The Benefits of Mechanical Insulation
The mechanical insulation industry has a long track record of providing energy savings, emissions reductions, cost savings and safety benefits for manufacturing facilities, power plants, refineries, hospitals, universities and government buildings. It is estimated that mechanical insulation systems save more than 140 and up to 500 times more energy over their life spans than it takes to produce the insulation product.
Typical Industrial Applications
Insulation materials are produced in a wide range of forms to address different application requirements. These include batt, blanket, loose-fill and board types. Fiberglass is the most common type, but there are many other options, such as rock and slag wool, cellulose, and foam. Some are bonded to metal or plastic, while others can be inserted into walls and cavities.
Some products are rated for use in harsh environments, while others can be easily removed to replace or repair damaged parts. The correct insulation can save a plant money by keeping energy costs lower while reducing equipment wear and tear.
Personal Protection Equipment
When installing or removing insulation, workers should always wear PPE to protect themselves from injuries from flying debris, sharp edges, hot piping, and fly ash. This includes hard hats, boots, safety goggles with side shields, and resistant gloves.
Surveys and Inspection
As a part of a complete insulation installation, it is important to survey the entire system before committing to a job. During the inspection process, a contractor can identify areas where insulation is missing or damaged and recommend repairs that will reduce future maintenance expenses.
It is also important to inspect the insulation on a regular basis so that deterioration can be avoided. Damaged or missing insulation can cause energy loss, air pollution, and a reduction in worker comfort and safety.
In addition to lowering energy costs, mechanical insulation can increase building performance and efficiency. This is because the energy saved through mechanical insulation can be used to operate auxiliary equipment, such as air conditioning and heating.
The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) and the National Mechanical Insulation Committee (NMIC) have developed the Mechanical Insulation Design Guide to help specify the right mechanical insulation for each application. This guide is based on the 3E Plus(r) thermal conductivity computer program and provides a valuable tool for purchasers and specifiers.
NIA’s research indicates that some commercial buildings could not operate without mechanical insulation, and they can save between 13 and 149 kBtu/sf/yr of site energy. This is about 20 percent to 78 percent of the total site energy usage.
The best way to determine which mechanical insulation material is best for your application is to ask the manufacturer or contractor about the appropriate thickness, the required temperatures and other factors to consider when choosing a product. These factors will affect the R-value, which is a measure of how well an insulating material resists conductive heat flow. In general, the higher the R-value of an insulation, the better it is at limiting heat transfer between the system’s surfaces.