WHAT IS MECHANICAL INSULATION?
Mechanical Insulation includes all materials applied to piping, ductwork and equipment that are in place to reduce heat transfer, meet personal safety requirements, and attenuate sound in:
- Piping on steam, condensate, heating and domestic hot water
- Refrigeration and other low temperature piping applications
- Mechanical equipment that contains fluids of various temperatures
- Heating, Venting, & Air Conditioning (HVAC) applications
Hudson Bay specializes in insulation designed for the commercial and industrial sectors. We have completed work on buildings that encompass office space, retail locations, health care, government, education, military, light manufacturing and hospitality. We have also insulated mechanical systems for larger industrial processes such as power generation, refining, brewery, heavy manufacturing and local utilities.
WHAT DOES INSULATION DO?
Primarily, insulation is applied to provide resistance to the transfer of energy as heat. Insulators are materials with a low conductance. In the majority of insulation materials, the ability to resist heat transfer is enhanced by trapping air in small pockets. These materials may be more familiarly referred to as fiberglass, cellulose, polyicynene, elastomeric and expanded polystyrene. The air trapped within is an effective insulator because it eliminates convection and reduces energy conduction to minimal level. Some foams such as polyisocyanurate, polyurethane, and extruded polystyrene, are filled with special gases that provide additional resistance to heat flow. Most applications are covered by a jacketing with low emissivity.
Insulation is also applied to provide system protection. Certain insulation materials and jackets can be selected based on the ability to protect the system from the elements. Most jacketing can provide a vapor barrier to inhibit condensation, mold growth and moisture damage as well as UV protection. PVC, metal and other specialty jackets are weatherproof and shield from water intrusion. Many insulation materials like closed cell foams and other engineered materials can provide their own weather barrier and rigid insulations can provide abrasion and crush protection.
In many instances insulation is used to attenuate sound. Insulation resists the transfer of sound waves using the same properties that it uses to resist the transfer of energy in the form of heat.
Last but not least is insulation’s ability to protect workers from burns or other potential hazards. If applied with adequate thickness, insulation can protect personnel and other equipment from systems that run at very high temperatures.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MECHANICAL INSULATION?
There are a wide variety of insulation materials, facings, and accessory products available for use on mechanical systems. The products available change continuously as existing products are modified, new products are developed, and other products are phased out.
The glass that is used in fiberglass pipe insulation, and indeed in most forms of fiberglass insulation, is the same everyday substance that is used for windows and lenses. It is comprised of glass fibers that are combined with a second material to form a solid product. It is often combined with a percentage of recycled glass, thus helping global resources through recycling as well as energy saving. Fiberglass is also the most commonly used material for insulating ductwork and pipe. Fiberglass is available in two different forms, either rigid or flexible, and in varying densities depending on the area of application and the level of ductwork insulation required. Flexible fiberglass duct insulation is most commonly supplied in a roll and is simple to apply to any shape of duct, be it round, square, or a special preformed shape.
Elastomeric insulation, along with other flexible closed cell foams, is commonly used to reduce condensation.
It is common to see insulation listed with an “R” value which is a measure of the products resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. Given that many products for a specific application have a similar thermal resistance per inch many specifications are just written in inches of thickness.
WHY ARE SPECIFIC PRODUCTS SPECIFIED?
The insulation system designer’s task is to select the products or combination of products that will satisfy the design requirements at the lowest total cost over the life of the project. In most cases, the designer will find there are a number of products or systems that will work, and the final choice will depend on cost, availability, or design requirements.
There are a number of considerations that may require attention when designing a mechanical insulation system; abuse resistance, corrosion resistance, maintainability, regulatory considerations, service and location, and service life should all be a consideration of design.
As a leading insulation contractor, Hudson Bay Insulation has worked with many types of insulation over the last 20 years. We have seen a wide variety of applications and have the experience needed to know what works best in different circumstances. Let us help you make the design decisions that will provide an insulation system that will stand the test of time and be a long term investment.
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