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How to select and install a heat tape
Tue 02/13/07 09:13:33 am
by Mark Bower

OK, so you've survived the first few cold snaps with no freeze-up problems. However, today you woke up or came home to no water. Since you didn't have any freeze-up problems before, you can be pretty much assured that your heat tape has gone out. When a heat tape goes, it goes. There's no fixing it. Just plan on replacing it. Typical life of a properly-installed heat tape is 3-5 years.

Could I have prevented my pipes from freezing? Yes. If someone was home, you could have prevented your pipes from actually freezing if you had installed an alarm on your waterline. The device would have detected that your pipes were nearing the freezing point and sounded an alarm. The alarm is a signal for you to turn on your water so your pipes don't freeze, and then to investigate your heat tape.

We have a waterline freeze alarm available fromThe Store which is easily installed by the homeowner. The alarm itself is hung inside the home, and a cord runs down and attaches to the waterline. If your interested, you can either e-mail us at [email protected], or call us toll free at 1-877-263-7860.

Selecting a heat tape

Two types of available heat tapes and a roll of fiberglass insulation.

Two styles of heat tapes are available for manufactured homes (see picture). Since most manufactured homes are connected with a plastic-type waterline, you'll want to be sure that the heat tape you select is approved for plastic waterlines. It will be indicated right on the package.

Pictured on the left side in the picture is a one-piece flat heat tape with a rubber coating. When installed, this heat tape must run flat along the pipe and cannot overlap itself. On the end near the cord is a thermostat which should solidly touch the pipe. The thermostat should be located on the end of the pipe that will be the coldest. Because the heat tape is coated in rubber, this particular type tends to better resist moisture and last longer than the type we'll discuss next.

Pictured on the right side of the same picture is a silver-braided type of heat tape. This heat tape is sold by the foot, and when purchased you must also purchase two ends. Because this heat tape is wrapped around the waterline, it's more difficult to determine exactly how much you'll need. This heat tape can overlap itself without harm, which makes it safer than most to use. Since there's no rubber coating, the heat tape tends to rust out and fail with excessive moisture. Dealers and service people love to use this tape as they can buy it in big rolls and use only what they need at any given time.

Also pictured is a roll of fiberglass insulation with a vapor barrier included. When installing, the insulation is rolled on one way, and the vapor barrier rolled on the other way (as shown on bag in picture).

Installing a heat tape

First, unplug and remove the old heat tape. To remove, take a utility knife and carefully cut away the old vapor barrier and insulation and pull off the heat tape. Don't try to save any of the insulation or vapor barrier, it's not worth it. Besides, it may be wet or damp.

Badtape.jpg (18033 bytes)
This particular heat tape was installed wrong causing it to melt the waterline. The heat tape should not have been wrapped around the pipe, but layed flat.

Fasten the new heat tape to the waterline per manufacturer instructions. Again, the first picture will give you an idea depending upon which type of heat tape you purchased. Use only manufactured- approved tape for fastening the heat tape to the waterline. Regular electrical tape is not a good choice. However, some manufacturers have approved certain high-quality electrical tapes which are designed to stand much greater heat than normal electrical tape. When wrapping the tape around the pipe, do not pull too tight as it may pinch the heat tape. Pull the fastening tape snug, but not overly tight.

A heat tape should also not turn any sharp corners. A sharp bend in a heat tape is almost an instant guarantee of failure. When you come to a corner, give the heat tape a little room so it doesn't have to make a sharp pinch.

Insulating the waterline

This is the result of an undetected leak due to an improperly installed heat tape. However, the kids didn't seem to mind all the ice!

Once the heat tape is fastened to the waterline, you'll then want to wrap it with insulation. Use only manufacturer-approved insulation, like the roll you see in the first picture. Starting at one end, wrap the insulation around the waterline until you get to the other end. Then do the same with the vapor barrier, except wrap it the opposite way you wrapped the insulation. As you wrap the insulation and vapor barrier, pull it fairly snug but do not pull it too tight. That's it, your done. Go plug in your heat tape and you'll soon be enjoying running water!

Heat tape tips

  • Never plug your heat tape in without water in the waterlines.
  • When done replacing your heat tape, be sure your waterline is not sitting directly on the ground.
  • Don't add any extra insulation to your waterline as it may cause your heat tape to overheat.
  • If your waterline extends down into a culvert, run your heat tape down as far as you can reach. After you've wrapped the heat tape down in the culvert, shove part of a bat of insulation around the top of the culvert, sealing the top of the culvert against cold air.
  • If you'd like to test your heat tape before installing it, stretch it out and plug it in. If your testing it during the summer and have a thermostat, put the end with the thermostat in your freezer.
  • A heat tape with a thermostat may take 5-20 minutes before it will turn on.
  • If you must use an extension cord to plug in your heat tape, be sure it is of proper size and intended for outdoor use.
  • Manufacturers strongly recommended that a heat tape be plugged into a GFCI protected circuit.
  • Never plug in a heat tape while it is coiled.
  • Never install a heat tape in walls, floors and ceilings.
  • Make sure the brand of heat tape you are buying is suitable for your kind of waterline.
  • Always read and save the manufacturer instructions.

Mark Bower owns Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair and is the author of "The Manual for Manufactured/Mobile Home Repair and Upgrade" available on this website.

The Manual for
Manufactured Home Repair & Upgrade

"Every winter my roof leaked around the swamp cooler. We even had a couple mobile home repairmen out to seal it. Nothing worked and this went on for 5 years," said Maureen of Elko, Nevada. "Then last summer I ordered The Manual and it suggested I use neoprene to seal the leak. Since then I've had no leaks at all!"

Maureen is referring to The Manual for Manufactured/Mobile Home Repair and Upgrade by Mark Bower. Most just dub it The Manual. Bower owns and operates Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Maureen isn't alone. Hundreds of others have written to Bower sharing similar stories of how The Manual has solved their problems. Esther of St. Louis, Missouri, writes, "We had squeaky floors in the living room and without The Manual, I would have had my husband tear out the floors and put in new ones. What a lifesaver!"

Bower enjoys the letters he receives regarding his manual. "I wrote this manual from experience," says Bower. "I'm not just some guy with his feet up on the desk - I'm out in the field every day doing what I write."

Tom of Lansing, Michigan, followed the simple instructions on installing a shut-off valve and saved $75 on a service call. Mary of Churdan, Iowa, writes to say she uses the manual to keep the repair guys she hires honest, "When I had my home releveled, I sent two different contractors packing because I knew they weren't doing the job right. This manual has literally saved me hundreds of dollars!"

Bower has updated his manual for 2004. More information was added regarding additions and porches. "We added details on attaching porches so they don't leak even if they shift with the seasons." says Bower. With high energy prices now upon us, Bower says he's also included a section on building a solar heating panel. "Find an old sliding glass door and you can build one for under $100," says Bower who built two panels for his own 1800 square foot manufactured home. "You'd be surprised at how much heat they create when the sun is shining."

David of Lake McConaughy, Nebraska, says The Manual should be called, The Mobile Home Bible. Dave writes, "I wish I had your manual when we had our 1965 Star. It would have saved me WEEKS of work!"

Vicki of Ocala, Florida, bought Bower's manual because it had instructions for installing a metal roofover. "My son and husband had the roof up in 2 days from start to finish," says Vicki. "The 4 inch overhang is awesome - no more water running down the siding. Great roof, great instructions, I love it!"

The Manual also helped Pam from Duluth, Minnesota, replace her skirting and repair her underbelly. "It gave me the courage to tackle these projects," writes Pam. " I saved a lot of money by being able to do it myself."

Bower says many manufactured home owners are do-it-yourselfers, and he's glad to be able to provide them a tool, The Manual, to help them do more.

Get The Manual Now!

Mark Bower can be reached at [email protected]


Manufactured Housing Repair On-Line

The MH Parts Store On-Line   MH Parts may not be very pretty... but when you need them you just can't do with out them. Don't run all over town to assemble the things you need for that home renovation or repair. Order from our on-line parts store. Everything you need is here from doors, windows, screens, plumbing and electric parts, bath and kitchen fixtures, roof and ceiling components, and more.... even set-up materials, The Part Store's Owner/Managers, keep it simple, they just provide you with the best possible products available.

The Manual for Manufactured Home Repair & Upgrade   If your looking for a book that covers all facets of manufactured home repair, you've found it! This is the only book of its type, available to the public, that we have been able to find. As you would expect from the title, The repair and upgrade techniques described in this manual are specific to manufactured homes. This book will answer almost every question on manufactured home repair that we have ever heard. Not only does this book show you how to repair and maintain your home, but also great methods for upgrading it.

The Manufactured Home Repair & Renovation Forum   An open discussion group where all are welcome to participate. No registration necessary! Discussion threads covering a wide range of questions, answers, and relating of personal experiences involving MH Repairs. Moderated by Tracy L. Mason of MB-Quality Contractors, from Greeley, CO. Ask our experienced manufactured home repair and renovation contractor about your home repair needs! Basic home fix-it techniques to trade secrets.

Advanced Foundation Systems   Designed and engineered for manufactued homes, These foundation systems add a high level of strutural stability and have proven most cost-effective for the manufactured home, buyer. Advanced Foundation Systems meet or exceed industry standards, and have been proven safer under adverse conditions. Advanced Foundation Systems offer you the best foundation technology available for your manufactured added safety and a lower cost.


Finance Your MH Renovation/Repair   There are many loan programs available to MH Owners. Secure the money you need to renovate, upgrade, or even expand your MH. One stop shopping. select your loan preferences and we will forward your request for loan information to as many as a dozen participating manufactured housing finance offices.

Skirting For The 21 Century Manufactured Home   System-1 is what skirting should be- 100% solid concrete. System-1 is not an imitation or a look alike - it is the original concrete skirting system that resists the elements from the summer heat of Texas to the harsh winters of Minnesota. System-1 is built to last and is designed to stay put for years of dependable service. Stop chasing your skirting down the street and look at just some of the benefits System-1 concrete skirting provides you.

Hardboard Siding Repairs   Does your Manufactured Home have hardboard siding that is swelling, rotting, or buckling? You might be entitled to a Cash Settlement! Find out if you qualify HERE

Manufactured Housing Yellow Pages / SERVICE COMPANIES   The Yellow Pages is an ever expanding data base that is growing into one of the richest resources in the world for locating and contacting companies that participate in, or offer services to, the manufactured housing industry.

The Mobile Home Expert   The business of installing and servicing manufactured homes is rapidly moving away from the world of the one pick-up, one jack, local set up and repair guys and into the world of certified tradesmen, and licensed contractors. The modern manufactured home is greeted with stiff compliance codes regulating construction, warranty and installation. As more and more local agencies get involved in the inspection of installations it gets more and more difficult to know what the rules of the game are, especially if your operating in more than one jurisdiction. Consult with R.T. Bonney, who has participated in all phases of the industry over the past 30 Years He can provide solutions for the modern problems of operating most types of manufactured housing business.

Floor Repair Info Kit   includes a 25 minute VHS video about repairing the floor underneath your toilet, and a booklet on floor repair. Price:$25.95 - Shipping & Handling:$3.90

Painting and Texturing Paneled Walls   By following the steps in this 20 minute video, your paneled walls will look darn near like textured sheetrock. Works on both wood paneling and vinyl-covered paneling or sheetrock. Price:$19.95 Shipping & Handling:$3.90

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