One of the most overlooked forms of protection for a backflow assembly is the heating element within an enclosure. Regardless of where you are located in the United States, a backflow heating element is an essential component to preventing catastrophic failure due to freezing temperatures. Remember, 2021 had freezing events in traditionally warm weather climates like Houston, TX and Miami, FL.
As engineers and municipalities design their above-ground enclosures, they need to consider what type of heating element will be included. Let’s take a look at different types of heating elements for backflow enclosures.
What Is a Backflow Enclosure Heating Element?
A heating element installed within an enclosure protects a backflow preventer from freeze damage. Heating elements vary from wired heat trace wrapped around the device, to heaters mounted on the enclosure walls, and most effectively, to slab mounted heaters mounted at the lowest point of the enclosure allowing the rising heat to warm the entire space and all the piping and components inside. While the types of heating elements vary, all protect against water freezing inside the backflow device or fittings around it.
What are the Common Types of Backflow Enclosure Heating?
Heating Tape - Self-regulating heat cables are wrapped around the backflow device and surrounding pipes. However, most enclosure manufacturers only provide the heat cable option for small diameter installations. Heating tape is ineffective with larger diameters as the current isn’t strong enough to adequately protect the water and assemblies from possible freezing.
Wall Mounted Heater - Wall mounted heaters are the most common form of heating elements in backflow enclosures. They sufficiently keep the air around a backflow assembly from getting too cold, and their high mounted location prevents relief valve discharge water from shorting out the electrical components of the heating element. However, that same high mounted location within the enclosure will allow the pipe risers and any components below the wall mounted heater from being properly heated. As the heat rises to the top of the enclosure, the lower half of the enclosure is not properly protected from freezing conditions.
Slab (Floor) Mounted Heater -This heating element, only offered by Safe-T-Cover, is mounted directly to the concrete slab and heats the entire enclosure from the ground up. Not only is the slab itself heated, but the riser pipes and all internal components are properly protected from freezing conditions. Slab mounted heaters are wet/damp certified and can be installed without worry of water damage. The temperature gauge is mounted about 12" above the slab and can better maintain proper temperatures within the entire enclosure. This video on freeze protection gives a good overview of what makes a slab mounted heater the best option.
What Type of Backflow Element Heater Is Best?
Slab mounted heaters, like the ones found only in Safe-T-Cover enclosures, are the best type of backflow heating element and what we specify for our customers and designers. A slab heater ensures that the air temperature throughout the entire enclosure is offering maximum protection against catastrophic freezing conditions.
Safe-T-Cover offers1000 watt and 2000 watt slab mounted heaters, and 120V and 240V versions as well. You'll need to ask your manufacturer for more information on enclosure heaters with higher voltages and to discuss your specific needs. You should set the thermostat for wall mounted and slab mounted heaters at 40℉ and the heater will maintain this temperature all the way down to -30℉.
Still Not Sure What Heating Element is Best?
Safe-T-Cover has put together an informative video on the best solutions when it comes to heating your enclosure and ensuring that your device is protected from the elements. Check it out below!