As we get into the dog days of summer, a task like installing mobile home heat tape may be pretty far down on your list of priorities. But it’s never too early to start winterizing your mobile home. Depending on where you live, the first frost may be just a few short months away. Heat tape is applied to water supply lines outside (usually underneath) your mobile home to prevent frozen or ruptured pipes — a disruption that can prove very unpleasant and very costly.
Even with skirting or foundation block in place, the area between the ground and your mobile home’s undercarriage is uninsulated and vulnerable. If you dwell in a northern climate, mobile home heat tape installation is an essential precaution that should be taken BEFORE the thermometer dips.
What is mobile home heat tape and how does it work?
The term “heat tape” is actually a bit misleading — the slightly less popular but more accurate term is “heat cable.” It’s flexible wiring that is wound around the circumference of exterior piping; electricity runs through its conductive material to produce heat, warming the pipe and preventing it from freezing. If you are a professional electrician (or know/can afford one),
It can be hardwired into your electrical system with its own dedicated breaker. Otherwise, it’s usually connected to a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlet via an extension cord.
Most heat cable sold today is self-regulating, meaning it turns itself on and off depending on a thermostat reading. Some varieties are sheathed in a silicone or rubberized coating for moisture protection, but the most common kind you’ll see is braided (unsheathed). Unlike silicone heat cable which is often sold as a single piece, braided heat cable is sold by the foot in spindles, making it a prime choice for contractors and maintenance supervisors. Before you buy, familiarize yourself with your home’s plumbing and electrical systems — especially if you own an older manufactured home built from more antiquated materials.
How do I install mobile home heat tape?
Because most self-regulating heat cable does not have a protective coating, it needs to be shielded from the elements with a couple additional layers. Before beginning your heat tape installation, make sure you’re equipped with the following:
- The heat tape (obviously)
- Tape measure (you’ll want extra length for wrapping)
- End caps for both ends of the length of wire
- Power supply/plug kit (contains internal thermostat)
- Electrical tape or ties (to secure the tape to the pipe)
- Fiberglass insulation (to keep the heat tape dry once secured)
- Vapor seal wrap (plastic moisture barrier to keep the insulation dry)
- Scissors and/or knife
- Mask, gloves, and eye protection
- Cleaning supplies (expect a better installation without build-up and debris)
Starting from the pit where the water supply line emerges from the ground, wrap the heat tape around the pipe every three feet or so, taping or tying roughly every five feet. Be sure to tie around corners or bends in the pipe for snug contact. The ends of the tape should be covered with waterproof end caps and left above ground to limit exposure to moisture. Feed cable into the thermostat unit and plug into the power supply. Once secure, overlay the fiberglass insulation and vapor seal wrap.
When is mobile home heat tape not recommended?
There are very few situations where mobile home heat tape would not come recommended. In nearly all of these cases, an older manufactured home is involved. Older water lines installed before now-standard materials like PVC and PEX became popular may be too thin and melt from the heat cable. Contact with aluminum wiring in older homes’ electrical systems can spark an electrical fire — a truly disastrous consequence, so make sure to replace any aluminum wiring if you haven’t already.
In newer mobile homes, however, self-regulating heat cable is a no-brainer. If taking on installation yourself, follow manufacturer instructions closely and be sure to do so by late September or early October at the latest. Installed properly, a quality heat tape brand should operate efficiently for at least three years.
If you want to get a headstart on this project before fall, Star Mobile Home Supplies has everything you need from two of the top mobile home heat tape brands in the country — RAYCHEM Frostex and Emerson Easy Heat.
For all your other needs, browse our full selection of mobile home supply products.