How does moisture cause problems with tubular heaters and how can I prevent problems?

Submitted byglx25v onFri, 08/17/2018 - 17:29
Magnesium Oxide (MgO) is used as the insulating material in our tubular heaters because of its excellent thermal conductivity and dielectric strength. However, MgO is hygroscopic and can absorb moisture from the atmosphere. This absorption of moisture may be detected when an Insulation Resistance (IR) test is done with a Meg-ohmmeter prior to energizing the heater circuit. In very humid environments circuits utilizing a GFI (ground fault interrupter) for safety may experience nuisance tripping when energizing the heater.
The manufacturing process produces a dry element with an IR of several thousand megohms minimum. However, after shipment and depending on humidity levels and storage time, a heater can absorb moisture and show a decrease in IR. In many cases, depending on the supply voltage and the application, the heater can be safely energized and will dry itself out.
If a heater has picked up moisture, a safe and effective method of drying it out is to bake it in an oven at 300°F (149°C) until an acceptable IR reading is obtained. When possible, removing the terminal hardware will expedite this process. If this method is not practical consult factory for other recommendations.
For applications where moisture absorption would be unacceptable we have several optional element end seals to retard absorption of moisture in the MgO. If a true hermetic seal is required ceramic to metal end seals (Type H) are available. With any of these seals, the maximum recommended operating temperature must not be exceeded.