Historically building design has concealed mechanical components such as pipes, ducts, and insulation, behind walls and ceiling panels. Insulation for these systems, like HVAC, is and has been focused on energy efficiency, acoustical control, mechanical protection, and condensation control. Insulation’s outward appearance has traditionally been overlooked and was insignificant to the overall application until recently. New design trends have created a need for HVAC insulation materials that not only meet technical requirements, but also offer aesthetic appeal. Interior design and open concept style can now be impacted by mechanical systems and designers want insulation materials that work as specified but also look good while doing it. Our technical experts are often asked if exposed AP/ArmaFlex insulation can be painted to keep décor style consistent and we’ve got the answer.
For interior applications, painting mechanical insulation with regular latex or oil based paint is not a practice that Armacell recommends or endorses as our insulation solutions have to meet specific flame and smoke ratings called Fire Hazard Classification ratings. In HVAC systems particularly, materials need to have a Fire Hazard Classification rating of 25 or less flame spread index and 50 or less smoke developed index (typically referred to as 25/50) for return air plenum installations. These numbers are established using standardized test methods like ASTM E-84, The Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials, and UL 723 Standard for Test for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. While it may be tempting for interior designers to omit insulation to maintain aesthetics, that is a risky approach as the system or building may fail to meet code requirements. Secondly, controlling temperature variation is crucial to optimizing building energy efficiency and managing energy costs. Lastly, uninsulated ducts can be prone to condensation – especially in humid climates. Cold ducts that are uninsulated and exposed to warmer ambient temperatures can drip condensation into the open-concept occupant space below, a very unpleasant experience for people that can lead to wet floors which is a safety concern. Condensation can also lead to mold, mildew, indoor air quality issues, corrosion under the insulation, and system downtime.
Armacell Has Answers
To help with indoor design aesthetics, ArmaFlex® WB Finish, a white, water-based, flexible, 100% acrylic coating can be used on AP/ArmaFlex insulation products. This coating provides a moisture-resistant protective finish and is engineered for greater durability and flexibility to resist cracking. The water-based formulation also allows the coating to dry without fumes and be cleaned with simple soap and water. ArmaFlex WB Finish can even be tinted with 4 oz of quality tint per gallon to match certain colors of décor. AP/ArmaFlex LapSeal White and AP/ArmaFlex White pipe insulation are other options to provide a sleek covering to exposed ducts and pipes due to the clean, off-white surface. Being light in color, this solution helps meet aesthetic requirements that are common in open ceilings and public-space applications, and it doesn’t require a primer like black AP/ArmaFlex making it an excellent option for designers and architects who have a desire for energy efficiency but want to keep true to their design.