Category Archives: Material Selection

NIA is committed to being the insulation industry’s leader in education, offering access to instructive online tools and a variety of learning programs including professional development and certification-level courses, and live and pre-recorded webinars. NIA’s goals are to provide learning resources for every level of insulation professional and to increase the understanding of proper insulation system design and maintenance among our members, the construction industry, and insulation end users.

NIA is excited to continue to launch new programs and resources to help users learn how to properly design, specify, install, and maintain insulation, leading to a host of benefits for their facilities.

NIA’s Newest 2021 Learning Programs and Resources!

Insulation Estimator’s Handbook
In its first update since 1998, this resource is an essential tool for any estimator. The classic NIA reference guide has gotten a complete update, which includes brand new graphics and easier-to-read charts. It is available in both print and digital formats.

Known throughout the industry for providing the data needed for almost every type of mechanical insulation estimate, this handbook contains valuable technical information for estimating insulation, as well as formulas and conversions, and information on insulation accessories and technical variables of an insulation project.

Level of Training: Intermediate
Learn More: www.programs.insulation.org/store/insulation-estimators-handbook/81

Understanding the Submittal Process

This course is designed to benefit multiple audience segments involved in the design,
application, and use of mechanical insulation in both the commercial/building and industrial markets for new construction and maintenance. Students will learn how to identify the type and scope of submittal requirements, the components and importance of the submittal package, and the purpose of the submittal process. Students will review a submittal example and be given a submittal log template to use at their businesses. Also, as part of the course, each student receives a full-color printed course manual.

Level of Training: Intermediate
Learn More: www.insulation.org/training-tools/submittals

Understanding Specifications

The course is designed to benefit multiple audience segments involved in the design,
application, and use of mechanical insulation in both the commercial/building and
industrial markets for new construction and maintenance. Course participants will learn
how a specification is developed; how to identify challenges and opportunities created
by specifications; how codes, standards, regulations, and guidelines are intertwined in
specifications; how conflicting information in specifications may be problematic; how to understand and overcome the consequences of a “bad” specification; and how increased
knowledge of mechanical insulation and insulation inspections can improve specifications.

Level of Training: Intermediate
Learn More: www.insulation.org/training-tools/specifications

Mechanical Insulation Basics

For anyone looking for basic insulation education, the mechanical insulation online training series is an excellent place to start. Available anytime, it contains five different modules, ranging from 15 to 35 minutes in length. The content of each module is self-paced and fully outlined, so your team can choose how to pair modules with your company’s existing training program. In 2 hours, new hires and office support staff will have a great foundation to better understand the industry so you can explain your company’s role within it.

• The principles of understanding energy;
• What the various types of insulation are;
• How insulation works;
• How to develop an insulation system design or specify materials;
• How the insulation calculators work, and how they are designed for the unique needs of insulation contractors and engineers; and
• How overseeing maintenance can keep a facility running smoothly.

Formerly available on the National Institute of Building Sciences’ website and known as the Mechanical Insulation Education & Awareness E-Learning Series or E‑Learning Modules, this training resource is being updated and will be available at www.insulation.org/basics. The series provides data on the science behind insulation,
helps specifiers and system designers construct insulation systems, explains design considerations, and offers practical data and case studies outlining potential energy savings. The course is a prerequisite for the Understanding Mechanical Insulation learning program, and a certificate and professional development hours (PDHs) are available
from NIA upon completion.

Level of Training: Beginner
Learn More: www.insulation.org/basics

NIA’s Mechanical Insulation Design Guide

Everyone has questions on how to design an insulation system because every application is unique. The Design Guide is one of the most comprehensive mechanical insulation resources on the web for design, project estimation, and/or product specifications. It answers the insulation designer’s basic questions—what, when, why, where, and how—and is useful for both beginners and experienced contractors, engineers, specifiers, and other professionals in the construction, design, specification, maintenance, and management fields. This advanced, detailed tool walks users through the steps to build an insulation system correctly, providing everything you need to know about the design, selection, specification, installation, and maintenance of mechanical insulation.

Level of Training: Beginner to Intermediate
Learn More: www.insulation.org/designguide

NIA’s Insulation Simple Calculators

These eight free calculators are uniquely designed to make common mechanical insulation calculations straightforward for users of all levels. The tools make it easy to discover proper insulation thickness, financial and energy savings, and the ideal insulation design.

• Mechanical Insulation Financial Calculator: Determines the simple payback period, the annualized rate of return, and the net present value for an insulation project.
• Personnel Protection Calculator for Horizontal Piping: Estimates maximum contact exposure times on the outer surface of a horizontal pipe with and without an insulation system to help avoid the potential for contact burn injuries.
• Condensation Control Calculator for Horizontal Pipe: Estimates the thickness of insulation required to prevent condensation on the outer surface of an insulation system.
• Energy Calculator for Equipment (Vertical Flat Surfaces): Estimates the performance of an insulated vertical flat surface given the operating temperature, ambient temperature, and other system details.
• Energy Calculator for Horizontal Piping: Estimates the performance of an insulated horizontal piping system given the operating temperature, ambient temperature, and other system details.
• Estimate Time to Freezing for Water in an Insulated Pipe Calculator: Estimates the time for a long, water-filled pipe or tube (with no flow) to reach the freezing temperature.
• Temperature Drop Calculator for Air Ducts: Estimates the temperature drop (or rise) of air flowing in a duct.
• Temperature Drop Calculator for Hydronic Piping: Estimates the temperature drop (or rise) of water flowing in a pipe.

Level of Training: Beginner to Expert
Learn More: www.insulation.org/calculators

More Courses for Expanded Skills and Services

NIA offers five distinct learning programs to fit the needs of industry members at various career levels. In addition to our newest offerings, Understanding Specifications and Understanding the Submittal Process, described on page 27, we have Understanding Mechanical Insulation, Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification™ Program, and Insulation Energy Appraisal Program™ (IEAP).

Understanding Mechanical Insulation

Formerly called Introduction to Mechanical Insulation, and Part 1 of the Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification Program, this material is now available as a stand-alone course for industry members who have some experience in the insulation industry to provide more knowledge about mechanical insulation, the industry, and its products.

The course includes a review of the insulation industry market segments; the need for and importance of inspection; the purpose of mechanical insulation systems, and why that is important to the inspection process; primary insulation materials and protective coverings; the importance of Safety Data Sheets; and codes, standards, regulations, and guidelines, and how they are intertwined.

Level of Training: Intermediate
Learn More: www.insulation.org/training-tools/understandingmi

Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification Program

A 4-day, 2-part course educates participants on how to inspect and verify that the materials and the insulation system have been installed in accordance with the mechanical insulation specifications. This course is designed for experienced participants and can help companies extend their business offerings to include inspections. It is helpful for anyone responsible for contracts, maintenance, business development, quality assurance/quality control, project oversight, safety, inspections, estimating, management, product
development, mechanical insulation system design, or specification development.
To become certified, participants must complete both parts of the course (the certification-level course and Understanding Mechanical Insulation) and pass the associated exams.

Level of Training: Advanced
Learn More: www.insulation.org/inspector

Insulation Energy Appraisal Program (IEAP)

Focused on energy, insulation, and a project’s return on investment, this 2-day course teaches participants how to determine the optimal insulation thickness and corresponding energy and dollar savings for a project. This refreshed course is designed for participants who have industry experience and companies that want to expand their business capabilities by adding insulation appraisals to show insulation’s return on investment to their customers. Participants will learn how to conduct a facility walk-through, understand the tools necessary to complete the appraisal, and how to create a final report for customers.

Level of Training: Advanced
Learn More: www.insulation.org/training-tools/energy-appraiser-certification

Classic Resources

The Fundamentals of Insulation Program
This training program was developed jointly by NIA’s Associates and Distributors/Fabricators Committees to teach new employees about insulation and how to optimize their insulation industry-specific customer service skills. The program contains a DVD and workbook split into 10 modules of approximately 3 to 4 minutes each that cover Heat Flow Basics; Btu; Values (Ks, Rs, and Cs); Insulation Selection Criteria; Cold and Colder Environments; Normal to Hot Environments; Super Hot Environments; Protective Coverings and Finishes; Specifications and Codes; and Selling Tools. These learning tools give your team information they can apply in insulation sales situations, making for a better bottom line.

Level of Training: Beginner
Learn More: www.insulation.org/products

NIA’s Insulation Sampler
Can you identify the most common types of insulation? Are your employees or clients familiar with insulation materials beyond what your company works with most frequently? This learning tool provides samples of 20 generic mechanical insulation product types and accessories for your staff or clients to see firsthand. The small, portable sample boxes are designed for ease of use, with an illustrative product schematic guide that denotes the product type. Each sample has its own compartment space to remain organized and undamaged within the sample box. In developing this kit, NIA aimed to represent many major mechanical insulation types. The kit is an excellent visual tool for your internal education and resource library, as well as for external sales discussions and presentations.

Level of Training: Beginner
Learn More: www.insulation.org/products

Mechanical Insulation Installation Video Series
To help explain how to install insulation, these videos (available in English and Spanish on the Vimeo site) are a great supplement to your company’s training program. Each one provides a general product overview, safety information, and how-to guide for installing mechanical insulation for various applications. In addition, each video incorporates consensus recommendations from the sponsoring manufacturers, and the applications demonstrated are completed by experienced field mechanics on piping and equipment mockups representing project applications. The videos are a great industry resource to supplement existing craft training programs, use as educational programs for new or existing sales or insulation service employees, and for indirect users to obtain an overview of application practices for the respective insulation materials.

Level of Training: Beginner to Intermediate
Learn More: www.vimeo.com/niainfo

NIA’s Online Training Portal at Vimeo
In 2020, NIA held 20 webinars viewed by more than 3,000 professionals, and these resources are now available on demand. You can stream NIA’s business management or educational offerings, which include how insulation contractors have responded
to COVID-19; sales strategies; long-term business planning; and health and safety topics like illness prevention on the jobsite, and injury reporting and recordkeeping guidance. Videos also are available about the Design Guide and insulation calculators that can help users with their insulation installation questions. Additionally, there are videos from past NIA Conventions and messages from NIA leadership.

Level of Training: Beginner to Expert
Learn More: www.vimeo.com/NIAinfo

Insulation Outlook Magazine Article Archives

Did you miss an issue, or are you trying to explain a design concept you read about? As one of the only educational resources available for our unique industry, NIA maintains a free online archive of almost all past educational and technical articles; safety columns; and insulation product guides, listed by application type. Each month’s issue of Insulation Outlook magazine is dedicated to providing useful information for the insulation industry.

Level of Training: Beginner to Expert
Learn More: Visit www.InsulationOutlook.com to start incorporating decades of research into your training programs or project research.

NIA Is Your One-Stop Shop for Insulation Knowledge

NIA is committed to helping insulation users expand their knowledge and learn more about the benefits insulation can offer their systems and bottom line. 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 (thereby preventing mold growth and corrosion), supporting sustainable design technology, and realizing a host of other benefits. NIA resources can expand your team’s understanding of all the benefits insulation offers, going through the design process to ensure insulation is properly installed and maintained in your systems, leading to tremendous financial and energy savings, increased safety, and lower environmental impact. Our website offers updates on other NIA programs, events, and insulation-related activities. Bookmark www.Insulation.org as your resource for insulation information.

We invite you to connect with NIA through social media and stay up to date with all of NIA’s learning programs, resources, and products.

• LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/NIAinfo
• Vimeo: Vimeo.com/NIAinfo
• Twitter: NIAinfo (twitter.com/NIAInfo) and InsulationInfo (twitter.com/InsulationInfo)
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/NIAinfo

Insulation has many benefits. Its ability to reduce energy consumption and save money will always be important. Recently, its ability to protect from freezing temperatures made headlines in Texas. Also trending are the issues of climate change and the reduction of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Many organizations have established goals to be carbon neutral by 2030, and insulation can help. Mechanical insulation provides an outstanding opportunity for the cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

NIA has promoted the benefits of insulation for decades. In this article, we revisit work originally published in 2009 on the environmental benefits of pipe insulation to see what has changed. The short answer is that while much has changed, mechanical insulation still provides an outstanding opportunity for cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, insulation can still be considered “greener than trees!”

The original article1 analyzed a chemical facility using steam at 350°F for a manufacturing process, operating year round. The steam is produced in an oil-fired boiler operating at an efficiency of 80%. The 4-inch steam line is located outdoors (average annual temperature of 75°F, wind speed of 5 mph) and is insulated with 2 inches of fiber glass pipe insulation covered by a weathered aluminum jacket. The cost of fuel in 2009 was assumed to be $4/gal. Current fuel oil costs are somewhat lower, averaging about $3/gal. for #2 heating fuel. Today, using the NAIMA 3E Plus® computer program, we can estimate the values as shown in Figure 1.

The use of insulation reduces heat loss from the bare pipe, on average, by 95%. The associated fuel cost likewise decreases by 95%, for a fuel cost savings of $312/foot/year. This 95% reduction in fuel usage translates directly to a 95% reduction in CO2 emissions—a savings of 2,309 lb. of CO2 per foot per year.

As expected, the annual fuel savings of $312/foot are proportionally lower than the 2009 estimate, due to the lower cost of fuel oil. However, the financial payback for this installation would still be measured in months. The CO2 reduction of approximately 2,300 lb. per foot per year remains the same as reported in 2009.

Keep in mind that these savings are for 1 linear foot of pipe insulation applied to a bare pipe. We have previously reported estimates that 10–30% of industrial insulation in existing plants is missing or damaged. Considering how many industrial facilities are operating, and the average size of a typical facility, the potential savings are huge!

The reduction in CO2 emissions (more than a ton per year per foot of pipe) sounds impressive, but how does it compare to other carbon-reducing strategies?

Trees and the Carbon Cycle

Trees are an important part of the carbon cycle. Trees (and all green plants) utilize photosynthesis to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere, while at the same time releasing oxygen. In fact, trees are considered to be so beneficial that we can purchase carbon offsets associated with reforestation projects. Current online vendors charge approximately $20 per metric ton of CO2 offsets. Proceeds are invested in a variety of reforestation projects.

How much CO2 is absorbed by a tree? The answer varies considerably, depending on the type of tree, its location, and its stage in the life cycle. One source2 estimates that a single mature tree can absorb 48 lb. of CO2 per year. Another3 estimates that a 15-year-old, medium growing rate hardwood tree can sequester 16.9 lb. of carbon per year (which translates to 62 lb. of CO2 per year). A third source4 estimates that over a 10-year period, newly planted trees will absorb 36.4 lb. of carbon (equivalent to roughly 13.4 lb. of CO2 per year per tree planted). For the purpose of this article, we will use a rough average of 50 lb. of CO2/year.

Figure 2 shows the simple comparison.

Other Examples

Most pipes are not operating at 350°F. Some operate at higher temperatures, and many are at lower temperatures. Also, many systems do not operate year round. For illustration, consider a hydronic heating system in a commercial building. We will assume an operating temperature of 180°F and a 2” steel pipe with 2” of elastomeric insulation.i The piping is located primarily above the building’s dropped ceiling (average temperature of 75°F, 1 mph wind speed). The system will operate 26 weeks per year. For this application, we assume a natural gas-fired system operating at 75% efficiency, and a fuel cost of $2.50/Mcf for natural gas. Using NAIMA’s 3E Plus software, we estimate the values shown in Figure 3.
(i Note that the current ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2019 requires 2” of insulation for this application.)

In this example, the heat loss is reduced by 91%, and the corresponding CO2 emissions are reduced by 114 lb./foot/year. So, we would need to plant slightly over two trees to achieve roughly the same CO2 reduction as insulating 1 foot of these hot water pipes.

What about cold piping? Since 2009, chiller systems have increased in efficiency, and chilled water temperatures have generally gone down. Assume a 4” chilled water line operating at 38°F and insulated (per the requirements of ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2019) with 1” of cellular glass insulation. Assume that cooling is provided by electric chillers with a coefficient of performance of 4 (typical of a modern air-cooled system). We will also assume that the system is a high-usage application that operates 95% of the time. The marginal cost of electricity is $0.10/kWh. The results of the 3E Plus analysis of this scenario appear in Figure 4.

For this example, the 1” insulation reduces the heat gain by 83% and saves 74 lb. of CO2 per foot per year. We would need to plant 1½ trees to achieve roughly the same annual reduction realized by 1 foot of pipe insulation.

This discussion has not considered the longer-term implications of forests and the carbon cycle. Most researchers consider mature forests to be carbon neutral, in that they contain some vegetation that is young and still growing (i.e., absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing carbon), which is balanced by vegetation that has died and is decaying
(i.e., giving up CO2 to the atmosphere or the soil). While established forests serve as a significant storehouse for carbon, any carbon stored in trees is eventually returned to the environment.

This article should not be interpreted as an argument against planting trees, restoring forests, or maintaining existing forests. Trees provide many useful benefits. They provide shade in the summer, shelter for wildlife, and many of our most important building materials; and they are much more pleasing to look at than a piece of insulation. As a method for controlling greenhouse gases, insulation is greener than trees.

What about other carbon-reduction technologies? How does insulation stack up compared to other methods currently being discussed?

Other Carbon-Reducing Technologies

There are many approaches to reducing carbon emissions, and the feasibility, cost, and effectiveness of these approaches are the subjects of considerable current debate.

Power Plants. The electric power industry is the largest emitter of man-made CO2, accounting for about 31% of the annual CO2 emissions worldwide.5 Replacing fossil fuel-fired generating plants with solar-, wind-, or nuclear-powered generation is one approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, in the United States, there were 248 operating coal-fired power stations with installed capacity ranging from 5 to 3,653 MW.6 CO2 emissions from coal-fired plants average about 2.21 lb. per kWh generated.7 A typical coal-fired plant in the United States has a capacity of 300 MW and operates about 50% of the time. Mothballing this typical coal-fired plant would reduce CO2 emissions by about 2.9 billion lb. of CO2 per year. Obviously, this is a huge number that would require a large construction project to achieve. Note, too, that it would require roughly 300 typical wind turbines to replace the mothballed generating capacity.

Commercial Boilers. Another, somewhat smaller, carbon-reducing project could involve replacing a natural gas-fired boiler in a commercial building with a solar-thermal heating system. A typical boiler size for a commercial facility is 100 boiler horsepower. If this boiler operated 7 months per year, at a usage factor of 50%, it would burn approximately 10,700 MCF of natural gas per year. Replacing this boiler system would reduce CO2 emissions by about 1.3 million lb. of CO2 per year.

Vehicles. Transportation accounts for approximately 15% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.8 In the United States, the average passenger vehicle travels roughly 12,000 miles per year and emits about 0.88 lb. of CO2 per mile traveled.9 If that vehicle was replaced with a non-emitting form of transportation, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 10,500 lb. per year.

LED Light bulbs. On the other end of the size scale are LED light bulbs. Over the past decade, traditional incandescent lighting has been largely replaced by more efficient LED lighting. A typical replacement LED can produce the same light as an incandescent bulb with only 20% of the power usage. Replacing a 43 W incandescent bulb with an LED that operates 3 hours per day would reduce electrical consumption by 101 kWh/yr. and associated CO2 emissions by about 58 lb. per year.10

For comparison purposes, these results are summarized in Figure 5.


Carbon Offsets

As governments, companies, and individuals continue to seek ways to reduce their carbon footprints, interest in carbon offsets continues to grow. A carbon offset (or carbon credit) is a transferable instrument certified by government or independent bodies to represent an emission reduction. Many individuals or organizations purchase carbon credits to offset their carbon emissions. The proceeds from the sale of these carbon credits are invested in various carbon reduction projects. Example projects include reforestation, renewable energy development, or methane capture and destruction.

Mechanical insulation should be a leading candidate when considering carbon offset projects. This, to date, has not happened. The reasons are not totally clear, but probably involve a number of issues.

It is generally understood that certifiable offset projects must be: 1) additional, 2) permanent, 3) quantifiable, 4) never double-counted or double-sold, and 5) verifiable. For an insulation project, the “additional” criterion is problematic. To be considered “additional,” a project needs to demonstrate emission reductions that go beyond “business as usual.” If the reductions would have happened anyway —i.e., without the prospect of credits—they are not considered additional.

In most cases, the use of mechanical insulation would be considered “business as usual.” In many commercial projects, insulation levels are dictated by local building codes. In other cases, insulation levels are specified in an attempt to minimize life-cycle costs (i.e., the economic thickness of insulation). Most insulation projects pay for themselves in energy savings. Thus, these projects would not be considered “additional” by a certifying authority.

The exception would be in those cases where a project could utilize insulation levels that went beyond code requirements or economic thickness to capture additional emission reductions. In these cases, the reductions could be considered “additional,” and could be available for carbon offsets.

As the market for carbon credits matures and the cost of carbon offsets increases, it will be
interesting to see if mechanical insulation projects can become a viable alternative to reforestation, renewable energy development, and methane capture projects. Mechanical insulation is a well-developed energy-conserving technology that is, in fact, greener than trees!


References

1. Crall, C.P., “Insulation: Greener than Trees,” Insulation Outlook, January 2009.
2. www.arborday.org
3. U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, “Method for Calculating Carbon Sequestration by Trees in Urban and Suburban Settings,” April 1998.
4. www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gases-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references
5. www.c2es.org/content/international-emissions
6. www.en.wiki/List of Coal Fired Power Stations in the United States
7. www.eia.gov/tools/faqs
8. www.c2es.org/content/international-emissions
9. www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gases-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references
10. Ibid.

Recognizing the Need

Inspections are required on many construction disciplines, including electrical, welding, coating, corrosion under insulation (CUI), plumbing, and more, but currently, inspections are not required for mechanical insulation. Readers of Insulation Outlook magazine know that the benefits of mechanical insulation are very well documented for properly designed, installed, and maintained systems. However, these benefits can be greatly reduced when there is improper design, application, or maintenance.

The need for the National Insulation Association’s (NIA’s)Thermal Insulation Inspection Certification™ was realized after many discussions with the engineering and insulation end-user communities indicated a need to provide a quality process metric for certified inspectors to evaluate mechanical insulation systems. There is general consensus that the insulation industry’s dwindling knowledge base—in combination with the shortage of qualified labor, compressed construction schedules, and other factors—has contributed to an increasing need for independent review by trained and certified inspectors. NIA has stepped in to fill this need and give owners, engineers, and insulation contractors a way to verify the insulation installation.

Course Development

As the voice of the insulation industry, NIA is a trade organization that encompasses the entire mechanical insulation supply chain and provides essential educational, training, and networking opportunities to its members and the greater industry. Utilizing the combined knowledge of the industry, NIA’s Board of Directors, committees, and staff develop programs and initiatives to advance NIA’s mission, the mechanical insulation industry, and the businesses represented throughout its membership.

With initial funding contributed by NIA’s Foundation for Education, Training, and Industry Advancement, NIA sought out subject matter experts with decades of experience and knowledge from all aspects of the insulation industry, including manufacturers, fabricators, contractors, engineering/design firms, and facility owners to begin developing the Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification course in 2017. To further refine the course, in December 2018, an invitation-only mock program was held for select participants who represented all mechanical insulation and industrial and commercial industry segments, including building owners, commercial and industrial engineers, safety professionals, union and merit contractors, distributors/fabricators, manufacturers, and those with technical insulation and educational backgrounds. In May 2019, NIA officially launched the Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification and is excited to announce the availability of erudite Certified Insulation Inspectors. (See the full list on page 32.

Recognizing the Value

With all course participants participating, the feedback received is impressive and affirming:

  • 95% rated this course as good or excellent;
  • 95% would recommend this course to others;
  • 95% received the information needed to explain the inspection process and benefits to potential customers;
  • 95% feel qualified/confident about performing a thermal insulation inspection after taking this course;
  • 100% of participants found the takeaway course materials to be a useful reference when they begin conducting inspections; and
  • 100% received clear information on the type of data needed to conduct an inspection.

Simon Rix, a QC Engineer for Chiyoda Corporation, which handles about 40% of the global LNG market for engineering design and construction, recently became a NIA Certified Insulation Inspector™ to add to his current NACE/CINI/ICorr certifications. He sees a huge benefit of the program as a cost saver for owners and project managers, saying “Now we have the opportunity to filter out a lot of errors before they become an expense.” In addition, this certification gives respect and a brand to the insulation industry. He thinks the program will spread quickly, giving the example that engineers and contractors in his company are asking him how they too can become certified. “People recognize the value and it will continue to grow,” he added.

NIA Certified Thermal Insulation Inspector™ Benefits

Quality insulation systems help to promote employee and public safety, save on energy costs, improve process output, protect the environment, and reduce costs associated with non-compliant mechanical insulation specifications and improper or insufficient maintenance. This certification program will train future inspectors to have knowledge of mechanical insulation, verify that the insulation is being installed to the specification, and identify potential areas of concern during initial installation or in ongoing operations.

Additional benefits will vary by the type of company and focus area. Following are a few of the top benefits to consider.

Top 3 Benefits for Engineering and Design Firms:

  1. Supports compliance monitoring with the specifications.
  2. Provides an unbiased source for information on conflicting specification provisions or comments.
  3. Provides an unbiased information source for an assessment as to the condition of insulation systems that have or appear to have been damaged, which can assist in identifying potential CUI, personnel, environmental, and other areas of concern.

Top 3 Benefits for Facility Owners:

  1. Supports contractor compliance monitoring with the specifications.
  2. Provides an unbiased source for information on conflicting specification provisions or comments.
  3. Provides a platform for understanding the importance of the role of insulation in CUI, as well as an unbiased information source for assessing the condition of existing insulation systems that have or appear to have potential CUI, personnel, environmental, and other areas of concern.

Top 3 Benefits for Mechanical Insulation Contractors:

  1. Provides a mechanism to request specification clarity.
  2. Complements a new or existing QA/QC program and provides a platform for supporting the contractor position on potential installation disputes.
  3. Offers a means of competitor differentiation.

In addition to the sales and marketing benefit of having certified inspectors on your staff, this one-of-a-kind certification can be an integral part of Quality Assurance (QA)/Quality Control (QC), commissioning, and other processes while helping to achieve the benefits the mechanical insulation system was designed for by verifying the materials and the installation are in compliance with the specifications, standards, or assessments of previously installed mechanical insulation systems.

When considering industry realities—that the industry is requesting certified mechanical insulation inspectors and the financial benefits of inspection—the conclusion is: the use of certified mechanical insulation inspectors should be included in all new construction projects and be an integral part of facility maintenance programs.

Having a mechanical insulation inspection program and certifying inspectors will not resolve all concerns, but it does provide a way for engineering firms, facility owners, and others to verify that they are receiving what they expect and to identify potential areas of concern during initial installation or in ongoing operations. In fact, NIA has already received requests for Certified Thermal Insulation Inspectors.

Patriot Insulation Project Manager David Kitto knew he wanted to be among the first to earn his certification after seeing the course description saying, “I’ve been in the industry 32 years, and I’ve always been keen on increasing the level of professionalism in our trade. It was great to hear that engineering firms and large mechanical insulation customers are asking for this certification to ensure they are getting what is specified and also to clarify conflicting specifications.” He added that as a Retired U.S. Army 1st Sergeant, his background has taught him that “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect. As a contractor, I welcome this certification and the new business opportunities it will provide.”

While the minimum level of experience is 3 years, there is no maximum level of experience suggested. Whether you have 5 years of experience or 25 years in the industry, this course will be of value to you and your business. When NIA Instructor Ron King was asked what someone with 25 years of experience would learn in the course, he noted, “The role of an inspector is totally different than a contractor or manufacturer or system designer. When you look from an inspector point of view, it will take your perspective to a new level.”

Why this Certification Is Needed

Numerous factors have contributed to the current and increasing need for independent review by trained and certified inspectors, making this certification more important today than ever before. Through the work of the Certified Inspectors, this course will, over time, raise the bar for the industry and will benefit all who specify, manufacture, distribute, fabricate, install, and use mechanical insulation.

Two Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification courses for 2019 are scheduled for August and December (see “Upcoming Courses and Registration Information” on this page) and additional dates for 2020 will be announced soon. NIA has reached out to organizations that impact the industry, including industrial and commercial design engineers and facility owners, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority saying that the certification is overdue and needed for our industry.

Interested in Becoming a Certified Appraiser?

Course Information

The Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification is designed for individuals who have a minimum of 3 years of experience in commercial and/or industrial construction, process, and maintenance industry, inspection, or related fields, among other pre-qualifications. Each certification class will have a wide variety of experience levels, and the class is designed to handle this range through the 2 parts of the course. Please visit NIA’s  website for the full list of pre-qualifications and to read about the instructors’ extensive expertise. The 4-day course consists of 2 levels.

Part 1—NIA’s Introduction to Mechanical Insulation

The introduction portion includes a comprehensive overview of the industry and helps participants comprehend the underlying question, why insulate? Understanding the objective of why insulation is being installed on a system is critical to the insulation inspection process. Design objectives reviewed in the curriculum are heat transfer, condensation control, energy conservation, fire safety, freeze protection, personnel protection and/or comfort, process control, and noise or acoustical control. In addition, there are other conditions that may need to be considered in the ultimate design and selection of an insulation system. Examples of these design considerations are: abuse resistance, CUI, indoor air quality, maintainability, regulatory considerations, service and location, and service life. Participants also learn the role and responsibilities of an insulation inspector; core insulation materials and protective coverings; how different types of systems and their temperature range impact the inspection; real-life inspection lessons; and a host of inspection-related topics.

Part 2—NIA’s Thermal Insulation Inspector Certification Level

Participants learn about insulation in commercial, refrigeration, HVAC, cryogenic, and industrial applications in new construction, retrofit, and maintenance projects; piping and equipment insulation materials and securement methods (including fabrication); what to expect when examining insulation and finishing; jacketing materials that have been in service and exposed to operating temperatures and environmental elements; and common installation occurrences, problem areas, and common occurrences by core material system.

Certification

To qualify to become a Certified Thermal Insulation Inspector, class participants must complete all pre-qualifications, meet the work experience criteria, complete both parts of the course, and pass all related examinations.

Insulation Outlook Magazine is continuing its special product series with the following American-Made Product Guide. While the magazine typically discusses projects and products in general terms, we created this guide to help our readers learn more about available products. The information in this guide comes directly from insulation manufacturers. In this issue, we asked companies to submit a popular, American-made insulation product.

We hope these guides make your research easier and help you on your next project. If you missed one of our recent reader guides, they are posted online at www.insulation.org/io/columns.

* Disclaimer: NIA is an insulation trade association and does not test or endorse products or companies. The information included in this section is based on free submissions from NIA member companies, and NIA cannot verify their accuracy. These listings are provided for educational purposes. Readers should always verify that any products they are considering meet the unique needs of their systems and that the claims stated by the manufacturers are accurate.

INDEX OF COMPANIES AND PRODUCTS

  • Armacell: ArmaFlex® Shield
  • Bay Insulation Systems: Laminated Metal Building Insulation
  • CertainTeed Insulation: SoftTouch™ Duct Wrap
  • ITW Insulation Systems: TRYMER PIR
  • Owens Corning: SSL II® with ASJ Max Fiberglas™ Pipe Insulation

Company Name: Armacell

Product Name: ArmaFlex® Shield

Type of Insulation Materials: Elastomeric Foam with Protective Coating

Recommended Application: HVAC and refrigeration applications, indoors and outdoors

Product Description: New ArmaFlex® Shield flexible foam insulation from Armacell is moisture- and UV-resistant, with a durable protective jacket specially designed for line set, HVAC and refrigeration applications.

Manufacturing Location: Dallas, GA

Company Name: Bay Insulation Systems

Product Name: Laminated Metal Building Insulation

Type of Insulation Materials: Faced Fiberglass Blanket

Recommended Application: Metal building roofs and walls

Product Description: NAIMA 202-96 fiberglass with the following facings adhered to one surface: FSK R-3035, FSK R3035HD, Vinyl, WMP-10, WMP-30, WMP-50, WMP-VR, WMP-VR-R+, Arenashield, or Gymguard. All finished products are UL certified for FHC25/50.

Manufacturing Location: 23 U.S. locations

Company Name: CertainTeed Insulation

Product Name: SoftTouch™ Duct Wrap

Type of Insulation Materials: Fiberglass

Recommended Application: HVAC ductwork

Product Description: Used to insulate rectangular and round HVAC ductwork, SoftTouch Duct Wrap improves thermal efficiency by reducing unwanted heat loss or gain, while also eliminating condensation problems on cold duct surfaces.

Manufacturing Location:
Chowchilla, CA
Athens, GA
Kansas City, KS
Sherman, TX

Company Name: ITW Insulation Systems

Product Name: TRYMER PIR

Type of Insulation Materials: Polyisocyanurate (PIR)

Recommended Application: Chilled-water applications, pipe insulation, structural and architectural panels, tank and vessel insulation

Product Description: TRYMER PIR is a closed-cell, high-performance insulation featuring low-ambient k-factors; can be used in a temperature range from -297°F to 300°F; and is available in a selection of densities and compressive strengths.

Manufacturing Location: La Porte, TX

Company Name:Owens Corning

Product Name: SSL II® with ASJ Max Fiberglas™ Pipe Insulation

Type of Insulation Materials: Fiberglass Insulation

Recommended Application: Insulation of iron, copper, PVC and other polymer pipes operating from 0°F to 1,000°F

Product Description: Owens Corning® SSL II® with ASJ Max Fiberglas™ Pipe Insulation is molded of heavy-density, resin-bonded, inorganic glass fibers. The insulation is tailored to fit for copper and iron pipe applications.

Manufacturing Location: Newark, OH

You continually hear mechanical insulation contractors, and others, complaining about incomplete, outdated, or irrelevant mechanical insulation specifications (i.e., “bad specifications”).

Immediately you want to know, what is a bad versus a good specification and what are the advantages or consequences of both?

This article is written from the perspective of the mechanical insulation industry and focused primarily on new construction. The comments or opinions addressed herein may or may not apply to all industries. It is not intended to find fault with any specifying organization or individual but to address the confusing or conflicting information that is found in some project specifications. The ultimate objective being that over time, the reference to bad specifications will become less and less.

A specification is a set of documented requirements to be satisfied by a material, design, product, or service. A good specification should clearly communicate the design objectives, materials, thicknesses, finishes, securements, and other insulation system installation requirements.

While specification formats can vary between the commercial or building and the industrial market—and of course the person or firm developing the specification—there are a few basic principles that apply to just about all mechanical insulation specifications.

The function of mechanical insulation specifications is to define the basic requirements for quality of products, materials, and workmanship. Therefore, mechanical insulation specification sections should not include “scope of work” statements. Excluding scope statements from specifications allows specification sections to focus on the technical requirements without encumbering them with contract requirements.

Drawings and other contract documents should define the scope of work, schedule expectations, and other terms and conditions of the contract. Drawings communicate the quantitative requirements and graphically show the shape, location, joining, and general arrangement of construction to be insulated.

There are different types of technical or engineering specifications, and different usages of the term in different technical contexts. The word specification is broadly defined as “to state explicitly or in detail” or “to be specific.” Unfortunately—in the mechanical insulation industry—explicit, in detail, or specific is not always the case.
Within the mechanical insulation industry, you have various specification types:

  • The Project Specification: This is typically created by a design/engineering firm and or a facility owner. It should clearly communicate the design objectives, materials, thicknesses, finishes, securements, and other system installation requirements. Project specifications are used to execute construction.
  • Guideline Specifications: Guide or guideline specifications is any document that aims to streamline processes according to a set routine. By definition, following a guideline is never mandatory. Guidelines are an essential part of the larger process of design, governance, and similar processes and may be issued by and used by any organization (governmental or private), product manufacturers, etc. Guideline specifications are sometimes used to develop Project Specifications.
  • Master specifications: Master specifications are created by entities, companies, governmental agencies, etc., to establish a base line or minimum level of acceptable design objectives and/or considerations. In some cases, they may be referred to as Standards. Master specifications are sometimes used to develop Project Specifications.

Within these specifications you typically find references to codes, standards, regulations, etc.

Building and model codes are traditionally found in the commercial or building sector of the industry. They are adopted by local jurisdictions and have the force of law.

Due to limited resources of most authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ), building codes in most jurisdictions are generally developed and maintained by adoption of model codes, in whole or in part. A model code is not enforceable until adopted by a local jurisdiction.

Model codes, from a mechanical insulation perspective, are primarily developed by organizations such as the International Code Council (ICC).

You might also encounter separate energy codes that are in addition to with Building or Model Codes. Also, Fire Codes will occasionally come into play independently or by reference in building or model codes.

You may find references to Voluntary Consensus Standards like the Process Industry Practices (PIP) that are focused on the industrial segment, or the Midwest Insulation Contractors Association (MICA) Commercial & Industrial Insulation Standards manual.

There are several ASTM standards that could be refenced in the voluntary standards or any of the commercial/building or model codes or in any of the specifications.

There are various types of ASTM Standards:

  • Standard Material Specifications—explicit set of requirements to be satisfied by a product, system, or service.
  • Standard Test Methods—concise description of an orderly procedure for determining a property or constituent of a material, an assembly of materials, or a product.
  • Standard Practices—definitive set of instructions for performing one or more specific operations that does produce a test result.
  • Standard Guides—increase the awareness of information and approaches for a given subject; normally includes options but does not make a specific recommendation.

Regulation can take many forms from legal restrictions, contractual obligations, third-party regulation, certification, accreditation, or even market regulations.

In the case of the mechanical insulation industry, the regulations may relate more to certain requirements in industries or standards. An example would be the type of insulation and/or insulation finish that is allowed in food-processing areas, product labeling, safety data sheets, and safety regulations.

Are you confused yet? Keep reading—we are not done yet.

The mechanical insulation specification is an important but often overlooked part of the overall design process. The specification is typically part of a set of contract documents issued by a design professional for the purpose of executing work. Too often, mechanical insulation specifications are developed by dusting off and reissuing a specification from a previous project. That project could have been from last month or years ago.

A specification created for one project may not be applicable for a similar project. From the perspective of the mechanical insulation industry, there are many potential variables that influence decisions related to a mechanical insulation specification: relative humidly, ambient and service temperatures, application or project conditions, exposure to the elements, availability of new or improved materials, protective coverings, durability, serviceability, etc.

The potential practice of cut and pasting a specification multiple times, which is often the case, can only increase the magnitude of the problem. Unfortunately, the cut and paste specification process is alive and well today.

Why are specifications being cut and pasted, outdated, or not complete? There are multiple reasons, but there is a consensus that the mechanical insulation knowledge base within the engineering and facility owner communities is slowly dwindling to that of only basic knowledge with little actual experience.

Insulation is taken for granted in many applications. Mechanical insulation is not a major topic in many engineering curriculums and it’s not exactly a sexy or hot topic of discussion in the design community. As a result it is the “Rodney Dangerfield” in many projects—it gets no respect. Yet, designing insulation systems can be complicated and can have serious and costly outcomes if not properly addressed. In some projects, multiple design objectives and considerations must be satisfied simultaneously.

Combine the reduced knowledge base with the fact that project schedules are continuing to be compressed. It seems like some owners are pushing to save costs by compressing schedules and pushing critical details downstream. That is one of, if not the primary reason, projects are being started and requests for insulation quotations and contracts are being awarded with incomplete documents.

Incomplete and outdated information in specifications, coupled with multiple potential conflicting references (guidelines, codes, standards, etc.), can create inconsistences (i.e., a bad specification). Not to be forgotten, it is also possible that conflicts can exist between drawings and specifications, and even other documents that combine to make a construction contract.

There are multiple consequences, other than general customer dissatisfaction, to a bad specification for the contractor and the facility owner. An underperforming or incorrect insulation system can potentially lead to:

  • Higher initial cost due to field-required change orders (proposal evaluations, scope or work monitoring, change in insulation materials or systems, reduced productivity, etc.).
  • Higher operating cost on many fronts: process control, energy consumption, maintenance, etc.
  • Other problems like corrosion under insulation, mold development, safety-related concerns, etc.
  • Early insulation replacement (e.g., production interruption, Cap X expenditures, etc.).

Some believe that a bad specification provides an insulation contractor with an advantage in bidding and/or executing the project. That position is debatable.

You cannot discount the fact that contractors may look at insulation specifications (reviewing what is written, unwritten, and incorrectly written) to develop both their bid basis and a list of items to be addressed—either sequentially during project execution or at the end.

If the specification is not clear, concise, and complete, that immediately equates to problems for the insulation contractor. Following are just a few of the issues that must be addressed:

  • Increased estimating time due to the degree of research and potential proposal clarifications that may be required;
  • The fear, or reality, of being compared to a different project perspective from a competitor, thus not bidding apples to apples;
  • Upon award of the project, spending hours that were probably not accounted for in the proposal—such as managing the submittal and approval of change orders, managing conflict resolution, schedule impacts, and potential disagreements between other stakeholders;
  • Communication with field labor teams related to change orders and dealing with potential rework activities; and
  • Running the risk of excessive remaining materials upon completion of the project.

Many contractors can attest that their most profitable contracts come from projects where the specification is complete and concise, the drawings are complete, and the scope of work is released in a timely fashion. They know what to do, what materials to use, when to do the work, and now their major focus is on productivity at all levels. A bad specification is the first step in preventing that level of focus on a project.

What are the remedies to eliminate the creation of a bad specification? That answer will vary depending upon whom you ask but there are a few core areas that are probably on all lists:

  • Understand why insulation is needed and focus on the applicable design objectives and considerations.
  • Examine the current master or project specification and truly dissect it to uncover the potential inconsistences, incomplete, outdated, or incorrect information and make all the required changes.
  • Don’t hold back on asking for help. Ask insulation and protective covering manufacturers to point out outdated areas and suggested changes. Consider asking a few insulation contractors to meet with you and point out inconsistences and other areas that they take issue with, or create proposal clarifications and bidding or execution burdens.
  • Update and maintain your library and knowledge of current insulation systems.
  • Provide ongoing continual educational opportunities to share knowledge that are focused on mechanical insulation and related topics.

A bad specification in the mechanical insulation industry has the potential of being bad for everyone in the project chain of events: from the design firm, to the contractors building the projects, to the facility owners and operators of the completed project. A bad mechanical insulation specification just keeps creating challenges. The solution is to turn a bad specification into a good specification sooner than later and maintain it. Nothing lasts forever, each project is different, insulation systems are continually being improved, and new products are introduced in the market while some products become obsolete. Codes and standards also change regularly.

Act now. Help is around the corner—just ask and “inspect what you expect” in the design phase, during construction, and in ongoing operations. Design the mechanical insulation correctly, install it correctly, and maintain it in a timely and correct manner and see how your perspective as to the value of mechanical insulation will change.

The mechanical insulation industry needs to say goodbye to bad mechanical insulation specifications and heighten awareness by providing examples of good specifications.

Author’s Note: I would like to express my appreciation to Howard Lavender, Insulation & Fireproofing SME, The Dow Chemical Company, Freeport, Texas; Gary Kuzma, Senior Principal, Director of MEP Engineering at HOK Houston, Texas; and Ed Schauseil, SME—Insulation and Coatings, KBR, Houston, Texas, for their help in reviewing and providing suggestions for this article. Their insight on this topic and commitment to improving mechanical insulation specifications throughout the industry is an example for others to follow.

Quote from Gary Kuzma

In the mechanical insulation industry there has always been a conversation about whether to insulate certain items that may require periodic maintenance, such as paired flanges, flanged valves, pumps, strainers, and similar items. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the industry started to use flexible removable insulation covers. These covers are normally composed of an inner and outer layer of a silicon- or Teflon-coated fiber glass mesh, and a middle layer or fiber glass blanket. They are usually 1” to 2” thick and the covers are either sewn or stapled together. There are a variety of methods used to hold them in place, including, wire, Velcro, and belt straps.

Flexible removable covers are a great solution for items that require maintenance while still providing companies with energy savings and personnel protection. Today’s products are resistant to dirt and weather and can be easily removed and reinstalled by maintenance workers. Unlike traditional insulation, some products are created to require no special insulation expertise and are designed for any maintenance professional to be able to remove and reinstall.

Removable covers can be incredibly useful since there is a long-standing problem of insulation not being replaced when it is removed for maintenance or repair. While removable covers are certainly useful for many systems, there has been a question within the industry as to the use of removable covers on below-ambient systems. Examples of below-ambient systems include chilled water, brine, ammonia, and liquid gasses such as natural gas and oxygen. These systems have many of the aforementioned items (paired flanges, flanged valves, pumps, strainers, etc.) that will require maintenance.

One of the main challenges on below-ambient systems is that the pipe or equipment will attract moisture. Imagine a glass of ice water outside on a hot day: the glass immediately attracts moisture, and condensation forms on the outside of the glass. Since below-ambient systems operate at a colder temperature than the air, the same process happens on the pipe or equipment, and they can begin to condensate. Depending on how cold the system is running, that condensation can turn into ice. Left unchecked, this moisture can severely damage the system.

This propensity for moisture means that a proper insulation system must be installed. The insulation system will need to be carefully installed so any gaps in the system are minimized. Moisture is a determined foe and will look for any cracks in the system. This may present a problem if removable covers are used in a below-ambient system, since the seams on the cover can be a place where moisture may penetrate. Also, there may be additional seams where multiple removable covers are used to insulate the system.

Depending on the temperature of the system, many times a butyl caulk or expanding foam will be used over the seams as an additional barrier to the moisture draw. Then, a vapor retarding film or mastic is installed over the insulation to keep the moisture from penetrating the insulation.

The difficulty with removable covers is that the seams where the materials connect to each other or to the attaching pipe may not be sufficiently tight enough to keep out the moisture and may allow condensation or ice to form underneath the cover. As with any installed insulation system, once there is moisture inside the system, the situation can worsen, and here the moisture is held inside and unable to dry out.

There are manufacturers who make flexible removable covers for below-ambient systems. They use a different exterior jacket and require the installer to apply a layer of latex foam or caulk to all the seams after the cover is installed. Whether this will solve the problem of moisture draw, I don’t have the experience to say. However, foaming all the seams makes them much more difficult to remove and replace. When the item being insulated requires maintenance and the cover is removed, the person now removing the cover is likely concerned with fixing the mechanical problem, not necessarily about being careful with the flexible removable cover. When it comes time to reinstall the cover, the person should have a higher level of skill to take the time to properly install the cover and then apply the foam to any gaps. If the cover is not properly reinstalled, you may end up with moisture and possibly ice, or even corrosion.

Based on these factors and my personal experience, I do not recommend the use of flexible removable covers on below-ambient systems. While they can be invaluable on certain systems and make it easier for maintenance personnel to install and re-install, they may not be ideal for below-ambient systems where moisture draw will be an ongoing problem. If you have decided that you still want to have these covers installed, I suggest you have an insulation company familiar with below-ambient insulation systems install the covers every time to try to mitigate any potential issues. Other manufacturers make
products for indoor commercial use in controlled environments. It is vital to evaluate 3 items: chilled water temperature, vapor drive, and ambient conditions. You should also consult a qualified engineer to discuss products or specifications.

 

Copyright Statement

This article was published in the February 2019 issue of Insulation Outlook magazine. Copyright © 2019 National Insulation Association. All rights reserved. The contents of this website and Insulation Outlook magazine may not be reproduced in any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of the publisher and NIA. Any unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited and would violate NIA’s copyright and may violate other copyright agreements that NIA has with authors and partners. Contact publisher@insulation.org to reprint or reproduce this content.

Below is the Industrial Product Guide from Insulation Outlook’s November issue. In this helpful guide, manufacturers give details on products that have been used in the industrial industry.

Click here to view the Industrial Product Guide

 

 

Copyright Statement

This article was published in the November 2018 issue of Insulation Outlook magazine. Copyright © 2018 National Insulation Association. All rights reserved. The contents of this website and Insulation Outlook magazine may not be reproduced in any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of the publisher and NIA. Any unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited and would violate NIA’s copyright and may violate other copyright agreements that NIA has with authors and partners. Contact publisher@insulation.org to reprint or reproduce this content.

We are excited to share the Commercial Product Guide from the October issue. In this helpful guide, manufacturers give details on products that have been used in the commercial insulation industry.

Click here to view the Commercial Product Guide

 

Copyright Statement

This article was published in the September 2018 issue of Insulation Outlook magazine. Copyright © 2018 National Insulation Association. All rights reserved. The contents of this website and Insulation Outlook magazine may not be reproduced in any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of the publisher and NIA. Any unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited and would violate NIA’s copyright and may violate other copyright agreements that NIA has with authors and partners. Contact publisher@insulation.org to reprint or reproduce this content.

The Problem

My company, Insulating Services, Inc., a NIA Contractor member since 1990, was contacted by a client in the Southeast who was requesting an evaluation of their existing indoor insulation system due to the larger than desired process temperature drop their system was experiencing. The client company reconditions catalyst beds that are used for emission control at power plants and various other industrial facilities. Part of their proprietary process for reconditioning these catalyst beds requires that the temperature drop in their reactor doesn’t exceed 4°C. For their application, the larger the temperature drop, the lower the quality and consequent longevity of the reconditioned catalyst bed they sell to their customers. Their concern was that they could potentially lose business if their customers noticed that the reconditioned catalyst beds had an appreciable decrease in life span and would require more frequent reconditioning, causing higher costs.

Upon visiting the job site, we found that the temperature drop they were measuring across their reactor was ~10°C—more than double the maximum temperature drop of 4°C. The existing insulation was a 2-layer system with the first layer comprising of (2”) ceramic fiber and the second layer being (3”) of mineral wool insulation. There was only 5 inches of space available for the insulation and unfortunately, the current thickness of insulation could not maintain the desired temperature.

After we ran some calculations based on the process data provided, it was determined that the insulation thickness would need to be ~10” in order to ensure that the temperature drop across the reactor didn’t exceed 4°C.  The problem, however, was the physical lack of space necessary to increase the insulation thickness to 10”. Our client would need to make tremendous changes to their facility in order to make room for the thicker insulation, which was prohibitive both from a cost and timing standpoint. This is an example of how improper design can lead to improper insulation, which ultimately affects the profitability of the entire operation.

The Proposed Solution

We did find a solution as product innovations have led to materials on the market that offer the same performance at a lower thickness. We used the 10” required thickness needed to satisfy the desired 4°C temperature drop and calculated the equivalent thickness of an alternate material that would offer the equivalent performance at a lower thickness. We recommended a specific aerogel insulation that had approximately half the thermal conductivity of the existing insulation system at the operating temperature of 500°C. Specifically, we were able to reduce the thickness from 10” to 4.8” by recommending the aerogel material. The total installed cost of this option would be approximately 23% higher than the required 10” thickness of the existing insulation, but in this situation this is a moot consideration since there wasn’t enough space to increase the existing insulation thickness to 10”.

In summary, there are 2 problems to solve in this situation. First, the existing insulation system was not designed to limit the temperature drop to the desired threshold of 4°C. Second, space constraints did not allow for the appropriate thickness to achieve the desired goal. Our recommendation of using a different product that would provide appropriate performance at a lower thickness solved both problems in this case.

Ultimately, the client will need to decide whether to accept the added cost of installing the aerogel insulation in exchange for its potential benefits. Of course, as with most properly designed systems, insulating the system correctly will save energy over the life of the system, paying for the insulation. Changing the footprint of the facility to accommodate the 10” of required thickness for the lower-cost mineral wool would incur exorbitant costs. While typically, “value engineering” implies a lower upfront cost, in cases like this one, clients may choose a higher up-front cost as the best alternative and in exchange for continued ongoing successful operations.

 

Copyright Statement

This article was published in the July 2018 issue of Insulation Outlook magazine. Copyright © 2018 National Insulation Association. All rights reserved. The contents of this website and Insulation Outlook magazine may not be reproduced in any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of the publisher and NIA. Any unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited and would violate NIA’s copyright and may violate other copyright agreements that NIA has with authors and partners. Contact publisher@insulation.org to reprint or reproduce this content.

In the July 2018 issue of Insulation Outlook, we had a special section, 18 Months of Product Enhancements and Innovation. Since we often hear feedback from readers that they use Insulation Outlook to learn about products, we invited manufacturers to share recent product improvements. A PDF of the section is available below.

Click here to view 18 Months of Product Enhancements and Innovation

We also had a Tools and Resources section in the July issue that shared many available resources that can help make it easier to understand the differences between insulation materials and how to choose the right product and thickness. A PDF of the section is available below.

Click here to view Tools and Resources

 

Copyright Statement

This article was published in the July 2018 issue of Insulation Outlook magazine. Copyright © 2018 National Insulation Association. All rights reserved. The contents of this website and Insulation Outlook magazine may not be reproduced in any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of the publisher and NIA. Any unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited and would violate NIA’s copyright and may violate other copyright agreements that NIA has with authors and partners. Contact publisher@insulation.org to reprint or reproduce this content.