Heat Tape purchased in big-box stores is most often constant wattage heat tape. “Constant Wattage” means: it’s always on. It is always drawing full power and is costing you peak energy expenses, which –over the length of a season can add up huge. Thought you were saving money on that heat tape you got at that home improvement store? Guess again.
Radiant Solutions’ Heat Tape PRO™ heating cable is Self-Regulating. This means, as the temperature gets colder, the cable creates more heat by drawing more power and when it gets warmer it creates less heat by drawing less power. This allows you to consume only the energy you need to help protect your home from damage caused by the ice and cold.
How can it do this?
The core of our ice dam heat tape is comprised of two bus wires encased in a material that is infused with carbon. As ambient temperatures decrease, the core material shrinks pulling the bus wires closer to each other, creating more electrical pathways through the carbon which makes the cables heat up. When ambient temperatures get warmer, the inner core expands and the cable demands less energy and creates less heat.
Can’t I just accomplish this with constant wattage heat tape and a “switch” or thermostatic control?
No, not really. Because any control or switch is still going to tell your constant wattage cable to be either off or on at 100% power. It is very binary. Conversely, Self-regulating Heat Tape will output variable temperatures based on the external, ambient temperature. So when it’s 31ºF or 10ºF constant wattage heat tape will always be on full heat, where self-regulating heat tape will only use just enough power to be at the temperature you need to prevent ice dams on the roof or frozen pipes around your property.
There’s also some safety considerations.
Among other things, constant wattage heat cable cannot be overlapped without creating risk of over heating or shorting out. It cannot be used under 15°F, it cannot be used on wood roofs, rubber roofs, metal roofs, or anything other than asphalt shingle roofs. You must clean combustibles such as leaves away from constant wattage cable throughout the operating season. The warranty on most constant wattage heat cable systems is no more than two years. Lastly, unlike self-regulating heat cable systems, constant wattage heat cables cannot be repaired in the field if they are damaged. One knick in the jacketing, and the cable is done.