"Real World" Perspectives on Insulation Installation Requirements

Ann Cogan

May 1, 2003

One of the sections covered in the National Insulation Association’s (NIA) National Insulation Training Program (NITP) is "General Insulation System Installation Considerations." The objective is to understand the installation requirements for insulation materials on mechanical systems and equipment and to become familiar with application details contained in the National Commercial & Industrial Insulation Standards, published by the Midwest Insulation Contractor’s Association (MICA), and the Process Industry Practices (PIP) Best Practices guidelines.

Attendees at a recent session of the program in Houston were asked to give their "real world" perspective on the importance of understanding installation requirements.
"Ensuring that your insulation is properly installed is just as important as the insulation itself," said Chad Wade, operations manager at Distribution International in Mobile, Ala. "Poorly or incorrectly installed insulation will result in energy losses, sometimes to the point where you aren’t actually receiving any benefits from the insulation at all. Loose jacketing, improper caulking, gaps in insulation not allowing for expansion-all could result in the breakdown of the insulation, leaving the insulation inadequate."

When asked if they recommend any installation and/or accessory options that could help the integrity of the insulation system, Mark Hayes, application specialist at Armacell LLC, said that when speaking to customers he tries to "emphasize the importance of installing the insulation according to our ‘installation procedures’ in order to avoid potential problems such as condensation drip or eventual joint failure. When I show customers how to properly use our adhesive to seal the joints effectively, it is amazing how many of them are using it improperly, and by this I mean by using too much and not letting it set properly before bonding-and also by using it sparingly on the joints, which will eventually create the joints to open up. Simple things like these can create so many potential problems."

One of the ways Armacell helps customers install insulation is by offering templates for making mitered cuts.

"It makes the job so much easier and efficient, plus it saves labor," said Hayes.

"Customers often have difficulty cutting 90’s, 45’s, or T’s and making them look like a quality installation. Using these templates makes a world of difference. The key when installing elastomeric insulations is making sure that all the procedures are followed, even if it requires a little extra time. This will prevent problems from the insulated systems, and the risk of losing a customer as a result of a poor installation."

Companies like Fibrex provide and promote guide specifications as engineering standards and practices for all their products.

"We recommend a thermal calculation be performed to determine proper insulation thickness to ensure either personnel protection or process control," said Randy Wheeler, national sales manager for Fibrex. "We also refer to the National Commercial and Industrial Insulation Standards produced by the Midwest Insulation Contractors Association as a guide for recommended industry standards of installation."

When asked if they ever experience difficulties asking for specification changes when installed performance may be at risk, Wade said, "From a distributor’s and a fabricator’s point of view, it is essential to keep up with changes in the industry. I feel that one of my biggest jobs is to ensure that I keep my customers educated on these changes. Asking for specification changes is generally not that difficult. By working with manufacturer’s reps, keeping our outside salesmen educated, and making a knowledgeable presentation to architects and owners, spec changes are fairly easy to obtain. You just need to do your homework beforehand and be able to show your customer how he will benefit from these changes."

For more information on NIA’s NITP, including class dates and locations, please contact the association at (703) 683-6422; training@insulation.org; or www.insulation.org/training.