What safety precautions should I keep in mind when installing heat cables?
Updated: May 18
Working with heat cable, or any other electrical equipment for that matter, carries with it certain risks, which is why many homeowners prefer to let professionals tackle the job. DIYers can greatly reduce your chances of electric shock or property damage by taking a few important precautions. So, before you start that project, our readers recommend doing the following. Bob Scott, Founder of Sell Land.
Use Insulated Tools and Turn Off the Main Circuits
No matter how simple the electrical wiring you are working on, always wear insulated rubber gloves and goggles when working with tools that are insulated. I invest in real estate for a living and there are times wherein I have to deal with heat cables myself. I have a degree in civil engineering so I'm quite knowledgeable of electric wirings. As a safety precaution, always turn off the mains if you are working on any receptacle. Remember, you can never be too careful when dabbling with electricity.
Essential Points for Installing Heat Cables
The following cautions should be observed:
Keep the direct rays of the sun off all electrical wires and connections – this includes heat cables. If you have to install them in a hot area, use only insulation approved for hot conditions, e.g., low smoke PVC.
Do not install cables near flammable materials – this includes rugs, curtains, paper, and other building materials.
Do not overload the circuit – the cables should be on a separate circuit from other heat-generating appliances such as dishwashers, ovens, and dryers.
Keep the cable away from all sources of water – this includes toilets and sinks.
If you plan on passing through areas with heat cables, make sure it is insulated or guarded by approved covers (which are UL listed).
Make sure the cables are properly secured – if they are not, they may become damaged and could potentially cause a fire.
Regularly check the condition of the cables, looking for any signs of damage such as fraying, cuts, or punctures. If you find any damage, discontinue use and do not attempt to repair the cable yourself.
Never use in situations where the cables could cause property damage, personal injury, or loss of life.
When installing heat cables, it's important to first know the type of ground you're installing your cable onto. If it's wet, oozing mud, or standing water, you should install the cable on top of sturdy rocks or bricks to ensure that the cable doesn't get damp.
You should also keep trees and bushes far away from the cable because they can act as insulators and reduce the effectiveness of the heating tape.
Once your cables are installed, make sure to use them ONLY on frozen ground like ice, snow, or packed snowbanks (never ice-covered asphalt). This will help to avoid serious injuries due to short circuits.
Be mindful of how much voltage is coming out of your cables too - never wire two power packs together or exceed the manufacturer's recommendations.
Follow these simple tips and you'll be able to safely and effectively heat your property this winter!
Aparrnaa Maalpanie, Founder of angelswhisper.org. Mark Agosto is a certified Home Energy Auditor and Building Analyst at Allied Experts.
Stick with New, Certified Equipment
First off, always use heat cables that are UL-listed and not old or damaged. The cables should be plugged directly into a GFCI outlet so make sure yours are GFCI-protected. Don't use an extension cord unless there's no other option. If you have to use an extension cord, be sure to get a heavy-duty one that's grounded and rated for outdoor use, and be careful not to run it in places where it can pose a trip hazard or get caught by shovels or plows.
When installing the heating cable on your roof, use a strong ladder and apply the cable directly to the exterior areas or exposed pipes you want to heat. Don't install them inside walls, ceilings, or floors. Finally, don't tempt fate if you haven't done this before or your home is very tall or has a high roof. The best way to stay safe is to call in the pros.
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