ASTM C16 Update

Gordon H. Hart

January 1, 2005

ASTM Committee C16 on thermal insulation met in Washington, D.C., October 3-6, 2004. The following is a C16 overview, scope, individual subcommittee scopes, and a summary of some of the activities by task groups reviewing and/or writing standards related to mechanical insulation. You can learn more about ASTM C16 by going to, clicking on "Technical Committees," then "Search for ASTM Committee by Designation," and finally select "C16" from the hundred or so ASTM committees.

Note on the 2004 Book of Standards: Every November, ASTM publishes and releases a new Book of Standards, Volume 04.06, "Thermal Insulation; Environmental Acoustics." This includes all existing standards as well as any new or revised standards that were approved between July of the previous year and July of the current year. The 2004 Book of Standards is now available.

By policy, each ASTM standard must either be reapproved as is, or revised and approved, in either case within eight years. If not, the standard is automatically dropped from the Book of Standards. Therefore, some standards that may have previously been referenced by specifications are no longer published. In all specifications, the number of the ASTM standard should be followed by the year of most recent approval or reapproved. For example, "ASTM C612" is insufficient. A specification should read, "ASTM C612-04."

C16 Committee Overview

ASTM Committee C16 on Thermal Insulation was formed in 1938. C16 meets twice a year, usually in April and October, with approximately 120 members attending more than three days of technical meetings capped by a discussion on relevant topics in the thermal insulation industry. The committee, with current membership of approximately 350, currently has jurisdiction of about 134 standards, published in the Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Volume 04.06. These standards continue to play a preeminent role in all aspects important to the industry of thermal insulation, including products, systems and associated coatings and coverings, excluding refractories.

C16 Committee Scope

The scope of the Committee C16 shall be the development of standards, promotion of knowledge and stimulation of research pertaining to thermal insulation materials, products, systems, and associated coatings and coverings, but not including insulating refractories. These activities shall be coordinated with those of other ASTM committees and national and international organizations having similar interest.

C16 Subcommittee Scopes

C16.16 U.S. Delegation to ISO/TC 163: Standardization in the field of thermal insulation including terminology, test methods, calculation methods and specifications for thermal insulation materials, components, constructions and systems, including a general review and coordination of work on thermal insulation within ISO. Excluded are test and calculation methods that are treated by other ISO technical committees after agreement with these technical committees.

C16.20 Homogeneous Inorganic Thermal Insulation Materials: Develop and maintain standard test methods, definitions and nomenclature, recommended practices, classifications and specifications for all homogeneous inorganic thermal insulation materials under C16.00 jurisdiction, except those assigned to subcommittee C16.21 and C16.23.

C16.21 Reflective Insulation: Develop and maintain product specifications and test methods applicable to thermal insulations that depend essentially on the reflectance of heat for their effectiveness. Test methods are those not generally applicable to other forms of thermal insulation or associated materials. Jurisdiction of this subcommittee on building type constructions include only materials or assemblies consisting of one or more heat reflective (low emissivity) surface(s), such as metallic foil, unmounted or mounted on thin membrane(s), such as paper or fibrous or foam sheets, all less than 1/8-inch in thickness.

C16.22 Organic and Nonhomogeneous Inorganic Thermal Insulations: Develop and maintain standard test methods, definitions and nomenclature, recommended practices, classifications and specifications for all organic and non-homogeneous inorganic thermal insulation materials under C16.00 jurisdiction except those assigned to subcommittees C16.21 and C16.23.

C16.23 Blanket and Loose Fill Insulation: Develop and maintain product specifications; recommended practices and test methods (when not under the jurisdiction of a methods subcommittee) for all thermal insulation materials under C16.00 jurisdiction, except those assigned to subcommittees C16.20, C16.21 and C16.22.

C16.24 Health and Safety Hazard Potentials: To develop and review standards related to potential health and safety aspects associated with the installation and use of thermal insulation materials, accessories and systems.

C16.30 Thermal Measurements (including calculation methods): Develop and maintain test methods and recommended practices relating to the transfer of energy within and through thermal insulating materials and systems.

C16.31 Chemical and Physical Properties: Develop and maintain test methods and practices related to chemical and selected physical properties of thermal insulating materials.

C16.32 Mechanical Properties: Develop and maintain test methods and practices related to selected mechanical and physical properties of thermal insulation and associated materials.

C16.33 Insulation Finishes and Moisture: Develop and maintain material specifications, test methods, recommended practices and classification systems: 1. applicable to coatings, coverings, adhesives and sealants used in association with thermal insulations; and 2. involving the transfer of vapor through thermal insulation and associated materials, involving the accumulation of moisture in thermal insulating materials and systems.

C16.40 Insulation Systems: The development and maintenance of performance specifications and standard practices for thermal insulation systems. The systems include all of the individual components combined in a manner to provide an effective control of heat transfer and moisture transmission within the insulation systems under the operational and environmental conditions of its intended use. Such components, if part of the system, will include the thermal insulation, supports, securements and protective coverings.

Summaries From Washington Meeting

The following are the summaries of recent activities in Washington on individual standards relating to mechanical insulation materials and systems. These are organized by the subcommittee associated with each standard.

Subcommittee C16.20–Homogeneous and Inorganic Insulation Materials


Standard on Mineral Fiber Pipe Insulation: An annex will be added to the standard to accommodate a request from the Navy to add alkalinity and pH. A compression resiliency test will also be added to the annex. These items will be balloted separately by the subcommittee.


Practice for Inner and Outer Diameters of Rigid Thermal Insulation for Nominal Sizes of Pipe and Tubing (NPS System): The task group met and is continuing work on a revised standard.


Mineral Fiber Blanket Insulation and Blanket-Type Pipe Insulation: A new version of this material standard is now in the recently published 2004 Book of Standards, Volume 04.06. The primary change to this revision is the addition of a supplement that includes performance requirements from three military specifications with maximum binder content, maximum shot content, resistance to vibration and water vapor sorption, inclusive of special test procedures. While this supplement is intended for use in marine specifications, it could be included in domestic specifications should the specifier wish to include a simulated durability requirement. Since the supplement is new, it may be difficult to find a laboratory to conduct the tests. One commercial laboratory is R&D Services, of Knoxville, Tennessee (Telephone: 931-526-3348 or 931-372-8871).


Standard on Perlite Pipe and Block: This standard was recently revised and successfully reballoted by the subcommittee. It will next be balloted by the main C16 committee. The revision includes new performance data, particularly thermal conductivity data, but there is separate performance data for block insulation and pipe insulation.


Practice for Handling Thermal Insulation Materials for Use in Contact with Austenitic Stainless Steel: The task group met to discuss the recently balloted for re-approval standard, which passed.


New Specification for Microporous Insulation: This new task group met in Washington for the first time and developed a title and scope. They will meet again in the spring meeting in Reno to continue development of the new standard.

Subcommittee C16.22–Organic and Nonhomogeneous Insulation Materials: Recent activities on new and existing standards are as follows:


Standard on Flexible Elastomeric Insulation: The task group, along with the task group for C1427–Standard for Polyolefin Foam Insulation, completed the round robin testing among several manufacturers for dimensional stability. A draft will soon be balloted.


Unfaced Preformed Rigid Cellular Polyisocyanurate Thermal Insulation: The task group will ballot a draft with the properties affected by the phase-out of HCFC 141b.


Standard on Perlite Thermal Insulation Board: The task group will ballot this revised standard with new values for tensile, flexural and compressive strength properties.


Standard for Melamine Foam Insulation: The task group recently balloted a draft, which received some negatives that the task group found to be persuasive. A revised draft will soon be reballoted.


Standard for Flexible Polymeric Foam Sheet Insulation Used as Thermal and Sound Absorbing Liner for Duct Systems: A new ballot was approved and will receive the 2004 date. However, as the 2004 Book of Standards was just released, this will not be in print until November 2005 when the next Book of Standards is published.


The task group is writing a new standard for rigid polyimide foam (there is already a Standard for Flexible Polyimide Foam with the designation C1482). This task group recently conducted a ballot on a draft and received a negative, which was resolved. This will be a new standard within ASTM 16.22. There is also a task group writing a new standard for polypropylene foam insulation.

Subcommittee C16.23–Blanket and Loose Fill Materials: This subcommittee addresses a number of standards for mechanical insulation and a number for building envelope insulation. Activity related to mechanical insulation is given below.


Specification for Glass Fiber Felt Thermal Insulation: This standard is under task group review, with a recent subcommittee ballot drawing numerous negatives and comments. The balloted revision replaces the words, "glass fiber" with the words, "mineral fiber" in the title and scope; therefore, the scope is being expanded in the revised document to include both glass fiber and mineral wool felt insulation. Review and disposition of negatives and comments is still underway by the task group, which will meet during the Reno, Nevada, C16 meeting this spring.


Specification for Flexible Fibrous Glass Blanket Insulation Used to Externally Insulate HVAC Ducts: This standard was recently revised and successfully reballoted by both the subcommittee and the main committee. Changes were to add references to more than one flame and fire test. It will now have a 2004 date.

Subcommittee C16.30–Thermal Measurements: This subcommittee addresses a large number of standards used to measure thermal performance of insulation materials and systems as well as a few that address methodologies for thermal calculations.


Test Method for Steady-State Heat Flux Measurements and Thermal Transmission Properties by Means of the Guarded-Hot Plate Apparatus: This standard test method is widely used to test mechanical insulation materials at high and low mean temperatures (as opposed to testing at a mean temperature of only 75 F, used for testing of building envelope insulation). It has recently been revised and balloted at both the subcommittee and main committee levels. A number of negatives have been addressed, and the revised standard is ready to receive a 2004 date.


Test Method for Steady-State Heat Transfer Properties of Horizontal Pipe Insulation: This standard test method is widely used to test pipe insulation at mean temperatures above ambient (there is no ASTM test method for testing pipe insulation below ambient). A revised standard was recently successfully balloted at the subcommittee and main committee levels and will receive a 2004 date. Note: Currently, there are no firm plans to extend the mean temperature range to below-ambient temperatures although there is a strong need for a pipe testing standard for chilled pipe. This is due to a lack of funding from either industry or the Department of Energy to do the test method development work (and ASHRAE’s research project on this subject, while proceeding, is behind schedule).


Practice for In-Situ Measurements of Heat Flux in Industrial Thermal Insulation Using Heat Flux Transducers: This standard is current with a 2001 date.

Subcommittee C16.40–Insulation Systems: This subcommittee has several major current activities. These are listed below with a short description of recent activity at the Washington meeting.

The task group that is developing a new standard titled, "Standard Specification for Fabrication of Cellular Glass Pipe and Tubing Insulation," continued its work in Washington on a new draft. The task group worked on wording for fabrication details such as what pipe insulation size would be the breaking point for going from half sections to segments, and how many "through" joints shall be allowed per full section of insulation. The draft spec shall also include acceptable types of adhesive, details of billet and miter construction, and details of bond joints. Finally, the new draft contains acceptable and unacceptable methods for through joints and non-through joints. With a little more work, this draft should be ready for a subcommittee C16.40 ballot in February.

A relatively new task group is writing a draft for a new "Standard Specification for Selecting Jacketing Materials for Thermal Insulation." This is taking the form of an existing ASTM C1423 guide by the same title. In Washington, the task group worked on a matrix table of jacketing properties (such as puncture resistance, weather resistance and fire resistance) versus types of material (such as aluminum, stainless steel, flexible laminates). The task group will meet again in the spring in Reno, Nevada.

Subcommittee C16.94–Terminology: This subcommittee only has one standard to address, C168, which contains a number of insulation term definitions. They considered recently balloted terminology for seven terms: homogeneous material; material of homogeneous composition; flexible cellular; polyimide foam; closed-cell foam; open-cell foam; and areal density. There were several negatives received on each term. In each case, the task group considered at least one of the negatives to be persuasive and hence modified the balloted definition. Therefore, they plan on seven terms being balloted concurrently in the next main committee ballot. In the process, the task group is changing the second one of those from "material of homogeneous composition" to "thermally non-homogeneous material or system"; the third one from "flexible cellular" to "flexible cellular insulation"; the fourth one from "polyimide foam" to "cellular polyimide"; and the last one from "areal density" to "area weight." This subcommittee will meet in Reno, Nevada to continue work on these definitions.

Subcommittee C16.96–Technology Transfer: ASHRAE is planning a seminar to be held at its summer meeting, in July 2005, in Denver, Colorado, on the subject of mechanical insulation applications. Possible topics are: acoustical treatment of pipes; overview of a new Applications Handbook chapter; energy savings with pipe insulation; dos and don’ts for installation (i.e., gaps) on pipe insulation; development of a cold pipe testing procedure. More information is available at

C16 held a Monday night forum in Washington, D.C., with two speakers from the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. Angus Crane, vice president general counsel, spoke on the perspective on life-cycle analysis, and Robin Bectel, director of communications, spoke on energy awareness. Both programs were very informative about the importance of insulation and how effective the products are in energy efficiencies from manufacturing through the life of the insulation. A surprise appearance by some mysterious person dressed as "Energy Hog" during Bectel’s presentation recapped the importance of insulation.

The next forum will be held April 18, 2005, in Reno, Nevada, and will address vapor control for today’s insulation requirements.


I wish to thank the following people for their contributions to this article:

  • Bill Brayman, Brayman Insulation Consultants, LLC;
  • Chris Crall, Owens-Corning;
  • Andre Desjarlais, Oak Ridge National Laboratory;
  • Kartik Patel, Armacell, LLC;
  • Jim Shriver, Thermafiber;
  • Frank Tyler, Owens-Corning.