The Ultimate Guide to the Benefits of Mechanical Insulation

Mechanical insulation is thermal insulation used on piping, HVAC systems, boilers, ducts, process equipment, and all types of mechanical systems. There are both immediate and long-term benefits to insulating.

Insulation is an extremely effective—but often overlooked—way to reduce a facility’s energy loss and greenhouse gas emissions, save money, improve processes, and protect personnel.

Despite all of these fantastic benefits, most people don’t consider insulation when developing their energy initiatives or yearly budgets. They either don’t install insulation at all—and don’t plan on installing it—or they fail to properly maintain their insulation, making it ineffective and even dangerous for facility personnel.

Insulation is one of the easiest and smartest investments industrial and commercial facilities can make. This guide explores all the ways a properly designed and installed insulation system benefits your facility.

Reduced Energy Use

With the ever-increasing emphasis on energy accountability in facilities, reducing energy use continues to be a priority. Luckily, energy savings just might be the biggest and most well-known benefit of mechanical insulation. The right insulation system provides an immediate reduction in energy use and results in significant savings.

Reduce Energy Use

How much energy does insulation save?

The amount of energy an individual facility can save with proper insulation depends on many different factors, including:

  • Overall system BTU usage
  • How well the insulation system is maintained
  • The type of insulation that was installed
  • Fluctuations and changes in your average operating condition

Calculating insulation energy savings

The appraisal process is an effective way to calculate how much money and energy a facility is losing with its current mechanical insulation system, whether because the mechanical equipment is under-insulated, or because the insulation is missing or damaged.

These audits provide the ideal documentation for proving the value of insulation to decision-makers at a time when energy benchmarking is more critical than ever.

To determine exactly how much energy and money your facility could save by installing or upgrading your insulation system, you can take advantage of an Insulation Energy Appraisal.

Developed by the National Insulation Association (NIA), Insulation Energy Appraisals calculate the energy and dollars a facility or process is losing with its current insulation system. The appraisals give business leaders and facilities managers a complete understanding of the true dollar and performance value of their insulated systems.

NCMI is a Certified Insulation Energy Appraiser

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Fast ROI

Decision-makers are investing more than ever in resources to help staff more carefully manage energy use and, ultimately, control budget. However, of all the potential facility upgrades to improve energy use and budget, mechanical insulation provides one of the fastest returns on investment.

Exact ROI depends on the size of your facility and your standard operating conditions. Adding or upgrading insulation can be one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing operating costs for an industrial facility or commercial building.

While a properly designed and installed system provides the greatest savings in energy consumption over time, adding insulation is a low-risk investment to improve existing conditions. The process and materials can be calculated precisely, and the payback can be predicted with a very high degree of accuracy.

Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Mechanical insulation can play a significant role in a facility’s ability to reduce their environmental impact beyond energy savings. A properly designed and installed insulation system can help facilities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The more energy is saved, the less pollution associated with energy production is released.

Insulation reduces energy consumption, which means less fossil fuel is burned in energy creation. This, in turn, decreases the amount of polluting gases such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the principal greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, and sulfur dioxide is the major component of acid rain.

Mechanical insulation can help industrial facilities and commercial buildings significantly reduce their energy use—and therefore their greenhouse gas emissions. accuracy.

Condensation Prevention

Every plant and facility struggles with moisture control, especially facilities with pipes and ducts carrying water or other fluids at below-ambient temperatures. Too much moisture can cause major problems, and mechanical systems that operate below the ambient air temperature are usually a main source of condensation.

When properly designed, installed, and maintained, mechanical insulation helps control condensation and limit corrosion by keeping surfaces above the highest possible dew point temperature of the ambient air.

Condensation Prevention

Why worry about condensation?

When piping and equipment operate at temperatures lower than the ambient air, moisture in the air will condense, or freeze, on or within the insulation surface, or on the cold pipe surface. Unless the system is protected by sufficient mechanical insulation, the moisture can cause serious problems, including:

  • Loss of Energy & Insulation Value The thermal efficiency of the insulation system significantly decreases when it’s compromised by moisture. The reduction in the insulation value can eventually lead to a failure of the entire system and the need for repair and—more likely—replacement.
  • Pipe Corrosion Corrosion under insulation (CUI) is a well-known condensation-related challenge in the industry. Pipe corrosion under insulation is a slow but debilitating (and potentially expensive) problem. If the corrosion becomes too severe, the piping will need to be replaced, which will most likely result in shutting down the facility in order to complete the work.
  • Unsafe Conditions Condensate can drip and accumulate in ceiling tiles or floors (and may even form ice), causing slipping hazards. It also has the potential to drip onto electrical equipment which presents the dangers of shock to workers and damage to expensive equipment. Condensate dripping can also contaminate any product that may be being produced underneath the system.
  • Mold & Mildew Condensation can cause mold and mildew on the insulated surface itself as well as the surrounding areas. This is not only dangerous to any workers in the immediate facility, but has the potential to impact the entire building if the mold or mildew get into the HVAC system’s air stream.
Condensation Prevention Mold and Mildew

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Personal Protection

One of the most important benefits of insulation is protecting staff and creating a safer work environment. Here are several ways insulation helps to ensure worker safety and contribute to organizational compliance with health and safety regulations.

Reducing the risk of burns

OSHA considers exposed heated surfaces, if there is a potential for injury, to be a hazard and issues citations if employees can come into contact with such surfaces. Exposed steam and hot water pipes in employee areas need to be covered with an insulating material to comply with OSHA regulations.

Reducing the risk of burns

Limiting exposure to radiant heat

Indoor workers in certain industries are exposed to environments where heat is a problem. Insulation also helps reduce the temperature of a space where mechanical equipment and piping is generating heat.

Limiting exposure to radiant heat

Decreasing occupational noise exposure

Researchers studying the effects of noise on workers have found that prolonged exposure to noise may have serious health ramifications, such as increased illness, accidents, and stress. Mechanical insulation, especially sound-absorbing jacketing, helps decrease the noise from mechanical equipment.

Protecting from fire

Mechanical insulation is sometimes used as a firestopping material where a pipe passes through a wall. When insulation is specified for firestopping, it essentially prevents the fire’s spread through the annular space between the pipe and the wall.

Protecting from fire

Improved Process Control

One of the keys to process control is providing a stable environment. A properly specified and installed insulation system on bare process lines and equipment can increase the efficiency of a process system by as much as 95% or more.

Insulation is particularly effective for maintaining continuous processes like temperature control. When systems exceed their standard operating temperatures, the process—or even the product itself—can suffer. Insulation helps provide predictability and reliability to mechanical systems by lessening the risk of overheating or freezing.

Enhanced Facility Appearance

It’s simple but true—mechanical equipment simply looks better when it’s insulated.

This may not matter for certain facilities, but for many commercial buildings where air conditioning lines, plumbing lines, and process equipment are exposed to guests, clean aesthetics are a priority. Insulation covering equipment provides a finished appearance. It may not be the primary reason to insulate, but it’s certainly an auxiliary benefit that any business can get behind!

Enhanced Facility Appearance

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