Simple Calculators: A Smarter Way to do Business

June 1, 2012

Recently, the mechanical insulation industry developed new tools to help show the direct benefits of mechanical insulation to the end user. In particular, the development and release of the Mechanical Insulation Design Guide’s Simple Calculators has the potential to greatly help the construction industry calculate and share the immediate Return on Investment (ROI) for properly installing or maintaining mechanical insulation.

However, like any other new advancement, the basis for success is how well the new tool can be shared and utilized across the industry. During a Merit Committee meeting at a recent National Insulation Association (NIA) Annual Convention, the committee members discussed how to spread the word of these valuable tools across our industry.

We feel that these Simple Calculators should be shared and used by insulation contractors, distributors, engineers, facility maintenance personnel, college and university academia, and even cost accountants.

Yet, the question comes to this: How do we share these tools? The answer is simple. We, the members of NIA, need to use these tools and share the knowledge of the benefits with not only our own membership, but to the greater industry and world as well.

So, as an insulation contractor, I started a campaign of educating whoever would listen about the impact of the proper and appropriate installation of mechanical insulation on the energy use and cost for any facility, no matter how large or small. The core theme for every single presentation I make to an engineer, facility owner, or even CFO is this: Mechanical insulation is an investment not an expense! It has a real and definable Return on Investment and I can prove it!

Here is an example of how using the Simple Calculators can show decision makers that properly installed mechanical insulation is an investment that more than pays for itself. In early 2011, my company was asked to provide pricing to insulate piping and equipment at a Veterans Administration Medical Center in southern Florida. Due to the small size of the
project, our calculations were less complicated, which made it easier to explain the cost savings to the client.

Our first task was to do a field take-off, which involves taking pictures, and measuring the temperature of the uninsulated piping and equipment.

After we completed our field take-off and prepared an estimate for each system and piece of equipment, we asked the customer for the type of fuel used and the approximate cost of that fuel.

Now, we had all the information we needed to prepare an estimate of the energy and financial savings for our customer. All that was left to do was input the data into the Mechanical Insulation Design Guide’s Simple Calculators. For our application, we used the
Energy Calculator for Horizontal Piping located at and the Energy Calculator for Equipment (Vertical Flat Services) located at

For each pipe size, we entered all the data and printed out the calculator’s findings. Then we repeated the process for each tank.

Here is an example of the input information we gathered for one piece of pipe:

  1. Length of pipe run (ft.)100 ft.

  2. Select Pipe Size, NPS (in.) 1½ in. pipe

  3. Operating Temperature (ºF) 275 ºF

  4. Ambient Temperature (ºF) 85 ºF

  5. Wind Speed (mph)8 mph

  6. Select Insulation Fiberglass (0º F to 450º F)

  7. Installed Cost Multiplier .70

  8. Emittance of Surface 0.90 All Service Jacket

  9. Expected Useful Life of  Insulation System (years) 15 years

  10. Operating Hours per Year 8,760

  11. Efficiency of Fuel Conversion (%) 80%

  12. Select Fuel Fuel Oil

  13. Cost of Fuel ($/gal) $2.75/gal

As you can see, the facts sell themselves. By increasing the thickness of the insulation, the customer receives incredible savings on fuel. As a result, the customer elected to use 2-inch-thick insulation; and, on the one item above alone, is saving over $13,000 a year in fuel costs. These figures are based on early 2011 fuel costs; and since the price of fuel has risen significantly since then, our customer is enjoying even greater savings now.

Our calculations determined that the insulation for the entire project would pay for itself in less than three months and save the hospital $30,000 per year in fuel costs!

Our original estimate submitted to the hospital did not include this ROI data. After a few weeks, when we had not received the purchase order, we added the ROI data and re-submitted the estimate to the hospital engineer, and asked that he share it with his CFO. Amazingly, we received the purchase order within four days!

In this example, the Simple Calculators allowed us to easily and accurately determine the immediate and long-term cost benefits of installing mechanical insulation, and communicate those cost savings to our customer. Ultimately, using these tools resulted in  new business.

However, these calculators are not just useful for insulation contractors; anyone interested in reducing costs can benefit from using them. Insulation contractors, distributors, engineers, maintenance personnel, and managers can use the Simple Calculators to quickly and accurately determine the potential energy and financial savings of properly installing or maintaining mechanical insulation.

Here’s how: Look for uninsulated or under-insulated piping, vessels, or equipment. Conduct an evaluation of the equipment that includes temperature measurements during the take-off, and then use the Simple Calculators to determine the results.

Whether you are an insulation contractor competing for a bid or a facility owner trying to reduce energy costs, the Simple Calculators will help you to achieve your goals. And by sharing the benefits of mechanical insulation you’re also promoting the mechanical insulation industry as a whole, thus reinforcing the message that mechanical insulation is not an expense, but possibly your best investment.