Safety Alert: New Electric Heat Tapes Help Prevent Fires

Consumer Product Safety Commission

New Electric Heat Tapes Help Prevent Fires:
Safety Alert

CPSC Document #5045


To help prevent fires, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges homeowners (including residents of mobile homes) to replace uncertified heat tapes more than three years old. Uncertified heat tapes should be replaced with new heat tapes certified to meet recognized voluntary standards. At the present the following organizations are certifying heat tapes to meet recognized voluntary standards: Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and Factory Mutual Research Corporation (FMRC).

Electric heat tapes are used to keep water pipes from freezing. Heat tapes are usually installed in attics or underneath porches and homes, especially mobile homes. CPSC estimates there are about 2,000 fires, 10 deaths, and 100 injuries each year involving heat tapes. The use of certified heat tapes can help to reduce the frequency of these fires.

CPSC offers these safety tips for purchasing, installing, and maintaining electric heat tapes:

  • Replace uncertified heat tapes more than 3 years old with new heat tapes certified to meet recognized voluntary standards. All new heat tapes will have a 3-prong plug.
  • Always plug the 3-prong plug into a 3-prong outlet to make sure the heat tape is grounded.
  • Use a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) wherever heat tapes are plugged in.
  • Do not wrap heat tape over itself unless specifically permitted in the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Apply heat tapes directly on the pipe to be protected, never on top of the insulation covering the pipe.
  • Do not cover the heat tape with insulation unless advised by the manufacturer. Use nonflammable insulation such as fiber glass. Do not use foam or vinyl insulation that could catch fire from a failing heat tape.
  • Keep the end-cap sealed and off the ground to prevent water from getting in. Moisture can lead to a fire.
  • Do not use heat tapes designed for water pipes on gutters, driveways, or fuel lines.
  • If heat tape has a thermostat, check instructions to see if the thermostat should be placed against the pipe and covered with insulation or if it should be left hanging and uncovered.
  • Inspect heat tapes each year and replace them if you notice signs of deterioration. Look for discolored surfaces (especially at the plug), charring, cuts or breaks in the insulation, or bare wires.
  • Check installation instructions when you change types or brands of heat tape because different heat tapes have different installation requirements.

Heat Tapes

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $700 billion annually. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children. The CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed significantly to the 30 percent decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC’s hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC’s teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or visit CPSC’s web site at www.cpsc.gov/talk.html. To join a CPSC email subscription list, please go to www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.asp. Consumers can obtain this release and recall information at CPSC’s Web site at www.cpsc.gov.