Q: How do you choose the right insulation for the job?
A: The short answer is to visit the MIDG and learn how to design a system for your unique needs and what insulation will work best given your application and design considerations. It is a step by step decision tree that explain insulation materials and has calculators and resources to help you.
1. What is the operating or line temperature of the system your customer needs to insulate?
In general, systems needing insulation can be divided into three temperature ranges:
Low Temperature Range (-100°F to 60°F) Refrigeration, cold/chilled water and commercial heating and cooling systems.
Medium Temperature Range (61°F to 600°F) Hot water and steam, power/process piping, ovens and stacks.
High Temperature Range (601°F to 1500°F) Power generation, turbines, kilns, smelters, exhaust systems and power piping.
2. Is the system outdoors or indoors – or a combination of both?
This will help you determine whether or not the system and the insulation needs protection from weather, corrosive atmospheres, water or chemical washdowns, abuse or other conditions.
3. Is the ambient temperature constant… or will it fluctuate?
The answer to this question will guide you in the selection of the appropriate thickness to protect against condensation, heat loss or gain or other temperature control problems.
Q: Where can I get information on specification requirements?
A: Understanding specifications is an important part of the job. NIA provides members with a guide booklet entitled: Guide to Insulation Product Specifications and an Insulation Product Specification Chart.
Important testing, codes and standards setting organizations critical to ensuring the performance of insulation procedures and systems include:
- ASTM—American Society for Testing Materials
- ASHRAE—American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers
- U.S. Government—publishes federal and military specifications for insulation materials
- MICA—Midwest Insulation Contractors Association
- PIP—Process Industry Practices
Some of the performance specifications that you will need to become familiar with on the job include water vapor transmission, compressive strength, and fire hazard classifications. Example: You’ll find that a 25/50 rating for fire hazard classification is required for some codes. The 25 represents the flame spread index and 50 represents smoke when compared to cement as “0” and red oak as “100”.
ALWAYS check the manufacturers’ specification sheets for specification compliance information and local code.