What is HVAC pipe insulation? The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that residential and commercial buildings in the United States account for 39% of total energy consumption (2019).
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed to deliver thermal comfort and healthy ventilation (indoor air quality – IAQ) to building occupants. The EIA estimates that HVAC systems account for 49% of a commercial building’s electricity use. HVAC typically includes (not all inclusive) steam, hot water, chilled water, and refrigeration systems with piping, ducts, tanks, vessels, and equipment.
In addition to proper installation, commissioning and a service plan, mechanical insulation plays an important role in managing heat transfer and condensation control for HVAC systems. It’s safe to assume that all building owners desire a properly-sized and energy-efficient HVAC system. Building owners can realize one of the quickest returns on investment when mechanical insulation is properly designed, installed, and maintained.
For HVAC piping such as chilled water, refrigeration, and plumbing systems, closed cell elastomeric foam pipe insulation is a proven choice due to its closed cell structure and built-in vapor barrier. Closed cell elastomeric insulation is appropriate for HVAC pipe service temperatures ranging from -297° F to +220°F (Aeroflex 257°). For “cooling systems”, national energy codes such as ANSI/American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)/Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Standard 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-rise Residential Buildings, International Energy Conservation Code® (IECC®) and International Green Construction Code® (IgCC®), minimum HVAC pipe insulation thicknesses currently range from ½” to 1-½”.
Top concerns with HVAC pipe insulation on cold (below-ambient) lines include condensation, corrosion under insulation, UV protection and mold growth.
Aeroflex’s Aerocel® brand of EPDM HVAC pipe insulation is hydrophobic, which means that it does not induce or react with water vapor present in its surrounding environment. With the proper insulation thickness installed, as determined by pipe service temperature, pipe type, pipe size, ambient temperature, relative humidity and jacketing, Aerocel EPDM will control condensation with its closed-cell structure and built-in vapor retarder.
When all HVAC pipe insulation seams are properly sealed and taped with an Aerocel adhesive and zero-perm Protape®, pipes will be well-protected from the potential of water vapor permeating the insulation system. In extreme environments where low HVAC piping service temperatures and high ambient temperatures and humidity are factors, a supplemental vapor barrier may be required.
Aerocel EPDM elastomeric insulation is inherently mold-resistant so no biocides are added during the manufacturing process. This type of refrigerant, chilled water and plumbing pipe insulation will not provide a food or water source for microbes provided that it is kept free of surface dust, debris and condensation.
Although Aerocel EPRM elastomeric foam pipe insulation is naturally UV-resistant, which means that it degrades at a slower rate than traditional NBR/PVC rubber pipe insulation, national energy codes require that the manufacturer’s protective coating be applied for exterior applications to prevent solar radiation degradation.
Regarding material cost for elastomeric insulation for HVAC, refrigeration, chilled water and plumbing piping, closed-cell elastomeric foam pipe insulation itself is more expensive than traditional fiberglass pipe insulation. However, when protective jacketing is specified and installed with fiberglass, the cost difference is usually minimal. In the long run, building owners can realize a favorable cost of ownership with closed cell elastomeric foam pipe insulation on their building mechanical systems.
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