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Many of us would agree that winters are tracking milder: ski seasons seem to be getting shorter and the polar ice caps are shrinking. And extreme cold, huge snowstorms and subfreezing temperatures as experienced in February 2021 and 2023 are shrugged off as “odd”  weather events. And why should one worry about preparing for rare winter weather events?

Unless, of course, these winter weather events will no longer be rare, but become more prevalent as time goes on. This may seem to be in opposition to the ongoing warming of our global climate, but it’s easy to understand when you consider how the cold weather of February 2021 came to pass and why it’s likely to happen with increasing regularity. It is due to a phenomenon called a “wavy polar vortex”.

What is a Polar Vortex? 

The term “polar vortex” describes a rotating mass of cold air that is contained over the poles by the jet stream. When the jet stream is strong, its circular in shape and contains the chilly air above the poles. This state is sometimes described as a stable polar vortex.

Warm air – made more likely by a warming climate – can weaken the jet stream, giving rise to a “wavy”, “wrecked”, or “broken” polar vortex. This is the phenomenon that allows cold artic air to push southward into North America, Europe, and Asia, causing very cold weather in areas that have typically mild winters.

How Can Heat Tracing for Freeze Protection Help? 

Exploring a heat tracing system can offer inexpensive insurance against the ravages of the next wavy polar vortex such as… 

What is Heat Tracing?

Let’s explain the basics of electric heat tracing systems. Electric heating cables maintain the temperature of non-flowing fluids by replacing the heat lost through the thermal insulation on pipes, vessels, and associated equipment.  Having a well-designed complete heat tracing system in place can help facilities and processes run more efficiently.

Energy Savings Opportunities through Smart Controls

Using smart controls that can provide advanced features to help maintain your heat tracing is the best way to conserve energy. Most smart controllers have more options to control a heat tracing circuit than a simple thermostat, such as on/off, always on, always off. Utilizing smart advanced controls are the best option to manage your heat tracing system.  It not only helps reduce energy consumption but can also be key to efficiently run your process including:

  • Centralize operations and alarm reporting
  • Improve process control to improve yields
  • Provide data for trend analysis and predictive maintenance
  • Increase system reliability
  • Reduce maintenance costs with an autocycle feature that ensures the EHT cable installation is functioning as designed, year-round

The time to start preparing for the next extreme winter weather event is now. If you haven’t conducted maintenance, repair, and operations inspecting your facility, you may be at risk when winter weather strikes next.

Learn more on our blog about how nVent’s RAYCHEM products can help track heat for freeze protection and more.