Identifying & Preventing Thermal Fatigue in Electric Heaters

Any industry that works with electric heaters of any kind needs to be aware of thermal fatigue. This type of ongoing thermal stress on your electric heater can easily cause a failure of the machinery, leading to catastrophic losses while endangering the safety and security of your team.

Efficient industrial heater maintenance requires the ability to identify the most common causes of thermal fatigue in your electric heaters. This knowledge informs the best ways to prevent them. With some resources and research, you can make sure that the electric heaters you’ve invested so much money in remain effective and efficient for years.

This article will show you how to get started identifying thermal fatigue, and what you can do to prevent it from affecting your heaters.

Why Thermal Fatigue is a Problem

Thermal fatigue is caused by ongoing thermal stress- a type of mechanical stress that’s created by metal changing temperature. An increase or decrease in temperature changes the dimension of the atoms in any material, which can put strain on not just the fluids inside your heater, but also its physical structure.

The more thermal stress your electric heaters experience, the more vulnerable they’ll be to thermal fatigue, which is a mechanism “that involves the cracking of materials and structural components due to cyclic (or fluctuating) stress.”

Premature Failure

If left unchecked, thermal fatigue can lead to the premature failure of your electric heater. These failures tend to occur suddenly, after microscopic cracks have been developing unnoticed for some time. These cracks cannot clearly be seen, so it can be easy for them to escape notice on routine inspection.

Common Causes of Thermal Fatigue

Most people are aware by now that fluctuating temperatures cause thermal stress, and consequently thermal fatigue. However, with most electric heaters built to withstand this type of strain, where does the damage come from? Let’s explore a few of the most common causes of thermal fatigue.

Faulty Welds

Welds are a great example of thermal stress being used for a positive purpose. However, defective or faulty welds can initiate micro cracks which get larger when exposed to thermal fatigue on a long-term basis. When the fault is due to an uneven welded edge, it can cause stress and lead to structural instability.

Thermal Stress During On-Off Operations

Going from hot to cold too quickly is a common source of thermal stress. Typically this can be managed by the machinery, but if the electric heater isn’t turned off and on using controlled protocols, it can cause stress even when the material is highly ductile and generally resistant to this type of fatigue.

Stress Between Sheath and Insulator

Another source of stress on the electric heating machinery is the relationship between sheath and insulator. Typically, electric heaters have mechanisms like fans which maintain a constant temperature. If these mechanisms are not working efficiently, this puts the thermal gradient of the sheath and insulator out of alignment. This leads to stress which accelerates crack development.

How You Can Prevent Thermal Fatigue

It’s integral to diligently adhere to industrial heater maintenance routines, so that any signs of thermal fatigue, no matter how small, are monitored and dealt with immediately.

Here’s how you can keep your electric heater solution running better for longer.

Pre-Installation Inspection

Before you install your heating solution into your workplace, do a careful pre-installation inspection. This is a good time to familiarize yourself with the machine and how it works. Inspect all welds to ensure none are faulty, and examine every part for cracks, no matter how small.

Material Selection

The electric heater selection process is easier when you are aware of your needs. As well as which aspects of regular use may put additional strain on your heater. Make sure to choose a more ductile material, which tends to be more resistant to thermal fatigue, as well as the formation of cracks.

Routine Maintenance and Inspection

Routine maintenance and inspection is critical to monitoring the effects of thermal stress and fatigue on your heaters and other machinery. Regular routines like these catch failures before they occur.

We care deeply about our customers and the longevity of our heaters. Make sure to check out our resources for more about preventing thermal fatigue and other issues, so you can ensure that your heater remains efficient and safe for many years. Contact us today to learn more about electric heaters, and all the other heating solutions we offer.