Insulation Gaining Momentum in Energy–Efficiency Discussions

Caitlyn Freitas

Caitlyn Freitas is the Associate Editor for NIA. Her responsibilities include curating, editing, and writing content for Insulation Outlook; working on marketing and outreach pieces; and editing all NIA publications. She can be reached at

December 1, 2013

Energy–Water Nexus Interests Advocate for
Mechanical Insulation

The National
Insulation Association (NIA) recently attended a meeting at the National
Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to discuss the energy and water savings
associated with mechanical insulation. The inclusion of insulation in water
conservation discussions is a relatively new phenomenon, and has occurred in
part due to the efforts of NIA and its strategic partners to educate water
industries on the enormous potential insulation has to contribute to saving
water. The NIBS task force seeks to advance opportunities to save energy and
water through the increased use of insulation, better design methods, and clarifying
and enforcing existing building codes

The NIBS task force drafted
language encouraging the use of insulation to save water and energy—an issue commonly
referred to as the energy–water nexus—and is actively trying to attach the
language to pending legislation, including the Shaheen–Portman bill and the
Energy Water Development Act. Additionally, the task force is seeking out other
legislation and amendments that may be good vehicles for energy–water nexus

The task force also discussed its success in supporting new International
Energy Conservation Code (IECC) regulations that will require the increased use
of insulation for all hot water piping in 2015. While these new regulations are
still being drafted, it is almost certain that the new codes will require the
use of more insulation. Part of the task force’s objectives includes finding
additional data to support the establishment of more codes like these. There
tends to be more data on residential projects, and the task force is creating a
plan to extrapolate data about hot water piping from the residential side that
can be used to support the use of more insulation in commercial projects.

Another objective is to develop
educational opportunities to encourage compliance across industries. In many
cases, the individual responsible for insulation may not fully appreciate or
understand the importance of proper insulation, and thus installations may be
done incorrectly or incompletely. NIA is hoping to collaborate with NIBS to
work toward more educational opportunities to ensure code compliance and
support the use of qualified contractors like
our NIA members. Additionally, the task force is working on compiling a list of
all energy codes in order to clarify exactly which codes are currently

Ultimately, the goal of the
task force is to present a comprehensive, business case model on how the
increased use of insulation can save energy, water, and—perhaps most
importantly to certain parties—money. Often, the adoption of better insulation
practices can be stalled by fears about cost or ignorance about impact. NIA
will continue to collaborate with NIBS to dissipate these concerns and increase
building efficiency across the construction industry.

Mechanical Insulation Is
Surprise Hot Topic at Energy Summit

Of course, the fact that mechanical insulation is
present in these energy and water efficiency discussions is a huge victory, and
something that would have been unheard of even a few years ago. The potential
mechanical insulation has to help reduce energy use and save financial
resources was also a focus at the recent Honeywell Energy Summit, where NIA
Executive Vice President/Chief Executive Officer Michele Jones was asked to
give a mechanical insulation awareness presentation by one of NIA’s contractor
members, Insulation Specialties, Inc. The Honeywell Energy Summit gathered
together its energy managers from across the country to present on the various
methods they use to save energy, and invited a handful of select vendors.

Insulation Specialties, Inc., one of the few vendors invited to attend
this event, asked NIA to be present to share the value of mechanical insulation
with attendees. NIA is always looking to serve its members and spread knowledge
about the value of insulation, and this event offered an opportunity to do
both. Mrs. Jones’ presentation gave an introduction to mechanical
insulation—focusing on industrial applications—and also shared several examples
of how mechanical insulation is frequently neglected, damaged, and how that can
contribute to heat loss and lead to a less efficient system. The presentation
also covered the many benefits of insulating, including increased energy
efficiency, lower emissions, financial savings, and even the potential for
increased job creation.

Whereas mechanical insulation may have been completely absent in such
discussions in the past, several of the presentations mentioned and even
focused on it—one presenter shared the story of how he achieved $90,000 in
savings through the use of mechanical insulation. While Mrs. Jones expected to
give the only presentation that mentioned mechanical insulation, she found that
many speakers preceding her presentation focused on this technology. NIA is
incredibly encouraged by the increasing amount of attention insulation is
receiving, and seeks to capitalize on the mounting evidence of mechanical
insulation’s benefits to encourage its implementation and maintenance in the
construction industry.