Without the right tools, storing temperature-sensitive materials in drums and barrels can be a frustrating and often problematic process. Fortunately, drum heaters make it possible to keep a broad range of industrial materials within desirable temperature ranges, regardless of the storage conditions outside of the drum.
However, using a drum heater or any other type of heating equipment requires a safety-oriented mind. Otherwise, serious injuries could occur from misuse or failure to follow proper safety precautions. To protect yourself and fellow workers from serious injury, it pays to follow the precautions explained below.
Basic Safety Precautions
Regardless of which type of drum heater you use to keep industrial materials at acceptable temperature ranges, it's important to keep these basic safety tips in mind:
- Always use your drum heaters in indoor areas, as these devices aren't usually rated for outdoors use. In addition, being left outdoors could also leave drum heaters vulnerable to moisture exposure.
- Never leave the drum heater unattended during its heating cycle.
- During the heating phase, it's important to keep
If you're using a metal or silicone rubber band-type drum heater, it's important to keep the bands below the level of the material inside the drum. Otherwise, the drum may overheat and possibly cause the material within to ignite.
Many applications require the drum to vent during the heating process. Raj Krishnaswamy recommends keeping the top of the drum or the bung open to avoid excessive pressure buildup within the drum. However, consideration must be made for any material that's likely to produce noxious gases when warmed.
Electrical Wiring Precautions
To prevent the possibility of electrical shock while using your drum heater, you should never allow the heater or its controls to become wet, whether through accidental spill or exposure to moisture-laden environments. It's also important that the grounded plug isn't modified or removed from the heater, as this safety feature specifically prevents dangerous shocks from occurring.
Certain types of drum heaters, including immersion heaters, must be directly wired to an electrical source before they can be placed into service. To ensure safe operation and prevent unnecessary electrical hazards, you should make sure the wiring follows NFPA 70 National Electric Code standards.
Drum Heaters and Dust
As with any potentially flammable equipment, drum heaters should always be kept away from areas where heavy airborne dust is prevalent. These areas often include grain silos, grain elevators and hay storage areas. Using a drum heater within or near sources of heavy airborne dust could put the entire area at risk of an explosion and fire, especially given the combustibility of grain and hay dust.
It's also important to make sure that the drum heater's thermostat controls operate properly. In most cases, the thermostat is preset to not exceed the maximum safe temperature of certain plastic drum types. When such temperatures are reached, the thermostat usually shuts off to avoid overheating. However, a faulty thermostat affected by moisture, corrosion or internal wiring problems may fail to respond in the correct manner, causing overheating problems that could eventually lead to a fire hazard.
If you're experiencing difficulties with the thermostat controls, then you may have to have the thermostat or even the entire drum heating unit replaced.
Immersion Heater Safety
Great care should be taken so that the immersion heater does not come into direct contact with the surface of the drum or any sludge that collects at the bottom of the drum. Prolonged direct contact could cause the drum to overheat, allowing the contents of the drum to ignite.
Immersion heaters should also be used with energy regulators in applications where slower heating rates are required to prevent overheating and all of the problems that could occur afterwards. Contact a professional for additional info.