An Introduction to Frost Heave Prevention Systems
Sep 11, 2018

An Introduction to Frost Heave Prevention Systems

Thousands of businesses suffer losses from damage to valuable inventory and equipment because of frost heaving. Frost heaving is the process when soil expands upwards due to ice forming underneath the ground. Frost heaving occurs when freezing temperatures penetrate the soil and ground beneath the flooring. This can lead to a myriad of negative impacts for a business as the expansion of soil weakens the foundation of the floor, which can even result in cracks in the walls or pillars. Installing a frost heave prevention system allows you to protect your business against frost heaving.

Frost heaving

What is a Frost Heave Prevention System?

A frost heave prevention system helps to maintain temperatures above a designated limit so that sub-zero temperatures do not penetrate the ground. Frost heave prevention systems are usually installed under the floor insulation of areas that are constantly exposed to freezing temperatures. Such places include commercial freezers, ice storages or vessels that are docked in cold areas.

By doing so, vital parts of these premises will be protected from frost heaving.

How does a Frost Heave Prevention System work?

Frost heave protection systems normally consist of self-regulating heating cables, temperature sensors and a control panel. The self-regulating heating cables are contained inside a conduit surrounded with either concrete or sand.

When the power is turned on, a minimum temperature will be assigned and maintained by the trace heating cables. This temperature is normally kept around 15°C. Once the temperature has been reached throughout the designated areas, the resistance thermometer will inform the control panel to cease any further power output. This minimises excessive power usage and helps to save costs for businesses.

On the other hand, the resistance thermometer will inform the control panel to increase energy output once it notices a drop in temperature that is below the designated threshold.

Why is a Frost Heave Prevention System important for your business?

Frost heaving can be detrimental to businesses due to the damage it can do to equipment. If left unchecked, severe frost heaving may even result in entire buildings collapsing due to cracks in the foundation of the floorwork. Therefore, without a proper frost heave prevention system in place, unsafe working conditions will always be a constant threat.

Frost heaving can also cause door hinges to freeze and be immobilised. This can cause doors to malfunction which could result in accidents or injuries at the workplace. Access to important documents or inventory stored behind these doors might be jeopardised as well. Thus, installing a frost heave prevention system can ensure that doors will not malfunction due to frost heaving.

In addition, surfaces between cold areas and heated rooms are prone to condensation due to the vast difference in temperatures. This would result in ice forming on the surface which makes the floor slippery and limits operations. Injuries and accidents are also more likely to occur if the ice is not removed consistently. A frost heave prevention system helps to keep temperatures in these areas within a certain range so that condensation does not occur.

Frost heaving can also cause cryogenic tanks to collapse and leak LNG, which can be hazardous to the environment. Supermec recognises that installing a frost heave prevention system is extremely crucial in ensuring that such accidents do not occur. To substantiate this, Supermec has been appointed as the designer engineer and supplier of heat cables and accessories for the frost heave prevention systems in Hai Linh LNG Terminal Project in Vietnam.

Why is installing a Frost Heave Prevention System the better option for businesses?

Although floor insulation might be the most common practice against frost heaving among many businesses, it is often insufficient. Thermal insulation alone cannot prevent ice from amassing entirely as sub-zero temperatures can still seep through surfaces. Therefore, the only way to offer complete protection for your structures and employees is to install a frost heave prevention system. By installing a frost heave prevention system, you are essentially mitigating any risk of frost heaving.

It is not as easy for a system to satisfy all the requirements of modern businesses today as compared to the past. There are stringent prerequisites to be met for businesses to even consider installing a system. For example, the system must be easy to install, cost effective to maintain, energy efficient and most importantly, environmentally friendly.

Alternatives to a frost heave prevention system include hydronic heating systems which have a much more complicated design. This means that a much longer time is needed to install the system which could result in more work disruptions from the delay. Frequent maintenance will also be required due to its complex design. On the contrary, frost heave prevention systems require fewer components to install. Also, conduit installations are used, which allows for easier access when servicing the system during maintenance periods. This translates to lower installation and maintenance costs.

A hydronic heating system primarily relies on circulating liquids such as glycol to maintain temperatures and prevent frost heaving. However, the risk of glycol leaking from the hydronic heating system poses a threat to the environment. Frost heave prevention systems utilise electric heat tracing cables which completely eliminates the use of glycol and any potential risks to the environment.


Frost heaving is an inevitable phenomenon for any business that is constantly exposed to freezing temperatures. Therefore, having a reliable frost heave prevention system is undeniably a worthwhile investment considering the detrimental impacts that frost heaving can have on your business.

All frost heave prevention systems designed by Raychem have been approved by international electrical standards. Installation of frost heave prevention systems must follow Raychem’s standard codes of practice. You can learn more about electrical heat tracing and Raychem in our previous blog post.

To find out more about how you can install frost heave prevention system for your business today, contact us now.

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