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Inspect Heat Tapes, Cables As You Winterize Your Home

Release Date: September 27, 1989

 If you use electric heat tapes or pipe heating cables under your home to protect pipes from freezing, government safety experts want you to check the tapes or cables now for possible fire hazards before winter sets in.

In a safety alert directed at mobile home dwellers and owners of dwellings with exposed sub-structures, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said heat tapes and pipe heating cables should be inspected each fall for hazards which could trigger a fire. CPSC said tapes and cables are involved in some 3,300 residential fires each year.

The safety agency offered the following safety tips:

-- Unplug the heat tape or cable first, then check the entire length of the tape for signs of cracked or charred insulation as well as bare wires; if these are found, the tape or cable should be replaced immediately.

-- When buying replacement heat tape, know the diameter and length of the water or drain pipe to be protected, then buy tape labeled for that size. Always follow manufacturer's directions for installing tape. Tape should not be lapped over itself around the pipe unless manufacturer's instructions specifically permit it; don't wrap heat tapes over thermal insulation.

-- Don't cover heat tape with insulation unless the manufacturer's instructions suggest it; if insulation is recommended, it must be non-flammable, such as fibrous glass.

Homeowners who are wary of checking sub-structure heat tapes and cables should consider turning the job over to a licensed electrician.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

Federal law prohibits any person from selling products subject to a Commission ordered recall or a voluntary recall undertaken in consultation with the CPSC.

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