Edwin L. Wiegand, a self-taught engineer from Pittsburgh, PA, had always shown an intense curiosity in electrical conductivity. In his makeshift laboratory off his family’s dining room, Wiegand experimented with ways to encapsulate the fragile and sometimes dangerous “open coil” heat technology of the time in a dielectric. This led to his groundbreaking patent in 1915 of a resistance-heating element embedded in an insulating refractory and enclosed in a metal sheath. On this technology, he founded Chromalox in 1917 and began producing the strip heater for what would become the modern electric clothes iron.
The next few decades were a boom period for Chromalox as electricity became a part of more homes and manufacturing plants. Heat and controls became integrated into systems, and Edwin Wiegand’s numerous patents found many applications in both the residential and commercial markets.
World War II created an enormous demand for portable heat on land and sea. Chromalox joined the war effort, and continues to be an integral supplier to military and aerospace.
Over the past half century, the ever-changing energy sector has opened up many areas for growth. Chromalox was the first supplier of pressurized heaters used in nuclear power plants and submarines. And as the world began shifting from fossil fuels to electric products, Chromalox has kept up with an ever-expanding portfolio of products and services around the globe.
With about 100 employees, the company moved from downtown Pittsburgh to a new plant in the suburbs (Homewood). As demand increased, Chromalox developed new materials and processing methods. The company took a giant step forward when electrical grade granular magnesium oxide (MgO) became available as insulation in tubular products.
- Electric heating element developed for a pot belly stove lid, creating the first electric
stove heating element.
- Patent filed for first electric heater used in a vessel for heating – the Percolator.
- Patent awarded for new strip heater applications for transportation market.
- Combining the word “chrome” as in nichrome wire in a strip heater and “locks”
because a cement mix locks in the heating element, “Chromalox” was born.
- Appliance market emerges as key focus with the invention
of the electric heating element.
During the Great Depression, E.L. Wiegand licensed the brand and technology around the world to generate capital (e.g. Canada).
- Introduced new Finstrip heater invented to diffuse more heat in a smaller space.
- Company developed own patented version of a tubular heater – beginning of key core
competency in industrial and commercial heating applications.
- Controls closely integrated into product heating “systems”.
- Heat and control solutions together are patented.
- Introduced residential heating products in both electric comfort heating and appliances.
- Launched wall-mounted heaters for the home.
- Introduced new electric thermostats and controls for heating with temperature control
for the home.
WWII creates demand for portable comfort heaters and freeze protection heaters that could be used in the field. Many GI’s remember the Chromalox over-the-side heaters for wash water use.
- Comfort air heater product line is introduced.
- Introduced over-the-side heater product line.
- First electric cartridge heater product line is completed.
- Introduced usage of first commercial cooking applications for electric deep fryers.
- The company focused on general industrial applications and transportation markets.
When nuclear power became popular in the mid-fifties, Chromalox was the first to supply pressurizer heaters for nuclear power plants and nuclear submarines. Developing products for new applications like these expanded the standard industrial heater line.
- Provided first nuclear pressurizer heater for Navy submarine, USS Nautilus, commissioned in 1959
- Introduced new patented radiant air heater line.
- Launched new silicon laminate flexible heaters.
- First electric immersion heater with housing patent obtained in 1961.
- Launched new electric hopper systems for PowerGen applications.
- Heat trace product line began R&D efforts.
- Major footprint expansion of factories in California and Pittsburgh.
- Primary focus on military and defense markets.
During the space age, Chromalox was the major supplier to the manufacturers of support equipment. Chromalox achieved another “First” when a strip heater landed on the moon. In 1969, the Apollo 11 lunar module used a strip heater in the electronic control box of a fuel triggering device.
- First to supply NASA with liquid nitrogen vaporizers for purging the launch pad fuel systems for rocket ignition.
- First circulation heater used in life saving application for operating room blood warming device.
- Launched first electric skid systems with circulation heaters and controls.
- Electric boilers added to the product line.
- Launched heat transfer systems and electric vaporizers.
- Introduced first MI Cable heating product for high temperature applications.
- Developed and introduced first heat trace cable – Constant Wattage.
- E.L. Wiegand took the company public in 1962.
- Chromalox acquired by Emerson in 1968.
Chromalox expanded into global markets by acquiring two manufacturing facilities, Grimwood in England, and Etirex in France. In 1977, Chromalox Industrial Controls was born with the purchase of Rosemount Temperature Controls in LaVergne, TN. The controls product lines were diversified and expanded, positioning Chromalox as a leader in the industry. The gas shortage leads to unprecedented demand for electric products.
- First in the Space Shuttle Program with circulation heater and controls to purge nitrogen gas at launch.
- Introduced new flexible tank heating product line.
- Launched patented explosion-proof comfort air heaters.
- Introduced new track switch heaters for rail transportation.
- Expanded presence in the UK with acquisition of Bray and Grimwood in 1971.
- Further penetrated the European market with the acquisition of Etirex France in 1972.
- Chromalox Industrial Controls was born with the purchase of Rosemount Temperature Controls.
- Launched new custom control line for OEM applications.
Global changing economic conditions opened new markets for Chromalox products.
- Introduced first self-regulating heat trace cables and accessories with UL and CSA approvals.
- Launched new cast-in heaters.
- Introduced new thin-blade product line.
- Launched new screw plug heater product line.
- Introduced new power control products.
- Further expansion in the UK took place with the acquisition of Eltron in 1987.
- Expanded global third party approvals and increased focus into the oil and gas market with ATEX, Class 1, Division 2 hazardous location certifications.
- Introduced new software for providing quicker engineered solutions for unique heating applications.
Changing economic conditions in the Far East opened new markets for Chromalox products. Additional manufacturing and engineering facilities were obtained with the acquisitions of Bray and Eltron in England. Chromalox became the world's most technologically advanced electric heating equipment producer. This global expertise provided unchallenged capabilities to meet stringent third-party and local code approvals throughout the world. In 1993, Chromalox opened a regional sales office in Hong Kong to aggressively pursue Asian markets. Global trade increases and US manufacturing struggles to remain competitive. World Wide Web changes commerce.
- First to supply UOP continuous catalytic regenerative (CCR) petrochemical process heaters and controls.
- Introduced high temperature self-regulating heat trace cable with hazardous location certifications.
- Launched heat trace controls product line.
- Introduced first version of ChromaTrace heat trace design software.
- Introduced swaged-in cartridge heaters – becomes industry standard.
- Expanded Asia presence with new sales office in Hong Kong.
- The Big Red Book is launched as technical document and product catalog.
- Expanded North America presence with acquisition of Ogden.
The decade began with the transfer of ownership from Emerson Electric Co. to J.P. Morgan Partners. Chromalox remained resilient in the industry by capitalizing on its design expertise and excellent reputation for high quality. With the purchase of Ogden Manufacturing Company in 2003, Chromalox strengthened its component heater manufacturing business and distribution network in the United States. To remain competitive during a strong economic downturn, the company expanded its manufacturing facility in Nuevo Laredo Mexico and consolidated operations in the U.S. by moving many production lines to to a new, larger facility in La Vergne, TN. Asian markets remained a strategic focus with the opening of a direct sales office in Shanghai, China. Demand for oil and gas grows worldwide, as well as the creation of new markets in renewable energy resources.
- Supplied high temperature cartridge heater for Columbia Space Shuttle for anti-icing of shuttle wings.
- First to provide circulation and controls for alternative fuels.
- First to provide superheaters and control system for production of polysilicon for the solar market.
- Supplied the only Deep Draw cartridge heater for commercial aircraft coffee makers.
- Introduced patented high temperature “MaziZone” cartridge heaters.
- Launched mica band heater, load bank and air handler product lines.
- Expanded heat trace commercial product offerings with snow melting maps, roof and gutter de-icing and control products.
- Introduced new Service Group and product offerings in 2008.
- Expanded presence in China with opening new Shanghai sales office.
- Restructuring of global manufacturing footprint took place.
2010's - Present
Chromalox continues to expand its international presence with the opening of direct sales offices in India, Thailand, Germany, Singapore, and Dubai. These offices have positioned the company to respond to the growing power generation industries in those regions of the world. Demand for oil and gas accelerators and energy sector continues to expand.
Today, Chromalox is owned by Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc, which specializes in the control and efficient use of steam, and in peristatic pumping and associated fluid path technologies. Through investment in capital resources, quality control, supply-chain management, and customer service, Chromalox is strategically positioned for future growth. Our continued focus is on engineering innovative heaters and controls of the highest quality for our customers, just as Edwin L. Wiegand did more than 90 years ago.
- Completed first Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) heat trace project for semiconductor plant.
- Obtained first large solar facility heat trace EPC contract.
- Supplied heating and control systems for natural gas discoveries (fracking).
- Launched next generation of heat trace control products with hazardous location certification.
- Introduced long line heat trace cable for heating pipes up to 15,000 ft in length.
- Introduced heat trace skin effect heating for heating pipe of to 10 miles in length.
- Introduced new supervisory software control module for heat trace and heater monitoring capabilities.
- Filed patent on new 4160 V tubular heating element – launching new medium voltage technology.
- Opened new sales offices in Germany, India, Thailand, Singapore, and Dubai.
- Opened new distribution facility in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.