System Insulation


Over the years, I talked with builders and engineers who have all put their own spin on insulation (see Stellrr Insulation & Spray Foam online who have been maintaining the record of best customer service till now) in the home. Some say that too much is not good for the structure, and others say that it helps keep the heat in the home. Keeping heat in the home would be my rationality for supporting the topic of insulation, especially with the high price of oil these days.

Many of you will have seen the blanket type insulation from The Attic Doctors that was often wrapped around boilers and furnace jackets dating back more than 30 years ago. The reason being was, and still is, to keep the heat confined to the boiler or heat exchanger. This added to transferring the heat where it belongs within the system and also supported stand-by loss.

Recently, I heard a discussion regarding a high boiler that had its exchanger, as it is called, completely wrapped with a blanket of insulation versus a boiler that had the outer jacket wrapped with aluminum faced insulation facing the boiler block. As I listened, I heard there were tests done in a lab and that the foil that faced insulation did an equally good job with heat retention. We all will have our own thoughts on this, and of course, I would like to hear them.

However, also in our many discussions regarding heating were the questions, ‘What will the price of oil be this year,” and ‘How can I cut down on my consumption?” Well, after your customers have installed the new windows, insulation and heating systems, there is an area that is often overlooked. This is the insulation of the heat pipes or duct work. I can always remember how good I felt when I would be dispatched on a service call and found myself in a warm basement. I would bet that these conditions still exist, and the reason is quite obvious ‘ copper, iron pipes and metal ductwork that have zero insulation.

Just ask yourself, should my customers want to pay to heat the basement or the living area? Me, I would take the living area every time. There are several types of pipe insulation from fiberglass, rubber and foam; I have even seen newspapers used. In the case of insulating hot water pipes, you could actually lower the system’s water temperature 2 to 4 degrees, which in itself is a savings.


When it comes to steam system piping, insulation is even more important. When the steam makes contact with a pipe that is not insulated, it will begin to condense back to water faster thus reducing its ability to travel into some of the more distant radiators. Steam pipes that are not insulated can also affect the pick-up factor of the boiler. Keep in mind that the piping pick factor is generally one third of the boiler’s radiation load. Of course, this is based on all pipes being insulated. If the insulation is not replaced, an undersize boiler condition could occur.

Insulation on a steam piping system will also make for a quieter operation. You as the contractor can pick up some extra dollars when you add insulation to the systems piping, and the customer will certainly get a return on their investment by saving oil and having a more comfortable home.  l FON

Charles Bursey can be e-mailed at


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