Insulation: An Easy Sell

Maria T. O’Brien

March 1, 2004

According to Chris House, any insulation salesman or estimator can easily sell the benefits of insulation if he or she is willing to do a little research and preparation. What impresses people most is numbers, he said.

"If you can get some basic information about the energy costs and consumption of a particular plant, and then walk through that plant and make a list of trouble spots, an accurate appraisal can be done using one of the many computer programs available.

"When a potential customer can see an estimate of dollars saved annually printed on a spreadsheet using information they provided, the reaction is usually shock. It is very hard for people outside the insulation trade to visualize the kinds of savings available though insulation without a good appraisal."

House is Chief Estimator/Project Manager at the Lanham Insulation, Inc. home office in Louisville, Ky., founded by J. Daniel Lanham in August 1982. Lanham Insulation supplies and installs insulation in the commercial and industrial markets, with a strong emphasis on ammonia refrigeration, petroleum, chemical and equipment installations. Lanham Insulation employs an average of 30 installers.

"I enjoy the insulation trade because of the diversity of the work. Every project is different at Lanham Insulation. We peruse a wide variety of markets. You could one day design an insulation system for equipment that will be used in the northern part of Alaska, and quote a system in Puerto Rico the next," said House.

House’s responsibilities include acquiring plans and specifications for a given project, estimating and assembling a successful proposal, and, depending on the volume of work, he may also manage 50 to 60 percent of his company’s projects.

In his six years at Lanham and 15 years in the construction industry, House has worn many hats, including that of a welder, quality control manager, job site safety coordinator, and estimator and project manager.

"Before I began working at Lanham Insulation, Inc., most of my experience was in the mechanical field and my knowledge of insulation was very basic. I had seen insulation installed and knew the principles and theories behind insulation, but I did not realize how vast the material choices were and the application procedures used for installing it. I was also impressed with the amount of skill required to properly install insulation in the industrial market.

"To most other crafts in the construction industry, insulation is simply applied and it works; there is no consideration taken for the expertise required to properly design and install insulation as a system," he said.

House said that during his career he has seen changes in the way manufacturers and end-users view insulation.

"I think engineers and plant managers are beginning to understand the long-term benefits of insulation. With rising fuel and electrical costs, more of that budget is being allotted for insulation. These operators are starting to see that not only does insulation pay for itself by cutting energy costs, but it also prolongs equipment life by reducing thermal expansion, contraction and condensation. All of these things reduce stress and corrosion on expensive parts, and combined with energy cost savings, their budgets will grow. The initial expense of the insulation is small in comparison" to the savings it generates, House said.

Some of the largest projects completed by Lanham Insulation, Inc. have been in the ammonia refrigeration field for distribution warehouses owned by some very well-known food and retail stores. According to House, payback on these insulation investments will be around five or six years.

House’s industry training/education consists of multiple courses, including the OSHA 10 Hour Construction Industry and 40 Hour General Industry Trainer Courses, NIA’s Insulation Energy Appraisal Program, and ABC’s Basic and Advanced Estimating Course. He is a Certified Insulation Instructor for the National Center for Construction Education and Research Center. However, House attributes most his knowledge in the field to those with whom he has worked.

"I believe that working with skilled and intelligent people has benefited me most. I have spent some time in the field and worked with a variety of people who have taught me a lot about the installation side of our business. All the book knowledge a person can retain is nearly useless for estimators and project managers without a good understanding of the skill and hard work required for installing the product," he said.

Chris House can be contacted at (502) 245-0660 or via email at