Designing Pipe Insulation Systems | P2S

Kent Peterson

Vice President

PE, ASHRAE Presidential Fellow, LEED AP BD+C, BEAP, MCIBSE

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Thermal insulation for piping systems has proven to be a simple and cost-effective means for reducing heat losses and gains in mechanical piping systems. Pipe insulation provides a barrier between the pipe and the environment and can provide many benefits. It is available in a variety of materials that achieve slightly different results depending on the critical properties desired for the given application. Improper insulation installations for HVAC piping can lead to excessive energy loss, safety hazards, condensation, corrosion and mold. It is beneficial for designers to understand the available material options and how to properly select and detail pipe insulation for various applications.

Insulation Failures

A piping insulation system design is only as good as its weakest link. A design for a refrigerant or chilled water system will almost always call out the areas to be insulated,
type of insulation, and thickness of insulation, but if it does not address the wall and floor penetrations, longitudinal seams, butt joints, pipe supports, termination points, valves, and fittings, it is not addressing the most common areas of failure in an insulation system. For these systems, the designer should make sure that these areas meet the same requirements for thermal conductivity, water vapor transmission, etc. as the rest of the system. Otherwise, these areas become the weakest link and will be potential failure points in the system.

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