4 Alternatives to Heat Tape – What You Didn’t Know

As winter’s icy grip tightens, the battle against freezing temperatures becomes an annual ordeal for many homeowners.

The concern for pipes freezing and the potential havoc it can wreak on your property can keep you up at night.

Traditional heat tape has long been the go-to solution, but what if I told you there’s a world of ingenious alternatives to heat tape waiting to be explored?

You can use pipe insulation, heat blankets, heat tracing cables, and thermal tapes to keep your pipes warm and the water flowing even in below-zero temperatures, and they work just as good as heat tapes.

Without further delay, let’s hop into the world where you can enjoy the warmth of heat tapes without actually using one!

What are the Alternatives to Heat Tape?

Pipe Insulation

Pipe insulations work like cozy jackets on your pipes. They prevent your pipes from freezing and are usually made of foam or fiberglass.

The interesting fact about pipe insulations is they actually don’t generate any heat. What they do is they wrap around your pipes and create a barrier that holds the existing heat within.

By doing so, they prevent heat loss to the surrounding environment and effectively stop freezing in their tracks.

This cost-effective and straightforward solution is perfect for pipes that aren’t exposed to extremely low temperatures and require heat tapes.

Easy DIY installation.
Passive solution, no electricity needed.
Limited effectiveness in extreme cold.
No temperature control.

Installation Guide

Materials You’ll Need
  • Pipe insulation material (foam or fiberglass)
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive or tape
  • Safety gloves
  • First things first, take a good look at the pipes you want to insulate. Give ’em a quick cleaning to ensure no dirt or moisture is hanging around.
  • Now, grab your measuring tape and measure the length of the pipe you’re planning to insulate.
  • Don’t forget to add a few extra inches to make sure it fits snugly and doesn’t leave any gaps.
  • Time for some cutting action! Grab some scissors and make a clean, straight cut. No jagged edges here!
  • Foam insulations usually come in a tube with a slit. You can gently cut it up and start coating the pipes with them.
  • On the other hand, fiberglass insulations come as rolls, like toilet paper or plastic food wraps. You can just unwhirl them from the base and roll them up around your pipe.
  • Start pushing or rolling the insulation over the pipe. Start at one end and push or roll it along the pipe’s length. Make sure it fits tightly.
  • If you have longer pipes, just cut multiple pieces of insulation and apply them, covering the entire pipe. Make sure to overlap the ends a bit so it stays snug and airtight.
  • Wrap some insulation tape or apply some construction adhesive around the seams and where the pieces overlap. This keeps everything in place.
  • Remember to insulate the valves, joints, and fittings along the pipe. Cut some smaller pieces of insulation to fit around them, and make sure they’re snug as well.
  • Once you are done, inspect it all over. Make sure there are no gaps or exposed spots on your insulated pipe. If you spot any, adjust or add more insulation as needed.
  • Now, step back and admire your work. You’ve covered the whole pipe and those extra bits. Everything should feel snug and secure.
  • After a little while, touch the insulated pipes. They should feel warmer than their surroundings. That’s how you know your insulation is doing its job, keeping things nice and toasty!
Pipe Insulation

Heat Blankets

Heat blankets are like electric heating pads for your pipes or tanks. They’re crafted with heating elements snugly encased in flexible materials like silicone or fiberglass.

When you plug them into a power source, they come to life, radiating heat around whatever they’re wrapped over.

They act much like heat tape but on a larger scale, making them ideal for industrial applications where you need a more substantial heat source to keep things warm.

Efficient heating.
Temperature control.
Suitable for large applications.
Higher upfront cost.
Requires professional installation.
Uses electricity, increasing costs.

Installation Guide

Materials You’ll Need
  • Heat blanket
  • Measuring tape
  • Electric outlet or power source
  • Fasteners (zip ties or Velcro straps)
  • Safety gloves
  • First off, make sure you’ve got some space around the object or pipe you want to wrap up. Clear away any clutter so you have room to work.
  • Now, take a good look at the surface. It should be clean and free from any dirt or debris. We want that blanket to stick nicely.
  • Get your measuring tape out and measure the length of the object you’re about to snuggle up with the heat blanket. Accuracy is key here!
  • It’s time to unroll that heat blanket. Lay it out on a flat, clean surface. Make sure it’s all stretched out without any kinks or tangles. We want it smooth.
  • Wrap that heat blanket around the object you want to warm up. Make sure the heating elements, usually inside the blanket, are in direct contact with the object’s surface. That’s where the magic happens!
  • Now, depending on the type of heat blanket you’ve got, you might need to keep it in place. Zip ties or Velcro straps work great for this job. Just make sure it’s snug but not too tight. We don’t want to harm the blanket.
  • Time to power up! Find a nearby electrical outlet or power source. Make sure the heat blanket’s cord can reach it safely.
  • Plug it in and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting the temperature. Keep an eye on that object’s temperature, too. Most heat blankets have thermostats to help you control the warmth.
  • Adjust the settings as needed to get that perfect coziness level.
  • Now, here’s the responsible part. Check on the heat blanket and the wrapped object regularly. Look for any signs of wear or damage. Safety first!
  • Don’t forget to do some maintenance and safety checks from time to time. Keep it clean, and make sure it’s not overheating.
  • When you’re done with the warmth party, turn it off and unplug it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for storing the heat blanket properly. We want it to be ready for the next chilly day!
Heat Blanket

Heat Tracing Cables

Heated tracing cables are cousins to heat tape, designed to thwart freezing by winding around pipes, roofs, or gutters. Inside their sturdy exterior, you’ll find heating elements safely encased in materials like PVC or rubber.

When you power them up, they get to work, transferring heat to the surface they’re snuggled against.

These cables offer versatility in forms and materials, some even excelling in energy efficiency. They are a valuable alternative to traditional heat tape, easily adapting to various applications.

Effective freeze prevention.
Versatile options.
Some are energy-efficient.
Temperature control is available.
Variable costs.
Requires professional installation.
Uses electricity.

Installation Guide

Materials You’ll Need
  • heat tracing cables
  • Measuring tape
  • Fasteners (cable clips or tape)
  • Electrical outlet or power source
  • Safety gloves
  • There are two main types to choose from: self-regulating and constant wattage.
  • Self-regulating cables are easier to handle and save on energy, but they come with a higher price tag.
  • Clear the area around the pipes, roofs, or gutters where you want to use these cables. We need a clean slate.
  • Measure the length of the area you want to protect or heat. Don’t forget to account for any twists, turns, or obstacles in the way.
  • Unroll those heat tracing cables and lay them out nicely and straight. No tangles or kinks, please!
  • Starting at one end of the area you measured, start wrapping the heat tracing cables around the pipes, along the roof edge, or inside the gutter. Make sure they’re touching the surface you want to keep warm.
  • Keep them in place with cable clips or specialized tape with vapor barrier functionalities. Space them out evenly along the length of the cables. Just snug enough, not too tight – we don’t want any damage.
  • Find a power source nearby, like an electrical outlet. Make sure the cable’s cord can reach it safely.
  • Plug in those cables and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set the temperature you want. Keep an eye on the area’s temperature too. Most of these cables have built-in thermostats for control.
  • Adjust the settings as needed to get that perfect warmth.
  • Don’t forget the responsible part – check on those cables and the area they’re protecting regularly. Look for any signs of wear, damage, or ice buildup. Safety first!
  • When you’re done with the warmth mission, turn them off and unplug them. That’s how we wrap things up safely.
Heat Tracing Cable

Thermal Tape

Think of thermal tape as your water supply pipes’ cozy scarf. It’s tape but with the magical power of thermal insulation. It typically consists of layers of insulating materials that capture and trap heat.

Although it doesn’t generate heat itself, it acts as a dependable insulating layer. Wrap it around your pipes, and it helps keep the existing heat within, thwarting freezing.

The best part? No need for electricity here. It’s an alternative to heat tape in scenarios where you don’t need extra heat but still crave insulation’s comforting warmth.

Effective insulation.
Simple DIY installation.
No electricity is needed.
Limited to insulation.
Not for extreme cold.
No temperature control.

Installation Guide

Materials You’ll Need
  • Thermal tape
  • Measuring tape
  • Utility knife or scissors
  • Cleaning materials
  • Safety gloves
  • Start by making sure the surface or pipe you’re working on is squeaky clean. If there’s any dirt or debris, give it a good cleaning. We want that tape to stick like glue.
  • Whip out your trusty measuring tape and measure the length of the area you want to insulate. This helps you figure out how much thermal tape you’ll need.
  • Time to cut the tape! Use a utility knife or some scissors to make a nice, straight cut. Keep those edges clean and neat.
  • Peel off the backing of the thermal tape to reveal the sticky side.
  • Carefully apply the tape to the surface or pipe. Start at one end and work your way along the length. Make sure it goes on smoothly and sticks uniformly.
  • For those longer sections, if you need to use multiple pieces of thermal tape, overlap the ends by a few inches. This keeps the insulation continuous. Press those overlapping sections firmly to secure them.
  • After you’ve applied the tape, use your hands or a roller to press it down and smooth it out. This gets rid of any air bubbles or wrinkles and ensures it sticks well.
  • Now, inspect the entire length of the thermal tape. We want to make sure there are no gaps, exposed areas, or loose edges. If you find any issues, fix them right away by reapplying or securing the tape.
  • If the edges of the thermal tape are exposed, or you want extra security, you can use any compatible home adhesive to seal them up. This helps prevent the tape from peeling over time.
  • Don’t forget to keep an eye on those tapes for any signs of damage or wear. Regular inspections are the key to keeping things in good shape.
Thermal Tape

Bottom Line

If you are living in a place where winter comes to its fullest extent, these are your go-to methods.

Some of these methods generate heat, while others keep your pipes functioning by trapping the existing heat.

So, before you take on a project, it’s important that you understand what function you are looking for and if the purpose of your target aligns with your house’s needs.


What is better heat cable or heat tape?

Although heat tracing cables can be wrapped around the pipes and they don’t shrink in extremely low temperatures, heat tapes are more flexible for tight contours and oddly shaped pipes. So, considering the application versatility, heat tapes are better.

Can I use duct tape for heat?

No, you can’t use duct tape for heat because duct tape is dependent on adhesives. If you are trying to capture heat with it, the heat will gradually soften the adhesive, which will cause the duct tape to slip down.

How long will heat tape last?

The construction-grade heat tapes last up to three years because they are always in contact with moisture and water. So, it’s recommended to replace them every three years.