Pipe Freeze Pro heat tape is a self-regulating pipe trace heating cable. Self-regulating means, as the temperature gets colder, the cable creates more heat by drawing more power. When it gets warmer, it produces less heat by drawing less power. This allows you to consume only the energy you need to help protect your pipes from freezing. This pipe trace heat tape adjusts heat output to equal the heat loss of the pipe it is installed on. As pipe temperatures fall, our heat tape calls for more power because the carbon-populated core of the cable shrinks microscopically, decreasing the space between the carbon atoms and thus increasing the conductive pathways between the two main bus wires of the cable. More pathways equals more electrical resistance, which in turn equal more heat.

 Notice: Heat Tape purchased in big-box stores is constant wattage heat tape. “Constant wattage” means: it is always on. It’s always drawing full power and 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.

How does pipe trace heat tape self regulate”?

The core of our pipe trace heat tape is two bus wires encased in a material that is, in part, carbon. As ambient temperatures decrease, the material shrinks pulling the bus wires closer to each other, creating the electrical reaction which makes the cables heat up. When ambient temperatures remain warmer, the inner core doesn’t shrink, preventing higher temps from occurring within the cable.

Can I 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 in how it behaves. 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 from forming.

There’s also some safety considerations.

Since constant wattage heat tape needs to perform in ranges of cold, you can imagine the operating temperature is pretty warm. Additionally, since it it’s temperature isn’t variable like self-regulating heat tape, that heat is always on full whether it’s 50ºF or 10ºF. This heat can lead to increased risk of fire, especially in warmer ambient temps and dryer conditions.