Design & DIY

Cottage Q&A: Repairing a heating cable

By FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock

We recently found several small holes in our 1 1/4″ poly pipe water line that runs from the cottage to the river. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to replace the leaking section, I cut through one side of the heating cable! Is it possible to repair it?—Louis Leaky

Oops! It depends on the type of cable—check with the manufacturer. A “parallel-type construction” cable—two parallel conductors inside a polymer heating core—is likely easier to fix. And happily, some companies sells splice kits with step-by-step instructions; you cut out the damaged section and splice in a new piece, no electrician required.

On the other hand, if the heat cable is a mineral-insulated “series-type construction” cable—controlled with a thermostat to keep the temperature from getting too high, and typically installed inside the pipe—it’s a different situation. “These types of cables are quite difficult to repair,” says Brian Spira, a product manager with Drexan Energy Systems in Kelowna, BC. “And the work should be performed by a trained electrician.” That’s assuming you can find one with the right skills. It won’t be like sourcing a used treadmill—you’ll have to track down an expert with the background required to do a sophisticated repair. And that may cost a lot.

Henry Blanchard of Austin Plumbing and Electric in Port Carling, Ont., suggests that you weigh the time, effort, and money you’d spend fixing the cable against the expense of a new one. If it’s a short cable to begin with, or if it’s old and starting to degrade anyway, then “it’s a no-brainer from my standpoint,” says Blanchard. “The quick answer is it has to be replaced.”

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