenance inspection checklist


The attached maintenance inspection checklist in Appendix B can be used for maintenance or
repair of self-regulating, power-limiting, constant-wattage, series resistance, or MI cable electrical
resistance heat tracing.

3.5 Specific maintenance and repair procedure


Generally, maintenance or repair on mechanical equipment or devices where heat tracing is used,
work on the heating cable or components, or activities that involve removing the thermal
insulation require the electrical circuit supplying the heat tracing to be deenergized and locked
out. Site-specific maintenance and repair procedures developed in accordance with SHE
Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008
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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Standard S14G and NFPA 70E that permit interaction with energized heating circuits should only
be done for specific activities that ensure personnel have an understanding and control of the
hazards involved. See SHE Standard S14G for a review of hazards involved.

3.6 Troubleshooting heat-tracing systems


The troubleshooting guide for electrical resistance heat tracing in Appendix C can help identify
problems of installed electrical resistance heat tracing. The guide lists probable causes for the
following symptoms:

Circuit breaker trips (for standard breakers)

Ground-fault trips

Zero or low power input

Pipe temperatures below design, although the power output appears correct

For more information, see Maintenance and Construction Procedure PE42.

4.

Safety considerations
4.1 Process safety
4.1.1

Process hazards review

A process hazards review for plant site processes should include the impact of abnormally
high or low temperatures due to malfunction of heat-tracing systems. If failure of the heattracing system can result in adverse reactions, such as at pressure-relief points, the integrity
of the system must be carefully considered.
4.1.2

Reliability of tracing

If plant or personnel safety depends on the reliability of the heat-tracing system, each circuit
should be designed for a Type III process (see IEEE-515). Tracing should include a narrowband temperature controller with RTD or thermocouple-type sensors and maximum
flexibility in the selection of alarm and monitoring functions. Redundant equipment may be
warranted (see IEEE-515).
4.1.3

Process leaks

Personnel interacting with the thermal insulation should be aware of the possible presence
of flammable or toxic material leaking into the thermal insulation.

4.2 Electrical safety


4.2.1

Identification label

An energized electrical heat-tracing system can cause electrical shock hazard or electrical
fire if it is not installed in accordance with the manufacturers recommended procedures. The
presence of an electrically heated system must be identified on the outer surface of the
thermal insulated pipeline, vessel, or equipment (see NEC Article 427-13). This
requirement is intended to reduce the risk of shock or burn to those who must work on the
process system (see Figure 1 for sample label). Labels are also available from the
manufacturer.
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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

For systems operating at greater than 120 V to ground, consider providing identification of
the system voltage in addition to the required caution label.
Figure 1.

Label used to identify electrically heat-traced line

4.2.2

Ground-fault protection

If the heating cable system is damaged or improperly installed, electric arcing may not be
stopped by a conventional circuit breaker, because the fault current may be too low to trip
the breaker. To minimize the danger of fire from sustained electrical arcing, ground-fault
equipment protection is required. (See NEC Article 427-22) This can be accomplished by
EPD circuit breaker, ground-fault relay, or a heating controller with integral ground-fault
protection. The rule-of-thumb for selection of ground-fault current is to choose a device or
setting that is 30 mA above the background value. A 5 mA ground-fault device is not
acceptable and will result in inadvertent tripping. Long branch circuit lengths and certain
types of heaters can require trip levels greater than 30 mA.
4.2.3

Lockout/tagout

Unqualified persons can interact with the heat-tracing system, creating the opportunity for
the system to be compromised or damaged. To lessen the exposure of individuals to
possible electric shock, the heat-tracing circuit should be deenergized and properly locked
out and tagged if the insulation is to be removed.
4.2.4

Using Megohmmeters

Megohmmeter test voltages of 500 V dc, 1,000 V dc, or 2,500 V dc are commonly used for
testing electrical heating cable. DuPont test procedures should be followed to prevent
inadvertent contact that could result in secondary injuries from shock sensation on contact.
Physical injuries have been known to result in falls from ladders or jerking motions that
cause physical contact with fixed objects.
In addition to the voltage present during testing, it is possible for a capacitance charge to
remain on cables after testing. Megohmmeters can be both self-charging and
nondischarging. For self-discharging meters, it is recommended that the Megohmmeter
remain connected to the circuit for 30 seconds or more to allow the charge to dissipate. If
the meter is nondischarging or if any question of a possible charge remains, the insulated
wires should be shunted to ground.

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PE43

4.2.5

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Energized tracers

Electric heat tracers are unique in that they are not normally enclosed within a cabinet or
raceway. Because both qualified and unqualified (in NEC and OSHA terms) persons may
be required to interact with traced systems, power should be removed from the circuits
before the thermal insulation is removed or when the tracer is handled during maintenance.
Handling of energized tracers by qualified personnel should only be permitted if
accompanied by procedures that check the cables to ensure good physical condition.
Tracers should be constantly checked for damage to the cable such as cracking of the
sheath or jacket that can result when old cables are handled.
Note: Certain types of installed cables, such as mineral-insulated and constant-wattage
(zone) cables are more prone to damage resulting from handling, due to hardness of
conductors and metal sheath materials.
4.2.6

Defective tracers

Damaged or defective heating cable or components can cause electrical shock, arcing, and
fire. If a failed electrical tracer proves to be the problem, the damaged section shall be
removed and replaced with a new length. A failed tracer should always be replaced, never
repaired.
4.2.7

Damaged bus wires

Damaged bus wires can overheat or short to ground. Care should be taken not to break bus
wire strands when stripping the heating cable.
4.2.8

Grommets

Reusing heating cable grommets can cause leaks, cracked components, shock, or fire. New
grommets should be used whenever the heating cable is pulled out of the termination
enclosure.

4.3 Thermal safety


Maintenance personnel are not exposed to the possibility of thermal burns as long as these
regulations are followed:

Heat-tracing systems are deenergized and locked out before work is performed (before any
thermal insulation is removed).

At least 152 mm (6 in.) of nonheating leads are provided within the junction box [NEC,
Article 427-18(a)].

Exposure to elevated temperatures is limited, according to NEC Article 427-12, which


states: External surfaces of pipeline and vessel heating equipment that operate at
temperatures exceeding 60C (140F) shall be physically guarded, isolated, or thermally
insulated to protect against contact by personnel in the area.

However, maintenance and operations personnel should be aware of the elevated temperatures
at which some wattage tracers operate. They should allow a cool-down period before removing
the thermal insulation from deenergized heat tracing.

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Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

4.3.1

Hot pipes or vessels

Direct contact with hot surfaces should be avoided. When handling tracers on hot pipes or
vessels below 60C (140F), a job lineup should require proper personal protective
equipment: suitable gloves, shirts, or jackets that prevent direct contact with the hot
surface. The tracer should be handled in a manner that minimizes direct contact with the
heated surface. Work on systems with temperatures above 60C (140F) (NEC and OSHA
limit for exposed surfaces) represents a greater hazard to personnel in the way of possible
scalding or burns and should be avoided whenever possible. When permitted by site safety
practices or by special permission, procedures should require clothing, personal protective
equipment, and a work procedure that are suitable for the elevated temperatures.
4.3.2

Removing thermal insulation

As discussed in Section 4.2.5, traced systems may require interaction by both qualified and
nonqualified personnel for maintenance and repair. The specific site procedure should
require circuits to be deenergized during maintenance activities that require pipefitters,
operating personnel, or thermal insulators to work near or handle energized heating cables
or cold-leads. See Figure 1 for an example of a pipeline surface label that recognizes OSHA
concerns. The following additional safety considerations involved in removing thermal
insulation should be addressed:

Hazard associated with elevated work

Personal protective equipment required for certain types of thermal insulation containing
respirable fibers

Thermal insulation saturated with flammable or toxic materials from leaking flanges or
pipes

For help with these hazards, refer to the specific site procedures or the DuPont-Engineering
Safety, Health, and Environmental (SHE) Manual for additional information.

5.

Troubleshooting
Heat-tracing problems are most often associated with the following symptoms:

A cold pipe

Circuit-breaker trips

Insulation resistance test failures during commissioning or maintenance testing

Locating the probable cause of the failure can be frustrating and time-consuming. The information
in this section can help troubleshoot problems with heat-tracing systems. For new tracing or for
repairs, to prevent expensive rework, testing should be completed before the thermal insulation is
installed. In addition, the troubleshooting guide for electrical resistance heat tracing in Appendix C
provides a chart to help locate the probable causes of symptoms and outlines appropriate
corrective actions. The guide provides probable causes and corrective actions for the following:

Circuit-breaker trips

Ground-fault trips

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Zero or apparently low power output

Below-design pipe temperature with apparently correct power output

5.1 Common causes of failure


Failure of the heat-tracing system can often be attributed to factors other than the failure of the
electrical tracing itself. Some common causes of failure include the following:

Thermal insulation problems (e.g., wet, damaged or missing thermal insulation)

Low system voltage

Excessive voltage drop in branch circuit conductors

Change in process conditions

Note:

If a failed electrical tracer proves to be the problem, the damaged section should be
removed and replaced (see Section 4.2.6).

5.1.1

Thermal insulation problems

Wet insulation and failure of the thermal insulation system are the leading causes of freezeups and inability of the system to maintain the system temperature (see Appendix C).
5.1.2

Low system voltage

The NEC (Article 210-19, FPN No. 4) defines a branch circuit voltage drop of 3 percent as a
reasonable design basis for conductor sizing on power, heating, and lighting loads. Rated
voltage is more critical for series-resistance and constant-wattage heating cables. Measured
voltage at the front end (power connection) to the heating cable should be within the design
basis. Because a 10 percent voltage drop at the end of the heating cable will result in only
80 percent of the rated wattage, front-end and end-of-circuit voltages should be measured
and compared to the design basis during commissioning and when heater performance is in
question.
Heating controllers using silicon controlled rectifier (SCR) and solid-state relay (SSR) output
have greater voltage drop than electromechanical relays. The power supply transformer tap
setting should be based on the voltage at the output terminals for a fully loaded circuit.
5.1.3

Excessive voltage drop in branch circuit conductors

Heater supply voltage should be checked during commissioning and as a part of


maintenance procedures (see checklists in Appendices A and B). This check should
establish that the heating system (i.e., power supply, controllers, branch circuit wiring, and
connections) is installed properly and is providing the voltage to the heater supply terminals.
For line voltage-switched control, the voltage at the heater field power connection should be
within rated limits for the specific type of heater used according to the design basis.
Measure the circuit amperage and voltage at the field power connection and divide by the
circuit length. The actual calculated heater power should be greater than the calculated heat
loss in the design basis.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


Copyright 2001, 2008 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. All Rights Reserved. Used under Copyright License.

Page 13 of 27

PE43

5.1.4

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Change in operation or installed conditions

Changes in an installed system, such as the type or thickness of thermal insulation, an


increase in required operating or maintenance temperature, or any other condition affecting
the systems performance, call for a review of the installed system against the design basis.

6.

Recordkeeping
6.1 Recommended records for preventive maintenance
A good preventive maintenance program includes adequate records and other documentation of
electric heat-tracing systems. The basic records that follow are recommended for each system
(see IEEE-515).
6.1.1

Equipment record

Equipment records include drawings that contain basic information on the heating cable
itself. Drawings should include cable type, line size, thermal insulation type and thickness,
length, location, control type, watts per unit length at operating temperature, maximum
power, and power source for the heat-tracing system.
6.1.2

Record of repair cost

This file records the cost of maintaining the heat tracing, which helps to compare cost with
benefits of various systems.
6.1.3

Maintenance record

This record lists the points to be checked on a particular system and documents that the
checks have been completed. Completed copies of the maintenance inspection checklist for
electrical resistance heat tracing found in Appendix B can be used as log sheets and
maintenance records.
6.1.4

Maintenance inspection schedule

This record should include a complete listing of the duties of maintenance personnel for
various heat-traced equipment.
6.1.5

Inventory control

These records keep track of the parts on hand used to repair electric heat-traced systems.
The inventory control records may be combined with the cost record or maintained
separately.

6.2 Hazardous chemical areas


Documentation of design and installation aspects should be maintained for electrically heat-traced
processes that contain highly hazardous chemicals (see OSHA 29 CFR 1910.119). Records
should be updated regularly to reflect existing conditions and include power sources and circuit
identification.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


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Page 14 of 27

PE43

Appendix A.

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Commissioning inspection checklist for electrical resistance heat tracing

For an electronic version of this form, click on the following link: PE43.Form
Circuit number

System

Project number

Reference drawing(s)

Line number

Heater number

Area classification

AIT/T-classification

Panel number

Location

Circuit number

Circuit amp/voltage

Heater manufacturer
Heater total design length

Heater model

Heater wattage unit length/voltage rating


Heater total installed length

Thermal insulation type

Thermal insulation thickness

Normal pipe temperature

Goal pipe temperature

Electrical resistance (continuity) test in ohms


Electrical insulation resistance test in megohms
Test ambient temperature
PERFORMANCE DATA
Volts AC
Panel

Current in amperes

Field

1-phase

3-phase

Line

A-phase

B-phase

C-phase

Neutral

Start-up
After 10 minutes
After 4 hours
Ambient temperature at time of test
Pipe temperature at beginning of test

After 4 hours

Calculated watts per unit length (volt x amp/length)

After 4 hours

HEATING CONTROLLER
Heating controller

Ambient sensing

Pipe sensing

Temperature set point

High limit controller

Type

Location

Temperature set point

Heating controls calibrated


Heating controls operation verified
ALARMS/MONITORING
Temperature

High setting

Low setting

Operation verified

Heater current

High setting

Low setting

Operation verified

Ground-fault current

Setting

Operation verified

Loss of voltage

Operation verified

Other

Operation verified
GROUND-FAULT PROTECTION

Type

Setting

Measured

Tested for operation

TESTING
Performed by

Company

Date

Witnessed by

Company

Date

Accepted by

Company

Date

Approved by

Company

Date

Note:

Continuity of self-regulating cable used only for short or open circuit.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


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Page 15 of 27

PE43

Appendix B.

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Maintenance inspection checklist for electrical resistance heat tracing

For an electronic version of this form, click on the following link: PE43.Form
(Self-regulating, power-limiting, constant-wattage, series-resistance, MI cable)
Circuit number

System

Reference drawing(s)

Heater catalog number


Power connection
Tee connection
Splice connection
Heating controller

Circuit length
Design voltage
Ground-fault protection type
Ground-fault trip rating

CIRCUIT INFORMATION
Breaker panel number
Breaker pole(s) number

VISUAL
Date
Initial
Thermal insulation
Damaged insulation/lagging
Poor water seal
Missing insulation/lagging
Moisture
Heating system components
Poorly sealed enclosures
Moisture
Corrosion
Heater lead discoloration/signs of overheating
Controller
Operating properly
Controller set point
ELECTRICAL
Insulation resistance testing
Test voltage
Megohmmeter value (500 V)
Megohmmeter value (1,000 V)
Megohmmeter value (2,500 V)
Heater supply voltage
Value at power source
Value at power connection
Heater circuit current reading
Amp reading at 2 to 5 min
Amp reading after 15 min
Comments and actions

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


Copyright 2001, 2008 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. All Rights Reserved. Used under Copyright License.

Page 16 of 27

PE43

Appendix C.

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Troubleshooting guide for electrical resistance heat tracing

(See Appendix E for troubleshooting procedure-Mineral Insulated Heating Cable)


A

Symptom
Circuit breaker
trips (standard
breaker)

Probable cause
1. The breaker is undersized.

2. The circuit is overloaded (excessive cable


length).
3. The breaker is defective.
4. Physical damage to the heating cable is
causing a short circuit.

Ground-fault trip
(breaker or
controller)

Power output is
zero or appears
low

Power output
appears correct,
but pipe
temperatures are
below design

SL/PL SR CW MI
X
X
X
X

X
X

X
X

X
X

X
X

5. Connections and/or splices are shorting out. X

Corrective action
1, 2, 6. Recircuit loads or resize circuit
breaker (check size of branch circuit
conductors).

3. Replace circuit breaker.


4, 5. Locate and repair the incorrect
connections. Locate and replace
damaged sections of heating cable.

6. Start-up was done at low temperature.


7. Bus wires are connected at end seal.

X
X

1. (See probable causes for symptom A.)


2. Excessive moisture is contained in
connection boxes, splices, or end seal.

X
X

X
X

X
X

3. Nick or cut in heating cable or branch circuit X


is allowing moisture/water to enter system.

1. Repair electrical supply.

2. Check routing and length of heating


cable.

3. Repair connections.

4. Verify operation and calibration.

1. No voltage or low voltage at heater


terminals.
2. Cable is shorter than design shows
because splices or tees are not connected
or heating cable is severed.
3. Improper connection causes a highresistance connection.
4. Temperature control device is wired
improperly or not operating properly.
5. Pipe is operating at an elevated
temperature (process flowing).
6. Heating cable is open.
7. Heating cable contains broken segments.
8. Heating cable has been exposed to
excessive moisture.
9. Heating cable has been exposed to
excessive temperatures (rating exceeded).
10. Incorrect cable has been installed.
1. Insulation is wet, moist, or damaged.

X
X

7. Remove end seal, disconnect wires and


perform current check for other possible
damage.
1. See corrective actions for symptom A.
2. Dry out and reseal connections and
splices. Insulation resistance test
according to PE43 Appendix D.
3. Locate and replace damaged cable or
branch circuit wiring.

5. Check the pipe temperature.


X

6. Perform continuity test on heating cable.


7. Check for cold sections.
8, 9. Replace heating cable.

X
X
X
X
X

X
X

X
X

X
X

10. Verify heating cable catalog number.


1, 6. Remove and replace damaged thermal
insulation and weather barrier.

2. Insufficient heating cable has been installed X


on valves, pipe supports, and other heat
sinks.

2. Splice in additional heating cable (do not


exceed maximum circuit length).

3. The temperature control is set at the wrong X


temperature.

3, 4. Verify operation and calibration.

4. Temperature sensor is defective.


5. Thermal design has inconsistencies.
6. Wrong type of thermal insulation installed.

X
X
X

X
X
X

X
X
X

5. Verify design against operating condition.

X
X
X

Notes:

(continued)

1. SL indicates self-regulating heating cable.


SR indicates series-resistance, single-conductor heating cable.
CW indicates constant-wattage, zone-type heating cable.
PL indicates power-limiting heating cable
MI indicates mineral-insulated heating cable.
2. Refer to the body of this procedure for additional information related to using this troubleshooting guide.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


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Page 17 of 27

PE43

Appendix C.

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Troubleshooting guide for electrical resistance heat tracing (continued)

Symptom
E

Probable cause

1 Repair or replace insulation and weather


barrier

2. Provide additional thermal insulation or


increase heat tracing

3. Repair or replace damaged heater

4. Significant changes in elevation along length X


of traced pipe

4. Consider dividing heating circuit into


shorter, individually controlled segments

1. Check controller configuration/setpoint,


check for failed relay or mechanical
thermostat contacts, check sensor
location/operation

2. Sensor location

2. Assure sensor in proper location on


pipeline, location is insulated and away
from heat sinks or heat influence

3. Redundant heating controller on

3. Adjust or replace backup controller

1. Process flow patterns

1. Verify process flow conditions/patterns to


heating zone, change zones if required

2. Inconsistent cable or thermal insulation


installation

2. Check method and type of cable against


design. Check type, thickness and
condition of thermal insulation or thermal
insulation.

3. Inconsistent cable performance

3. Compare calculated watts/foot for the


measured pipe temperature with the
designed cable output for the same
temperature.

1. Relocate sensor

2. Temporarily raise setpoint to confirm


problem

3. Connected voltage too high

3. Confirm voltage at heater terminals,


adjust if required.

4. Heating cable output too high (over design


or incorrect cable)

4. Replace with lower output heating cable


or lower voltage

5. Controller deadband too narrow

5. Widen differential if possible or replace


temperature controller

High temperature 1. Controller continuously on


in piping system

Variations from
setpoint along
traced pipeline

Corrective action

3. Open element, zones or damaged matrix

SL/PL SR CW MI

Low temperature 1. Wet, damaged or missing thermal insulation X


in sections of
pipe
2. Uncompensated heat loss at heat sinks
X
(valves, pumps, pipe shoes, strainers, etc)

Excessing
1. Temperature sensor located too close to
cycling of heating
heating cable or other heat source
controller
2. Ambient temperature near control setpoint

Notes:
1. SL indicates self-regulating heating cable.
SR indicates series-resistance, single or multiple-conductor heating cable.
CW indicates constant-wattage, zone-type heating cable.
PL indicates power-limiting heating cable
MI indicates mineral-insulated heating cable.
2. Refer to the body of this procedure for additional information related to using this troubleshooting guide.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


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Page 18 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Appendix D. Heater insulation resistance testing


The procedures in this appendix should be used for heater insulation resistance testing.

D.1 Safety
Follow site procedure for lockout/tagout and testing for presence of voltage before proceeding.
Because the potential of the megohmmeter is high enough to be dangerous, guard all
ungrounded terminals of the circuit being tested against accidental contact, and follow site
procedure for personal protective equipment. After completing the test, ground the cable
according to the procedure to allow the absorbed charge to dissipate.

D.2 Test voltage


Test polymeric heating cables (self-regulating, constant-wattage, and series resistance) at three
voltages (500 V dc, 1,000 V dc, and 2,500 V dc, respectively) to determine cable integrity and
proper installation of components. For MI cables, conduct the test at 500 V dc and 1,000 V dc.

D.3 Test results


Use the following guidelines to evaluate heating cables.

20 M is the minimum acceptable test value for polymeric cable and MI cable.

Readings should not vary more than 25 percent when changing test voltages.

If unacceptable readings are obtained, stop the test and correct the problem. Do not proceed
with testing voltages unless readings are in the acceptable range.

Self-regulating, series-resistance, and constant-wattage cables that measure below the


acceptable value generally should not be put into service until the problem is corrected or the
cable replaced. Low readings are not conclusively cable related because of improper
installation methods, such as missing end-seals or metal braid strands in close proximity to
the cable core, can cause low readings, especially at the higher test voltages.

Most MI cables are insulated with magnesium oxide, a hygroscopic material that attracts and
absorbs moisture. MI cables with low insulation resistance readings are most often due to
cracked sheaths, broken seals at the cold lead, or other damage and should not be used.

D.4 Heater terminal test procedure


D.4.1 Heater terminal test checklist
Use the following procedure checklist to test heater terminals for each heating cable or panel.

Lock out circuit if it is permanently wired.

Disconnect branch circuit wiring if it is installed.

Disconnect thermostat if one is installed.

Set test voltage at 0 V dc.

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Page 19 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Connect the negative lead (earth) to the heating cable metallic braid (see Figure D-1 for
polymeric cables and Figure D-2 for MI cables).

Connect the positive lead (line) to the heating cable bus wire if it is a single lead (MI). For
two-wire systems, connect to both bus wires simultaneously.

Set the voltage at 500 V dc, turn on the Megohmmeter, and apply voltage for a minimum of 1
minute until the reading reaches a constant value for 15 seconds. Record the value in the
commissioning or maintenance inspection checklist (see Appendices A and B). Do not
proceed to the next step unless readings are in the acceptable range.

If the test at 500 V is acceptable, increase the voltage to 1,000 V dc, turn on the
Megohmmeter, and apply voltage until the reading reaches a constant value for 15 seconds.
Record the value in the commissioning or maintenance inspection checklist (see Appendices
A and B).

If the test at 1,000 V is acceptable, increase the voltage to 2,500 V dc, turn on the
Megohmmeter, and apply voltage until the reading reaches a constant value for 15 seconds.
Record the value in the commissioning or maintenance inspection checklist (see Appendices
A and B). (Do not use 2,500 V dc for MI cable.)

Turn off the Megohmmeter and disconnect the leads. Discharge if required.

D.4.2 Braid-to-ground Insulation Resistance test


The following test can be used on polymeric self-regulating and constant-wattage heating cables
to determine if the heating cable has been damaged during installation. The test can be applied
routinely in highly corrosive environments or where electrical isolation of the tracer to pipeline is
required. Damage commonly found at pipe flanges, where the heating cable exits the metal
weather cladding, can be spot checked with this test early in the installation process. Note: While
this test can be useful in determining the quality of an installation, this test is not foolproof, it will
not detect damage where there is no ground plane to reference and can err when a whisker of
the metal braid extends through the overjacket.
The following procedure checklist should be used at the heater to ensure the integrity of the cable
overjacket on polymeric cables (see Figure D-3). (Do not use for MI cables or heating cables
without an overjacket.)

Connect the negative lead (earth) to ground.

Connect the positive lead (line) to the cable braid.

Repeat the tests; record the test values.

Turn off the Megohmmeter, disconnect the leads, and reconnect the circuit wiring. Discharge
if required.

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Page 20 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

D.5 Heating control cabinet test procedure


Use the following procedure checklist to test cable at the heating control cabinet.

Lock out the circuit; proceed in compliance with site safety rules for working in a cabinet.

Disconnect the branch circuit wiring for cabinet terminals.

Set the test voltage at 0 V dc.

Connect the negative lead (earth) to ground.

Connect the positive lead (line) to the two insulated branch circuit wires simultaneously.

Set the voltage at 500 V dc, turn on the Megohmmeter, and apply voltage until the reading
reaches a constant value for 15 seconds. Record the value in the commissioning or
maintenance inspection checklist (see Appendices A and B). Do not proceed to the next step
unless readings are in the acceptable range.

Set the voltage at 1,000 V dc, turn on the Megohmmeter, and apply voltage until the reading
reaches a constant value for 15 seconds. Record the value in the commissioning or
maintenance inspection checklist (see Appendices A and B).

Record the test values in the commissioning or maintenance inspection checklist (see
Appendices A and B).

Turn off the Megohmmeter, disconnect the leads, and reconnect the circuit wiring. Discharge
if required.

Figure D1.

Heater-to-braid test

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Page 21 of 27

PE43

Figure D2.

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Mineral-insulated cable test

Megohmmeter

Flexible leads

Note:

Cold lead (sheath)

Terminal identification may vary. Plus and minus shown for illustration only.

Figure D3.

Braid-to-ground test

Megohmmeter

Heater leads

Overjacket
Metal braid

Ground

Note:

Terminal identification may vary. Plus and minus shown for illustration only.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


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Page 22 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Appendix E. Troubleshooting procedure for mineral insulated heating


cables

E.1 Introduction - Troubleshooting MI Heating Cable


As with any electric heating cable, the specific problem needs to be determined and root cause known
before corrective action can be taken. While some problems associated with MI heating circuits are
similar to other types of resistance heating cables. MI cables by their unique construction have some
special considerations. Broken or damaged MI heaters can often be repaired on site using a brazed
splice similar to the hot-cold splice without stripping the insulation from the entire length of the pipe or
removing the heater.
Useful equipment for trouble shooting includes:

500 or 1000 volt Megohmmeter (digital preferred)

Temperature Probe

Ohmmeter

Volt Meter

Clip on Ammeter

For any of the problems listed below, before proceeding with other testing, it is useful to walk the line
looking for locations of obvious damage or where maintenance or repair work has been recently carried
out as the heater or thermal insulation may have been damaged during maintenance or repair
procedures.
How was the problem detected?
1. Many sites today use electronic temperature controllers that use alarms to communicate
problems. If the system has electronic control and an alarm has sounded to alert a problem,
what type of problem was it?
a) Ground Fault alarm. If the circuit has alarmed on ground fault, de-energize the circuit,
disconnect the heater from the branch circuit wiring in the junction box, and from one of the
tails of the heater check the insulation resistance to ground with a 500 or 1000 volt
Megohmmeter. The value should be compared to the Maintenance Inspection Checklist.
(See Annex B). If the insulation resistance of the heater is satisfactory, check the insulation
resistance of the branch circuit conductors:

If the heater has a value less than 5 megohms, it may require further action. The
exception is during periods of rain or very high humidity. Moisture can track along the
sleeving used to insulate the tails of the MI cold lead and across the face of the seal to
the pot causing the insulation resistance to temporarily decline until the weather
improves. If this is the cause of the low reading, wiping the tails and the face of the
compound with a clean dry cloth will often improve the reading. Electrical moisturedisplacement sprays can also be useful in improving insulation resistance due to surface
moisture.

If the insulation resistance of the heater did not improve, and if signs suggesting
maintenance work was done to the piping system were observed, remove the insulation
at those locations and look for physical damage to the heater.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


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Page 23 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


If no damage or sign of recent maintenance work can be seen, diagnostic fault locating
equipment will be required to find the location of the problem. (see section E.2)

b) Low Voltage alarm. Check to see if the breaker has tripped. If the breaker has not tripped
and if the system is new, you may find that the heater is connected to the wrong supply
voltage or perhaps the alarm level has been set too close to the nominal value during
commissioning so that temporary voltage sag during the startup of motors causes an alarm.
c) Low Current alarm. MI. heaters are series type cables which usually result in a go or no
go condition, unless the low current alarm has been set too close to the nominal heater
current it is likely that the heater is open circuited. De-energize the circuit, disconnect the
heater from the branch circuit wiring in the junction box and test the heater for conductor
continuity with an ohmmeter connected between the tails of the heater. Compare the
resistance reading to the value recorded in the Maintenance Inspection Checklist (Annex
B) or Commissioning Checklist (Annex A) and if similar, check the continuity of the branch
circuit conductors:

If heater continuity does not exist, and if signs of maintenance work were observed,
remove the insulation at those locations and look for physical damage to the heater. If
none is observed, fault locating equipment will be required to locate the source of the
problem.

d) Low Temperature alarm. With a low temperature alarm, but no electrical alarm, a
temperature sensing probe can be used to check temperatures at various locations along
the pipe to find the location of the low temperature. Any holes made in the cladding should
be at the bottom so that rain does not enter the insulation.
Possible reasons for the problem include:

Wet or missing thermal insulation, inadequate thickness, or the wrong type of thermal
pipe insulation. If so, the insulation problem needs to be corrected.

The heater was under designed and does not provide the required wattage. Either
increase the thickness of the thermal insulation or replace the heating unit with one
having the needed power output.

The sensor is located at a fitting that has insufficient heating cable to compensate for the
additional heat loss of the fitting. Either rework the heater at the fitting to increase the
amount of cable or increase the insulation thickness in this area.

While the product in the line is flowing, cold product may be entering the line at a
temperature less than the setting of the low temperature alarm. The low temperature
alarm may have to be set lower or disabled.

2. When the system has electronic control with alarm, but low or no flow is observed without any of
the alarms in 1, or if the pump circuit tripped out, the cause may be a heat sink that has
insufficient heating cable to compensate for the additional heat loss, or missing or damaged
insulation at some point other than where the temperature sensor is located. As described in 1d
a temperature-sensing probe can be used to check temperatures to find the location of the low
temperature.
3. If the system has electro-mechanical control it is likely that the first sign of a problem will be low
or no flow or the pump circuit trips out because of low temperature. If the GFI or breaker has not

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Page 24 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

tripped, walk the line looking for locations where maintenance work has been recently carried
out.
The circuit should then be checked for:
a) Ground fault trip was it a nuisance trip or does the GFI continue to trip? If it does the
heater should be tested with a Megohmmeter as in E.1.a).
b) Tripped breaker - was it a nuisance trip or does the breaker continue to trip? If it does,
check the insulation resistance as per E.1.a).
c) Low Current Use a clamp-on ammeter on one of the branch circuit conductors supplying
the heater, if necessary turn the temperature setting on the thermostat up until the
thermostat switch closes and measure the current. If no current is detected, de-energize the
circuit and check the heater for conductor continuity. If current is detected but it is more than
10% lower than the nominal value, check that the supply voltage is correct.
d) Low temperature with a probe, check the temperature at a section of pipe that has not
been subjected to maintenance work and is well away from any fittings that create additional
heat loss. If this test indicates the correct temperature then the problem is likely a fitting that
has insufficient heating cable to compensate for the additional heat loss of the fitting, or
missing or damaged insulation. On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, the cause
may be a thermostat setting that is too low, an inadequate thickness of insulation, the wrong
type of insulation, the heater was under designed and does not provide the required wattage
or if the product in the line is flowing slowly, cold product may be entering the line.

E.2 Fault locating


Where the location of an open or short circuit in the heating unit is not readily evident, fault locating
equipment such as the following can be used to find it.

Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR)

Capacitance Meter (digital preferred)

High Resistance Bridge

A TDR can be used for detecting either an open or a short circuit. It sends a signal along the cable
which is reflected back when it sees a change in impedance. By dialing in the Velocity of Propagation
(VP) for M.I. cable (about 0.39) the TDR will give a reading in feet so that distance along the heater can
be approximated without calculation. A more accurate fault location can be obtained by taking a reading
from each tail of a heater and adjusting the VP until the two readings added together equals the length
of the heater. Figure 1 shows a typical trace for a cable with an open circuit while Figure 2 is for a cable
with a short. The vertical line shows the distance to the open or short and is usually accompanied by a
reading in feet or meters.
M.I. heating units are often used on pipe tracing circuits that are over 300 meters (1000 feet) long.
Although fed from one supply, they are usually divided into series connected sections of 45 to 90
meters (150 to 300 feet) for ease of installation. Although TDRs are touted as being suitable for circuits
up to 5 KM (16,400 feet) be aware that stainless steel sheathed M.I. cable is very lossy and many
TDRs are not powerful enough for use with long lengths of M.I. cable. Therefore before purchasing a
TDR it is recommended that you try it first on a heater of a length similar to the longest series section
that your specifications will allow.

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Page 25 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System


Figure E1.

TDR Trace if Heater Open Circuited

Figure E2.

TDR Trace if Heater Short Circuited

If the heater is open circuited and the insulation resistance is one megohm or more, a Capacitance
Meter could also be used. Take a reading from each tail of the heater. The distance to the fault from
Tail A is Ca/(Ca + Cb) x Heater Length where Ca and Cb are the capacitance readings from Tail A and
Tail B respectively.
For a cable with an insulation resistance of less than one megohm but continuity on the conductor, a
bridge can be used as per Figure 3. When the bridge is balanced, the potentiometer indicates the
percent of the distance from the positive lead. The positive and negative leads should then be
transposed at the bridge and the bridge again balanced. The two readings when added together should
total approximately 100%. The distance to the fault is Ra x Heater Length where Ra is the percent
shown on the potentiometer from the positive terminal on the bridge.

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Page 26 of 27

PE43

Commissioning and Maintaining Electrical Resistance Heat-Tracing System

Figure E3. High Resistance Bridge

If the heater is broken or cut, it may have a low insulation resistance AND an open circuit. If this is the
case, a capacitance meter or high resistance bridge will not find the location of the fault. In the case of
a low insulation resistance, to determine if the problem is in a hot-cold or end splice, before cutting out
and replacing the splice, connect one lead of the megohmmeter to one of the tails of the heater and the
other to ground or to the sheath of the cold lead. Lightly wipe the splice with a torch and if the problem
is moisture in the splice, the needle on the megohmmeter will flicker.

Document revised April 2008 / Entire document reaffirmed April 2008


Copyright 2001, 2008 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. All Rights Reserved. Used under Copyright License.

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