Top 10 Reasons to Insulate
- Saves Enormous Amounts of Energy
- Typical ROI: 6 months–2 Years
- Creates and Preserves Jobs
- Delivers Major Savings for the Life of a Facility
Now more than ever, insulation should be an integral part of your company’s energy efficiency, productivity, cost reduction, and personnel protection plans. Here is why:
Insulation Protects Workers
When was the last time you heard about mechanical insulation at a safety meeting? Protecting workers from contact with hot or cold surfaces should be a focus of any safety program. Insulation systems can be a vital component in applications related to life safety, such as commercial kitchen ducts, return-air plenums, protection of power- and communication-conduit trays, and similar applications. Insulation can have a direct impact on employees’ well-being.
Insulation Can Lead to Instant Savings
An insulation system is a technology—one that needs to be engineered into a facility and maintained throughout its life. It has been estimated that between 10 and 30% of all installed insulation is now missing or damaged. Not replacing or maintaining an insulation system in a timely and correct manner means missing out on the full benefits of insulation. In many cases, significant issues develop, such as excessive energy loss, corrosion under insulation (CUI), mold growth, increased cost of operations, and reduced process productivity.
Insulation Saves Energy
The most widely accepted benefits of insulation are energy savings and the resulting cost savings. Energy is often the most costly component in managing a building or manufacturing facility and its processes. Reducing energy consumption reduces costs, and lowering costs is a primary objective for most companies. Insulation is also an exceptionally cost-effective investment: properly designing, installing, and maintaining an insulation system can yield an annual rate of return that is more than 100%.
In addition, insulation greatly reduces loss of energy. Equipment or processes that lose energy can increase the temperature within a facility or area and put additional stress on other equipment, reducing its performance and life expectancy.
Saving energy with mechanical insulation is a quick and simple way to save money, whether for hot or cold applications. As one facility manager notes, of all the energy-saving technologies available, a properly insulated system can provide the best return on investment (ROI). It makes good business sense to look at insulation first.
Insulation Improves Process Control and Productivity
Most processes involve fluid, air, or gas leaving point A at one temperature or pressure and arriving at point B at another. The initial design incorporates a series of engineering assumptions. If the insulation system in the initial design is not installed and maintained, process control and productivity will suffer. A properly designed, installed, and maintained insulation system can provide the expected results or even improve upon them.
Insulation Offers Amazing Returns and Reduced Life-Cycle Cost
Insulation can provide unrivaled ROI and improve life-cycle cost. Quantifying the rate of return is easy: software and energy-assessment procedures are proven and readily available, as are certified insulation energy appraisers. It has been estimated that a building’s initial construction cost represents only 20 to 30% of the building’s entire cost over its 30- to 40-year life. A recent study looking at schools estimated that mechanical insulation saves, on average, 20% of the total usage. Consider the life-cycle cost of the total project rather than just the initial capital cost.
Insulation Is Critical to Sustainable Design
What is sustainability? According to the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Whole Building Design Guide, sustainability or “sustainable design” supports an increased commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation, and results in an optimal balance of cost, environmental, societal, and human benefits while meeting the mission and function of the intended facility or infrastructure. Sustainability should provide a bottom line supporting: (1) economic growth, (2) environmental stewardship, and (3) social progress.
Mechanical insulation is a sustainable design technology whether used with equipment or on its own. Whether you are pursuing certification or just want to start thinking green, insulation systems—both individually or in combination with other building or equipment design options—can be vital to accomplishing your objectives.
Environmental stewardship is no longer just an option. There is an increasing potential for green buildings to be mandated in many industry segments. The proper design, installation, and maintenance of mechanical insulation should be a major consideration in all sustainable design initiatives.
Insulation Reduces Emissions
A reduction in energy consumption means less fossil fuel is burned to produce energy. The result is a reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. These gases have been directly linked to climate change and pollution. Reducing energy and emissions is a great win-win scenario.
Insulation also plays a role in fire safety through firestopping, which seals wall penetrations and prevents fire, gases, and smoke from migrating from one room to another.
Insulation Provides a Healthier Work Environment
Study after study has proven that improved indoor air quality increases occupants’ productivity and efficiency. Noise control—whether in an office or a manufacturing facility—can also increase productivity. Improved air quality and sound attenuation both benefit an occupant’s health, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. Insulation can play a major role in accomplishing these goals.
Insulation Controls Condensation
Insulation systems are needed to maintain a process system’s surface temperature above the dew-point temperature of the ambient air. Condensation is a real-world problem that if not corrected can lead to other serious problems. If designed, installed, and maintained properly, insulation can minimize condensation damage, including damage to surrounding surfaces and equipment; mold growth, which affects indoor air quality; and CUI.
CUI is a major safety and cost concern. Insulation that is correctly designed, installed, and maintained in a timely and effective manner can minimize or even eliminate CUI. “Pay now or pay later” applies to insulation and CUI. By not properly designing, installing, and maintaining an insulation system, you could be creating bigger, more expensive problems down the road.
Results Are Easy to Calculate
Insulation’s ROI is no mystery. Software and assessment programs can calculate the amount of energy being saved with existing insulation systems or lost if the insulation is missing or damaged. They can also determine the potential dollar savings that can be obtained by upgrading an insulation system or replacing what is missing. These programs calculate the greenhouse gas emissions that could be prevented; insulation thicknesses required for condensation control, personnel protection, and surface temperatures; and the estimated ROI. The benefits of insulation are easily and quickly quantifiable; see the list of Resources below for tools.
Conclusion: The Power of Insulation
Insulation is a proven means for saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing process productivity, providing a safer and more productive work environment, controlling condensation (which can lead to mold growth), supporting sustainable design technology, and a host of other benefits. It does all of this while providing an ROI that is seldom rivaled. So why is it so often overlooked?
Many people are more attracted to energy conservation solutions they think are more exciting or offer what they see as more quantifiable results. But a properly designed, installed, and maintained insulation system can provide short- and long-term benefits that exceed expectations, and the results are proven and quantifiable.
NIA’s Free Educational Resources
A world of information devoted to the mechanical insulation industry is available at the National Insulation Association’s (NIA’s) website at www.Insulation.org, including technical and product information, NIA’s Certified Insulation Energy Appraisers, and a listing of NIA’s contractors, distributors, laminators, and manufacturers.
Mechanical Insulation Education and Awareness E-Learning Series: Whether you are new to the industry or a veteran, you will find these 5 modules valuable at www.wbdg.org/education/nia01.php.
Mechanical Insulation Design Guide (MIDG)
Designed to assist the novice or the knowledgeable user alike in the design, selection, specification, installation, and maintenance of mechanical insulation, the MIDG is at www.wbdg.org/midg.
The Mechanical Insulation Design Guide (MIDG) Calculators assist in common calculations used in the design and analysis of insulation systems. Calculators include: Energy Loss, Emission Reduction, Surface Temperature, and Annual Return for Equipment and Horizontal Piping; Financial Returns/Considerations; Personnel Protection for Horizontal Piping; and Temperature Drop for Air in an Insulated Duct or Fluid in an Insulated Pipe. Visit http://tinyurl.com/9qxr3bt for the complete list.
The Mechanical Insulation Financial Calculator app, based on the Financial Returns/Considerations Calculator in the MIDG, helps quickly determine the financial ROI of insulation investments. Use this free tool to find out how quickly mechanical insulation can pay for itself in a building or facility and discover how much energy, money, and greenhouse gas emissions can be saved. The app is available for Android phone users in the Android Market—just search for “mechanical insulation.”
MTL Product Catalog
The only online library of technical literature for the insulation industry is at www.insulation.org/mtl.
The website is devoted to the needs of the magazine’s readership of mechanical engineers, plant managers, specifiers, and other technical end-user professionals. It features bonus materials, a searchable articles archive, a subscription-management area, information for prospective writers, and more.