By Grainger Editorial Staff 4/1/20
Most pipe insulation is installed once and only inspected when necessary. But upgrading to newer insulation materials can help save money, make your building more environmentally friendly and reduce noise. Learn more below about the newest innovations in pipe insulation technology.
Aerogels are a new insulation technology offering lower thermal conductivity, which translates to less heat loss. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this new material is designed for steam heating insulation. Aerogel-based insulation requires less material to insulate as effectively as other alternatives, saving space.
According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, phase change materials are another new alternative insulation method designed for environments where temperatures change constantly. The materials are injected into standard insulation to reduce temperature variability and increase energy efficiency. When used in pipe insulation, these materials are able to absorb heat from the sun during the day and release it at night, keeping pipes at a steady temperature throughout the day. Phase change insulation can be used outdoors or indoors, in any environment where ambient temperature fluctuates significantly and pipes need to be kept at a constant temperature.
Insulation can do more than keep your pipes and equipment at the right temperature. It can also protect your facility against chemical and noise hazards.
According to Shannon Global Energy Solutions, tight-fitting insulation made with materials that trap leaking chemicals can help protect against spills. These insulation panels behave like normal insulation, but include systems that trap and contain chemicals before they contact a heat source or leak into the facility. While these solutions are not a long-term fix for leaking equipment, they can provide an emergency containment method that routes dangerous chemicals safely to temporary storage systems.
Advancements in insulation technology also include materials to make pipe insulation more environmentally friendly and sustainable. According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, materials such as fiberglass and mineral wool insulation can offer sustainability benefits by containing a certain percentage of recycled contents . Both solutions can come in prefabricated form, so that they can be cut to fit existing piping.
Naturally sourced insulation alternatives are also becoming available. Starting in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced the BioPreferred program, a catalog of the products that meet the program's minimum environmental standards and have some farm-sourced ingredients. In the insulation category, the USDA tracks dozens of products that are made fully or in part from natural materials, tying insulation back to a sustainable source.
Now may be the right time to revisit your pipe insulation and invest in new technologies, including form-fitting insulation, materials to help prevent leaks and heat loss, as well as more sustainable solutions.
The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.