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Winters Still Happen...

With so much publicity surrounding global warming predictions perhaps it is not surprising that many homeowners, businesses and local authorities have been caught out by December and January’s arctic blast. Burst pipes, frozen water and fuel service lines, treacherous pedestrian and vehicular access areas resulted in misery and expense for so many people.

This unpreparedness has led to costly damage, business disruption, busy hospital A & E departments and delays to the reopening of schools after the Christmas break. It is so important to remember that winter months still feature cold snaps and with the vagaries of the British climate some will be severe.

So how can so many of these consequences be avoided?

Self-regulating electric heat-tracing systems offer a versatile and energy-efficient solution for the freeze protection of piped services, the maintaining ice-free gutters and downpipes and the melting of snow and prevention of ice formation on pedestrian walkways and vehicle access areas. Heating cables provide long-term, maintenance-free protection – only activating when sensors detect a temperatures drop below a variable set point (typically 3ºC). They will then deliver just the amount of heat required to prevent ice formation until ambient temperatures rise again.

Specialist heat-tracing manufacturers, like Tyco Thermal Controls which markets its freeze protection solutions under the Raychem brand, offer energy-efficient systems designed for the following applications.

Many piped services to buildings are fed from unheated plant rooms and exposed on rooftops. Thermal insulation alone cannot be relied on to fully prevent the freezing of water lines, including fire mains and sprinkler systems, and fuel lines clogging. Total freeze protection can be ensured by running self-regulating heating cable along the pipework, within the thermal insulation, ready to activate automatically whenever needed.

Gutters and Downpipes
The system for gutters and downpipes is designed to melt snow before it can accumulate and stop ice forming. In doing so it provides a continuous draining path for melted ice and snow through the gutter and downspout. This prevents melted ice and snow from refreezing and forming ice dams that prevent further water from draining which can result in serious damage (water infiltration/damage). It also prevents icicles overhanging the roof and posing a danger to anyone below.

Access Area Surfaces
Ramp heating is a significantly more efficient clearance method than committing manpower to spread salt or sand or manually remove snow after it has accumulated on car park access ramps, around loading bays, on pedestrian walkways and emergency escape routes. Raychem ramp-heating systems feature robust self-regulating heating cables, specially designed for embedding in concrete or sand. Whenever the ambient temperature falls below 3°C (variable set point) and moisture is also detected by the ramp surface sensors, these cables power up and deliver just the heat required to keep the surface free of snow and ice. Ideal for a wide variety of applications in exposed environments where it is essential to keep vehicular and pedestrian access available in freeze temperatures, ramp heating will avoid surface damage, whilst maintaining service continuity and enhancing safety around commercial and public buildings and industrial sites. Complete systems, including Raychem ‘Smart’ controllers, are energy-efficient, easy to programme and can be incorporated into building management systems.

Installing heat-tracing systems for protection against snap-weather conditions is a sound long-term investment as they stay ready to activate automatically whenever the next arctic blast comes - be that again this year or in future years. The first days of 2009 have been a rude awakening for many victims and a strong reminder that winters still happen!

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