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Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years we've found that there are some questions about heating that we get asked over and over, so we've put together a list of answers to these; on this page you may find a quicker answer to your problem than you thought.

Some of these answers will point you in the direction of the heater best for your application, or to a tool you can use to find out what you need. Depending on your situation, some of the answers may boil down to "It's not physically possible to do what you want to do without big, possibly expensive changes." That's unwelcome news, but no heater manufacturer, including us, can break the laws of physics and thermodynamics, so it's good to know what limitations they impose.

We hope you can find the information you need here. If you have any questions not answered here, or if you'd just like live technical assistance from one of our process heating experts, feel free to call us at (866) 685-4443, fill out a contact form, or email us at info@oemheaters.com.

Questions about heaters Questions about ordering
Why does it need to take so long to get to temperature?

A large amount of material will take a long time to heat up. One of the most common requests we get is to heat up a material in as little time as possible. If you don't have a lot of material to be heated, getting it up to temperature can be done in less than an hour or so. However, we see a lot of customers looking to heat large tanks of liquids in a small amount of time, and when we tell them that it might take a half a day to do so, it's not the news they want to hear. Even though we can make high powered heaters that could theoretically heat your material in a shorter amount of time, there are many limitations that exist, such as available amperage, size limitations, and acceptable watt density. See the next three questions for more on these.

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Why does the heater have to be so big?

The wattage that a heater can output largely depends on the size of the heating elements. The higher the watts per square inch, the more likely you will experience heater failure. If you need a high-power heater that needs to fit in an extremely small space, we might not be able to help you without making compromises. The material you are heating also has limitations on the number of watts per area that can be applied. This is because the material must have the ability to transfer the energy that the heater is providing. If the watts per area is larger than what is recommended for the material, your heater will scorch the material, buildup will form on the elements, and the heater will eventually burn out.

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What do the amps of my power supply have to do with anything?

You can only supply as much power as your electrical system can provide. Knowing the maximum current of the power supply is the first step in determining the maximum watts we can put in your heater. For example, a 240-volt AC line on a 40-amp circuit breaker can supply a maximum of 9600 watts to a single phase heater. The length, gauge, and material of the wire used to power your heater also place limitations on the amount of power that can be supplied to it. If the wire you choose is not rated for the amount of power you need for your heater, it can be extremely dangerous.

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Do we really need to put on insulation?

If you don't insulate, heat will be lost on the surfaces of the material being heated. When there's a temperature difference between two materials, heat will be transferred from the hotter side to the cooler side. This is one of the fundamental principles of thermodynamics, and can only be mitigated by containing the heat with insulation. Even though insulation isn’t 100% efficient, it can drastically reduce the amount of time needed to bring a material up to temperature, as well as the amount of power needed to maintain a temperature. The larger the exposed surface area, the more energy is being lost. Without insulation, you'll often need a heater ten times as powerful just to achieve the same effect.

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Can I power my heater from a battery?

Probably not, unless you have a really big battery and you can recharge it often: that is to say, you're not going to successfully heat an aquarium with a 9-volt fire alarm battery. What you need to know is whether your battery can supply enough amperage, for long enough, to produce the necessary wattage in your heater. You can answer this question if you know four numbers:

  • W: The wattage your heater will be drawing,
  • V: The voltage of your battery,
  • Q: The capacity of the battery in amp-hours (A·h) – divide by 1,000 if it's listed in milliamp-hours (mA·h) – and
  • t: The amount of time your heater has to run before the battery can be recharged or replaced.

Now that you've got those: According to Ohm's Law, if W ÷ Vt is less than Q, then technically you should be good to go. In practice, though, we strongly recommend at least a 20% safety factor, giving you this formula:

W ÷ Vt • 1.2 < Q

If that condition holds, then you may be able to run your heater from a battery. Notice that, with this calculation, a pack of 8 AA batteries in series (total 12 V, 2.4 A·h) can power a 12-volt 100-watt heater – which is just barely enough to keep a 10-gallon aquarium at 11°F above room temperature – for about 14½ minutes. Then you'll have to put in 8 brand new batteries. (And if you can find a 100-watt heater that runs on 9V, that 9V fire alarm battery will power it for a grand total of about 3 minutes.) This is why we usually recommend using power from the grid.

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Do you sell spa heaters or baptismal heaters?

No, we don't. We recommend Little Giant for both of these.

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Why do I need a thermostat? What does it do?

The short and snappy answer is that it keeps your building from burning down. Most of the heaters we sell have no inherent limit on how hot they can get, aside from the temperature at which the heating element actually melts. You can see what happens to an uncontrolled coil heater in this video from one of our suppliers:

Many people we talk to tell us that their plan is to get around the cost of a thermostat by switching the heater on and off manually. The problem here is that, in our experience, a human is probably the least reliable switching mechanism there is. It only takes one forgetful or distracted operator to create a hazard that can put a whole building in danger.

We do sell some self-regulating heaters, especially heating cables. These heaters won't overheat beyond their rated maximum temperature – but they still need a thermostat, for three reasons: to prevent astronomical electric bills, to make sure human forgetfulness doesn't leave the heater switched off when you really need it to be on, and to maintain precision in applications that need it. You can read more about these reasons on our page about What Self-Regulating Heaters Do and Don't Do (link leads to the relevant section).

As for how thermostats work and what kind you might want, we have an exhaustive article about temperature controllers that should tell you anything you need to know.

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What is heat tape/heat tracing, and can I prevent pipe freeze-ups and ice dams with it?

Heat trace cable, also commonly (though somewhat inaccurately) known as heat tape, is a complicated enough product that we've written a whole FAQ about it here. The FAQ has specific answers about stopping ice dams and preventing frozen pipes (links go to specific answers) – the short answer is that we sell all-in-one industrial-quality kits for each of these applications. You can read about them there or order from these pages: pipe kit ordering page or gutter kit ordering page.

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Why isn't the heater I need in stock?

The world of industrial heating has an infinitude of different heating needs, and it's impossible to stock a heater for every different one. So most heaters – besides very general-purpose ones – are built to order, all across the heater manufacturing industry. We normally mention on the category page if a product is built-to-order, and you can find a list of our lead times at this link or in the Help Center menu at the top of each page.

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How fast can I get a built-to-order heater?

You can find a list of our lead times here or in the Help Center menu at the top of each page. We are proud to offer some of the industry's fastest lead times for built-to-order heaters; we have close and long-standing relationships with a wide variety of suppliers, and that gives us the confidence to know that you will get exactly the heater you need, without spending weeks ensuring that all the specifications have been communicated correctly and the heater has been made right.

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Why can't you drop-ship my order?

Some of our band heater and cartridge heater suppliers have minimum order prices for drop shipping, usually around $250 to $275. For orders under this amount, even if the product is in stock at the factory, it will take a few extra days to arrive to you because it must be shipped to us first.

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What's your return policy?
Where can I find your terms and conditions?