Where can you get it?
The first difference is where you will be able to acquire each type of cable. When it comes to constant wattage cable, you can pick it up at your local hardware store. Self-regulating, on the other hand, is a little tougher to get your hands on. However, if you are here chances are you already know where to get it.
Constant wattage cable typically doesn’t require any extra electrical work to be done in your home. It is a fairly straight forward “plug and play” system. However, most homes are not set up electrical-wise to accommodate self-regulating heat cable. This means that if you decide on the self-regulating system, chances are some extra electrical work will need to be done.
If you’re on a budget, constant wattage heat cable is definitely a more cost-friendly option. Self-regulating can cost 2-3 times more than constant wattage, but don’t forget, you will get what you pay for!
Lifespan & Warranty
One downside to constant wattage heat cable is the lifespan of the product. The warranty only lasts for 2 years by the manufacture. If you can get 6-7 years of use out of this product, you can consider yourself lucky. We have seen this product die in the first few years, and even dead right out of the box! If you’re looking to invest in a product that lasts, self-regulating is the way to go, lasting 15-20+ years and warrantied for 10 years!
This should be one of the biggest factors when deciding which type of heat cable you should go with. Constant wattage heat cable will only work in temperatures above 20° (and it says so right in the manual!) This is were self-regulating heat cable shines in comparison. It will adjust based on the outdoor temperature (hence the name!) and still perform the way that you need it to.
Other things to consider
Metal roof? Constant wattage heat cable will short out and not work. Self-regulating is your only option.
Complicated roof? Self-regulating heat cable can be customized to fit your project perfectly as it can be cut and spliced in different places.
Planning to DIY? Great! A skilled technician is required to install self-regulating, but constant wattage heat cable can be easily acquired, and it is possible to do the job yourself.
So, you can go with constant wattage if…
You are on a budget
You’re just looking for a temporary fix, or you won't be in your current home for long
You don’t live in an area that you see temperatures below 20°
You don’t get very much snow
But, self regulating is your best bet if…
You want to invest a system that will last
You have a complicated or metal roof
You’re living in an area that you see temperatures below 20°
You get a lot of ice and snow in your area.