Did you know that the steel oil drum we know today has been almost unchanged since its invention in 1901? Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, also known as Nellie Bly, made the first usable and practical oil drum to carry crude oil.
Today, the universal 55-gallon drum is the storage container choice of industries worldwide for almost every liquid except crude oil. They are easy to fill, stack, store, and ship. But, sometimes, they aren’t so easy to empty. Barrels containing high viscosity liquids need a little heat to get the product inside to pour out. Applying the right amount of heat is where a drum heater comes into play.
Drum heaters surround the barrel and reduce the viscosity of liquids by heating, a necessity for hundreds of industrial applications. This article will discuss the various drum heating and insulation solutions available.
Increasing Viscosity with Heat
If you’ve ever worked with vegetable shortening or crude oil, you know that they will not flow at room temperature. The property of fluid and its resistance to flow is called viscosity. High viscosity fluid like molasses flows very slowly, if at all. According to science, water is a medium viscosity, and gas is low.
There are two ways to empty a liquid drum: pouring it out using gravity or a drum pump. Neither method works if the liquid inside is in a near-solid state. Applying heat to liquids causes their molecules to move faster, lowering the viscosity or their resistance to one another.
The most efficient way to apply heat is with a barrel and drum heater.
How Do Barrel Heaters Work?
A Drum heater works like an insulation blanket with the addition of thermal, electrical cables inside. It wraps around the drum, providing uniform heat around the barrel.
Not all 55-gallon drum heaters are equal. Here are the different types.
4 Varieties of Drum Heaters
There are four kinds of insulation or heating for drums.
- 55-Gallon Drum Insulation Blanket – This insulated quilt covers the entire drum to protect the contents from freezing, excessive heat, or condensation damage. However, they are ordinary blankets and cannot supply heat to the drum. Eventually, the drum’s contents will reach the area’s ambient temperature.
- Insulated Top Covers – 55-gallon drum covers insulate only the top surface. They have cut-outs for both bung and plug access. They help minimize heat loss and lower the heat-up time with a drum blanket.
- Heating Belts or Bands – Heating bands fix around the middle or lower third of a drum. They impart heat using heating cables embedded in the band material, typically silicone. They can provide heat to a maximum of 145°F (63°C) at 120 volts delivering 240 watts of heating power. Bands work best for smaller-scale heating jobs.
- Drum Heaters – 55-gallon drum insulation heaters provide heat and insulate the entire drum by wrapping around it. They work well for poly or steel, delivering steady heat, evenly distributing it around the drum’s surface. Models include either an internal pre-set temperature or an adjustable thermostat. Most heaters use about 800w to deliver heat from 80°F (27°C) up to 145°F (63°C).
Industries use drum heaters for various applications such as viscosity control, melting solids, freeze protection, and temperature maintenance.
What Industries Use Drum Insulation Jackets
Any industry that handles high-viscosity liquid products in drums will benefit from using drum heaters. Some examples include:
- Food – Chocolate, syrups, gels, shortenings, etc.
- Pharmaceutical – Oils, emulsifiers, and thickeners
- Cosmetics – Coconut oil, wax, and fats
- Recycling – Recovered restaurant grease
- Petroleum – Grease and oil
- Paint and Coatings – Varnish, resin, and epoxies
- Chemical – Specific components need heat before starting a reaction
Drum heaters make liquids less viscous and easier to handle, saving time and money. Drum heaters efficiently apply heat directly to barrels in cooler regions instead of wasting energy heating large warehouses.
6 Advantages of Drum Blankets
A quality 55-gallon drum heater blanket will safely maintain stable temperatures of the barrel’s contents. Other advantages include:
- Even and continuous heat distribution across the entire drum surface.
- It wraps snugly around the barrel and also provides insulation.
- Adjustable straps secure the wrap around any shape drum, leaving no pockets.
- Blankets work effectively on metal or plastic drums.
- Protects from harsh or freezing temperatures.
- Drum heaters use less energy.
Since blanket drum heaters also insulate, they heat faster and are not affected by low ambient temperatures like band-type heaters. They can also act as an insulating jacket protecting the contents from maximum exposure temperatures. They are available in pail and tote sizes too.
Your Best 55-Gallon Drum Blanket Solution
Powerblanket has been solving industrial heating problems since 2005. One of their most popular solutions are 55-gallon drum insulation and barrel heaters. They offer total temperature control, evenly spreading the heat throughout the contents.
The patented full-wrap design is 180% more efficient than a 1,200 watt, 4-inch silicone band heater because it uses only 800 watts. If the power fails in freezing conditions, Powerblanket keeps the drum contents above freezing five times longer (164 hours) than a 4-inch band heater.
Powerblanket offers eight models with options in 120v or 240v, an internal pre-set thermostat, or programmable digital control. Product temperature ranges from 80°F (27°C) to 145°F (63°C).
They offer three thermal rating classes depending on the usage:
- Powerblanket Lite – For light residential and industrial applications, low power density
- Powerblanket Standard– Use for most industrial drum heating applications. The rugged vinyl shell withstands temperatures as low as -20°F (29°C).
- Powerblanket Xtreme – Reserved for harshest climates, it is safe to use in temperatures as low as -40°F (-40°C).
Barrel and drum insulation is a thermal insulation product used to protect the contents of drums, barrels, and similar vessels from the adverse effects of both heat and cold. The insulated full-wrap design is safe to use outdoors, water-resistant, and carries ETL certifications to UL, CSA, and CE safety standards. All 55-gallon barrel and drum heaters come with cinch straps to secure a tight fit around all poly and steel drums for use in any industry.