Industrial Heater Considerations

By:  - December 21, 2021  

When you are assessing whether to replace your industrial heater or upgrade an existing system, the options can seem overwhelming. Determining the best choice requires confronting questions about regulatory requirements, the operating environment, space limitations and other factors.

Watlow® produces heaters and thermal systems for a spectrum of industries, and our experts are available to guide you through the process step-by-step to find the best solution for your unique needs. Watlow also offers an easy-to-use “Digital Product Assistant” designed to assist you as you confront crucial questions that include:

Should I replace or retrofit my heating system?

This is one of the most critical issues to address, but it also prompts a new set of challenging questions with many variables.

Is it even possible to retrofit the current system? Can the desired results be achieved through a retrofit? Will a retrofit meet applicable compliance standards?

Retrofitting a heater is often less expensive than replacing the system, and an upgrade can provide a significant efficiency increase. In some cases, however, a complete replacement is necessary because the existing system is too outdated to retrofit with new components, the needs for the system have evolved or the operating environment has changed.

When evaluating a new system versus a retrofit, start by identifying and prioritizing your goals. Do the desired results include improved efficiency? Lower operating costs? A reduced carbon footprint?

What material or materials will the system heat?

The materials to be heated play a major role in selecting the correct heater. Will the system need to handle gas, liquid or solids? Will the heater be immersed or exist in a vacuum?

Depending on the material being heated, the heater watt density also needs to be considered when selecting a heater for your application. Some materials like glucose-containing liquids or oils may warrant a much lower watt density heater to avoid burning. Similarly, gas applications also often necessitate a lower watt density heater than applications heating water.

There are a few ways to either increase or decrease the watt density of a heater. Once the general temperature range and general heater style have been selected, attributes such as wattage, heater length, element diameter and heater element shape can be manipulated to change watt density. For example, increasing the length of a heater element will in turn increase the surface area the heated material is exposed to and decrease watt density. If the desire is to increase watt density, the heater element length can be decreased.

What industry regulations or other compliance rules apply?

Regulatory compliance can include federal, state and local ordinances as well as company rules intended to optimize performance of internal systems. Regulations vary greatly by industry, with verticals like the aerospace, automotive and medical trades subject to stricter requirements than other sectors when it comes to electric heaters and thermal systems.

These regulations are intended to ensure that new equipment has appropriate safety features and that retrofitted systems incorporate upgraded safety measures. Whether you are replacing or retrofitting a system, it is vital to understand the code requirements necessary to meet safety standards and achieve industry and environmental compliance.

What are the system’s operating-temperature needs?

A heater’s required operating temperature is another detail that will inform the best product for your situation.

The heater operating temperature may vary widely depending on the application. Watlow heaters can serve in applications with temperature needs up to 2,250 degrees Fahrenheit. The operating temperature range is determined in part by the heater’s shape, the material to be heated and the types of materials that comprise the heater.

For example, Watlow offers an array of heater products that fit in along the spectrum of temperature needs. From flexible heaters capable of maintaining near-body temperatures to ceramic fiber heaters capable of maintaining extremely high temperatures, Watlow heaters and controllers can suit a wide variety of applications.

What are the ambient conditions around the heater?

Ambient conditions can affect the components necessary to operate a heating system, and they can influence a heater’s overall performance. Some devices have limited ambient operating temperature ranges, while others function well in a broader temperature range.

Airflow is another ambient consideration. Is the system located in a well-ventilated area, or is it enclosed? Is there any natural or forced convection occuring?

Ambient operating conditions can also affect the placement of sensors. If a pipe is carrying hot fluid through a cold environment, for example, the cold air will draw heat away from the pipe and sensor.

Are there space limitations for the system?

Industrial heaters come in a variety of sizes to meet the demands of myriad situations. From large heat exchangers used to warm air to small flange tubular heaters used to heat liquids or gases, there are many possibilities.

The best choice relies partly on the space available. Additional related considerations include whether the heater needs to be attached to surrounding framework, or reside within an enclosure.

Still have questions? Watlow® has answers.

Watlow is prepared to help you find the optimal heater or thermal system for your needs.

While answering these questions is a good starting point, Watlow’s experts can help you tackle more technical concerns including details regarding input voltages, necessary wattages, component alloys and more.

Connect with Watlow today to get application assistance, or to locate a sales representative or distributor. Our team is ready to help you find a resolution that fits your requirements and budget.