There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you’re deciding what type of insulation to use for any particular application. We’ll cover 5 of the most important factors to consider here as it relates to piping, valves, and fittings.
1. Insulation Code and Specification Requirements
What are the code requirements for this specific application? The codes in your area can cover everything from what types of things need to be insulated (pipes, walls, vessels, steam traps etc.) to stipulating R values, insulation thickness and material. If part of a construction project, what is detailed in the specifications? Double check with your inspector before making any costly decisions involving insulation choice.
2. Insulation Purpose
Establishing the purpose of the insulation is a big part of deciding what type is necessary. Are you trying to keep something hot from losing heat or something cold from heating up? Are you providing weather protection as well as heat or cold barriers? If you wish to use energy more efficiently, what is your energy savings goal? Is your goal not to prevent heat or cold fluctuations but to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? The thickness and in some cases the type of insulation you use will drastically effect these things. Knowing the temperature of the component being insulated is very important when designing an insulation jacket.
3. Safety and Environmental Insulation Considerations
Is the piping in an area that can be touched or bumped into? Are you trying to prevent a burn hazard? What would you like the outside “Touch Temperature” of the insulation to be?
There are also certain types of insulation that can be quite dangerous and toxic to humans as well as damaging to the environment. In many cases, these materials, of which asbestos is a good example, are no longer used and must be replaced. If the application in question is in constant contact with workers, it must be safe enough that constant exposure to it will have no adverse effects. Irritating fibers are often encased in a coating or jacket in order to reduce the chances of inhalation or skin irritation. Make sure that the insulation you choose will meet the safety and environmental needs of your application.
4. Design and Installation Considerations
The physical needs of various applications require different types of insulation. Perhaps the insulation jacket is going to be exposed to weather and sunlight? This would require a Teflon product for the outer jacketing and Pyrogel for the insulation. If the application in question is located in an environment that will encourage condensation, then a vapor barrier will be required in order to prevent under-insulation corrosion of the item being insulated.
5. Logistical Considerations
The difficulty of the insulation application will dictate the cost of application and the labor requirements. If the application requires many cuts and angles, it will, of course be more expensive. The cost of installation should be carefully weighed against the overall savings that you will see. Most removable insulation jackets for heating systems have a payback of less than 2 years.
Additionally, it is important to take repairs and alterations into consideration when deciding what type of insulation solution is right for the job. If the insulation on the component is not likely to be disturbed for years at a time, using a more permanent solution is advisable. If, as is often the case, the area must be accessed on a semi regular or regular basis, either for maintenance, repair or inspection, easily removable insulation is necessary.
Considering these elements is an important part of making an educated decision about which insulation solution is best for your application. Neglecting any of these elements could lead to costly miscalculation and the necessity of premature repair and replacement. Do your due diligence, and you’ll be rewarded by an efficient and effective insulation solution.