Appropriate design, the correct choice of quality materials, and proper installation can drastically reduce the possibility of a compromised insulation system. Mechanical systems benefit from insulation’s ability to provide energy efficiency, condensation prevention, elimination of moisture intrusion, and protection. Too frequently, it is assumed that any insulation product would be suitable for any application. However, this generalization can lead to condensation buildup, corrosion, maintenance call-backs, energy waste, and even system failure, especially on below ambient or cold systems. There are a variety of insulation and jacketing choices, but often the lowest cost product is selected rather than the one that best meets the job criteria, which may result in system failure later. Since all insulation systems require a degree of maintenance, and some materials may require considerably more than others, it is vital that the proper initial installation of insulation be completed for the best defense against failure.

Mechanical insulation failures can occur for a variety of reasons, including improper design for the application, faulty materials, poor installation techniques, environmental exposure, or damage to the insulation, like moisture ingress. Cold systems where the ambient space is unconditioned can have a particular concern for the issue of surface mold. Proper specification of materials and installation preparation is often all it takes to prevent insulation damage that can cause a system failure. When looking at materials, designers must examine the physical properties of the material and correct thickness requirements. Design should also consider the building envelope, building use, maintenance that will be available after the job is completed, as well as the desired energy savings when the building is operating.

The best way to reduce the threat of insulation failure on chilled systems is to use a low permeable, flexible, closed-cell insulation material that resists moisture absorption/wicking like ArmaFlex® pipe insulation which will make an efficient thermal barrier. The closed-cell foam structure offers excellent water-vapor transmission properties, which reduce the need for additional vapor retarders. ArmaFlex also has Microban® antimicrobial product protection which inhibits the growth of mold and mildew in the insulation. For residential and light commercial applications, Armacell’s Tubolit®, Imcoa® and Tundra® products are practical, cost-effective solutions for energy efficient pipe insulation.  Available in semi-slit and self-seal configurations, these polyethylene foam tubes can be easily installed by homeowners. Similar to ArmaFlex, PE pipe insulation comes in 6-foot lengths, and requires no special tools for installation. Both Tubolit and Imcoa also come in a white self-seal option where a clean aesthetic is important.

With Armacell’s wide portfolio of solutions, designers, engineers, specifiers, and HVAC-R installers can rely on a long lasting, energy efficient insulation product that will retain its thermal integrity over time.