Published onJune 17th, 2021
What Type of Pipe Insulation Is Best? Advice from the Experts on Protecting Your Pipes
If you own or manage a property in New York City, protecting your pipes is key to ensuring they function properly and last for decades. If you’ve ever wondered what type of pipe insulation is best, read on. Our experts at Calray Boilers explain the different choices and where to apply various kinds of insulation for the best results. With the right pipe insulation, you can minimize heat loss and save money.
Purpose of Pipe Insulation
If your first inclination is that pipes should be insulated to prevent freezing, you’re not wrong. This is one of the main reasons we recommend insulation. Freezing pipes are subject to leaking and bursting, which can cause extensive water damage and disruption to the building’s tenants–at a great cost to you.
Minimize heat loss
However, there are additional reasons why pipe insulation should be explored. Insulating the pipes providing hot water or steam for radiators minimizes heat loss. This saves you money on energy expenses and may actually let you set your boiler to fire less frequently. Tenants are happier too when they don’t have to wait for hot water to take a shower or wash their dishes, and there’s less wasted water with faster hot water.
There are environmental situations where pipes can “sweat.” This is really condensation that forms when a pipe’s surface is cooler than the surrounding air, such as with cold water lines passing through a warm, humid part of the building. It’s similar to a cold drink sitting on your table on a hot summer day. The moisture that forms can eventually corrode the pipe, reducing its lifespan and causing hazardous leaks.
Some pipes may need to be insulated to protect people who are working around them. Touching an extremely hot pipe can result in burns and, potentially, workers’ compensation claims.
Location of Pipes Needing Insulation
Four prime locations
We typically see pipes in need of insulation in four general areas:
- Boiler and mechanical rooms where workers are in close proximity
- Heat and hot water distribution areas
- Cold areas of the building, such as north-facing walls, shady spots, and those exposed to constant wind
- Humid environments housing cold water lines
Together with our partners at Sanitary Plumbing, we advise property owners and managers on ways to insulate these areas, so all types of pipes in your building are protected and you capitalize on energy savings. Our focus at Calray Boilers is on piping in the boiler room and lines providing heat and hot water.
Types of Pipe Insulation
This is the type of insulation you are probably most familiar with, as it is widely used by single-family homeowners for DIY applications. It resembles a swimming pool noodle, with a slit that runs the length of each piece, which makes it a breeze to slip around pipes.
The light foam material is also easy to cut to unique measurements. Foam insulation can be purchased with or without self-sealing elements; without self-sealing, it must be taped to provide proper containment of the pipe. This kind of insulation works well to prevent freezing and condensation. It’s ideal for pipes found under cabinets, but we generally recommend more heavy-duty insulation for other applications.
Nitrile foam rubber insulation
This insulation works for both energy loss and condensation. It offers multiple benefits:
- Available in different formats, including sheets, tubes, and long coils, as well as self-sealing versions
- Can be used for plumbing, domestic heating, and air conditioning applications
- Works on hot pipes up to 105 degrees Celsius (221 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Can be used outside with a special paint finish for UV protection to prevent cracking
Mineral fiber insulation
Also offering a wide range of applications, mineral fiber insulation is usually foil-coated. It can handle temperatures up to 700 degrees Celsius (1,292 degrees Fahrenheit), making it ideal for use around commercial and industrial boilers. It can be used outdoors, provided a protective sheet covering is also utilized.
There are versions of rigid fiberglass insulation that are similar to mineral fiber products. Like foam tubing, these are often used by single-family homeowners and small property owners attempting DIY pipe insulation. However, mineral fiber is more eco-friendly and provides superior insulation, making it our choice for apartment buildings, businesses, and large rental properties.
EPDM foam rubber insulation
This insulation is usually applied outside over high-temperature pipes, up to 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit). It has built-in UV protection, so it is often used with solar heating. It comes in a range of formats for ease of use.
Phenolic foam insulation
While this type of insulation seals pipes well, it’s more costly due to the application process, which must be done by a professional. It’s used for large-scale heating and air conditioning applications. It’s often used in industrial settings. It comes in foil-lined tubes in a variety of pipe diameters, as well as in sheets and slabs. It can accommodate temperatures as high as 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit) and as low as -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit).
Within these broad types of insulation, there are subcategories, and new insulation materials are coming to market every year with advanced features like mold resistance. That’s why it’s essential to consult with plumbing and boiler professionals, like Calray Boilers, so you can select the best material for your application and budget, and so the installation is performed properly.
Contact Calray Boilers to Protect Your Pipes and Save Money on Energy Costs
New York City’s hyper-local blue-chip boiler experts
If you worry about losing heat through your radiator and hot water system, we can help. We’ll do an evaluation of your property to see where heat is being lost or where your pipes need protection from other hazards like condensation. We can help you select the ideal insulation for every scenario, enabling you to save money and enjoy greater peace of mind.
Call Calray Boilers today at 212-722-5506, or use our easy online form to set up a service call at your convenience.