There are so many choices to choose from when deciding on a particular electric snow melting product, especially when you know nothing about it. Best price here, best warranty there, what should you believe? How many times does a consumer actually read the fine print in a warranty and actually understand it? Marketing warranties is a powerful tool to promote good ideas, bad ideas or to make inferior products look good while conveniently censuring their flaws from consumers.
Let’s take a look at the differences in snow melting manufacturer warranties. There are tons of electric snow melting products on the market, but only a few technological bases to work from. High voltage products can be grouped into one category and low voltage products into another.
If one were to read the fine print within the warranties, you may find requirements upon purchase, requirements after purchase, and other clauses to support the claim of the warranty period. When I think of a warranty it seems to me that it represents a manufacturer’s comfort level and faith in their product aligning with the cost and chance of it actually being their fault if it failed. Let’s work from the technological bases mentioned previously.
How does a constant wattage high voltage product work? High voltage products have small conductors encased in mineral insulators and various layers of material jackets. These products are not your typical definition of a wire as most of us picture a wire in our head. The majority of the material isn’t wire at all. The small conductors produce heat when high voltage electricity is passed through them. The small conductor carries the stress of heating the entire jacket of “wire”, which passes to the object it is trying to warm. Over time these small conductors take on so much stress from the beginning they begin to break down and they eventually burn out. Typical for high voltage products at first fell in the range of 2 years or less and some still do today.
How does a constant wattage low voltage product work? A constant wattage low voltage product (Tuff Cable) uses stranded copper with a special outer protecting jacket (specifically designed for the system) similar to the wiring used in a home as the conductor. A Tuff Cable System bares little stress on the cable when operating due to its low voltage output and resistance heating technology using the entire copper conductor inside. A Tuff Cable low voltage system also has a built in controller that constantly monitors the system for safety and relays this info to the end user. The warranty for a low voltage system (Tuff Cable) is 25 years.
Warranties really make a statement about a product and typically it’s the first thing an end user researches.
High Voltage products began to receive increased warranties due to the fact that they were uncompetitive and the manufacturers knew the warranties could never be validated after being embedded in concrete for their 5-10 year lifecycle. Check out this class action lawsuit at http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/settlements/04192/easy_heat.html for Easy Heat. The settlement states that the cable was defective, however in reality it just spent its lifecycle and it took a HUGE lawsuit by consumer organizations in three states to actually prove that their warranty term was just too long to expect for a high voltage product. Also the warranty text for many high voltage products can be summed up as creative wording. “10 years, 5x cost” sounds pretty good on paper, however may be impossible to prove. Most installation procedures require a megger test for high voltage products to be conducted at the time of purchase, after installation and once a year with documentation to make the warranty valid. Here is a link about megger tests http://en.allexperts.com/q/Electrical-Wiring-Home-1734/megger-testing.htm.
most manufacturers require the end user to be able to prove a defect. Who is going to be able to prove to a manufacturer that it was their flaw in the product after tearing it out of CONCRETE? I would not want to take on the task picking out wire intact while breaking up concrete with a jackhammer. Take one minute….picture the scenario……impossible, right? Now let’s have a look at the warranty periods. Heatizon was the first to provide a 25 year warranty on Tuff Cable, the reasoning for such a long term is because of the technology. The heating element will last that long and probably longer as long as it is installed correctly due to the characteristics described previously.
High voltage snow melting equipment manufacturers as well as their dealer counterparts will continue to extend un-obtainable warranties, this is inevitable, what you can do to prevent deception is read between the lines, do some research and inform yourself about how the different products work so you can make the best decision, and not leave it up to the salesman.