Mobile Homes: Have Heat Tapes, Cables Checked For Fire Hazards

October 18, 1990
Release Number: 90162

Residents of mobile homes are being warned by government safety experts to have electrical heat tapes and pipe heating cables inspected now for possible fire hazards before the onset of winter.

Based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates there are about 3,300 residential fires each year involving heat tapes. On average, these fires have resulted in an estimated 20 deaths, 160 injuries and $25.4 million in property losses each year.

CPSC said data about heat tape fires was gathered over a six-year period, and that over half the fires involved mobile homes and trailers. During the investigations, it was discovered that many homeowners do not regularly inspect their heat tapes and that, in some cases, consumers were not aware that one or more heat tapes had been installed in their home.

Heat tapes are usually installed in crawl spaces and in the sub-structure of mobile homes and other dwellings where exposed water and drain pipes could freeze during the winter. In many cases, the product are plugged in year-round and are activated by a thermostat when the outdoor temperature approaches freezing.

While some consumers have the expertise to inspect heat tapes, most consumers should call a qualified electrician to inspect the system. If the electrician finds damaged or cracked insulation or bare wires, the old heat tape should be replaced immediately.

If you are purchasing heat tapes, CPSC offers the following safety tips:

- Buy the proper tape for the proper pipe. Know the diameter and length of the pipe to be protected, then buy the heat tape recommended for that size by the manufacturer.

- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing heat tape. Heat tape should not be lapped over itself around the pipe unless specifically permitted in the manufacturer's instructions.

- Heat tapes should be wrapped directly over the pipe to be protected, never on top of the thermal insulation covering a pipe.

- Don't cover heat tapes with insulating materials unless so advised by the manufacturer; if you insulate the tape, it must be a non-flammable insulating material such as fibrous glass.

- Never use more insulation than recommended by the manufacturer. Over-insulation can cause a fire.