Pipe insulation

Pipe insulation

Pipe Insulation is thermal insulation used to prevent heat loss and gain from pipes, to save energy and improve effectiveness of thermal systems.

The benefits include, in addition to reducing costs and environmental impacts of energy consumption: ["3E plus" page on "Benefits of Commercial and Industrial Insulation http://www.pipeinsulation.org/pages_v4/benefits.html]
* Reducing or eliminating condensation on cold pipes.
* Protection from dangerous pipe temperatures.
* In domestic hot-water systems, the water temperature at the point of use can be closer to the temperature at the water heater, and wait time for hot water can be reduced ["Insulate Hot Water Pipes for Energy Savings", US Dept. of Energy, http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13060] .
* Control of noise.
* Reduction of unwanted heat gain to air-conditioned spaces.

Heat flow calculations and R-value

The heat flow through pipe insulation with outer diameter d_o and inner diameter (of the insulation--equal to outer diameter of the pipe) d_i is: Q=frac{ ell 2 pi k Delta T}{ ln(d_o / d_i)}where ell is the length of the pipe, k is the thermal conductivity of the insulation material, and Delta T is the temperature difference between the inner and outer walls of the insulation. If the insulation is sufficiently thick and has sufficiently low thermal conductivity, the outside surface of the insulation will be close to the ambient temperature, and Delta T may be approximated as the temperature difference between the temperature of the fluid in the pipe and the ambient temperature.

The relationship between heat loss and temperature difference may be may be expressed in terms of a thermal resistance R_{th}, defined by Q = Delta T/R_{th}. For pipe insulation,: R_{th}=frac{1}{ ell 2 pi k} ln(frac{d_o}{ d_i}).

For building envelope insulation in rectangular forms, R-value R_v is the thermal resistance of a unit-area (1 square foot or 1 square meter) section of insulation, such that: R_v = R_{th} cdot Awhere A is the surface area over which the thermal resistance is calculated. Applying this to pipe insulation is not straightforward, however, because the surface area used could be either the area of the inner cylinder : A_i = ell pi d_ior the area of the outer cylinder: A_o = ell pi d_o.The resulting R-values would be: R_{v,i}=frac{d_i}{2 k} ln(frac{d_o}{ d_i})or: R_{v,o}=frac{d_o}{2 k} ln(frac{d_o}{ d_i})

R-values of pipe insulation are not covered by the US FTC [http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/rulemaking/rvalue/16cfr460.shtm R-value rule] . R-values quoted by manufacturers normalize the thermal resistance to the outer diameter of the insulation ["Calculating K-factor and R-value", Nomoco K-flex company, http://www.nomacokflex.com/PartnerWeb/pdfs/Technical/Specification%20Bulletins/TS-13%20Calculating%20Kfactor%20R%20Value%2007_04.pdf] , i.e., they provide : R_{v,o}=frac{d_o}{2 k} ln(frac{d_o}{ d_i}).This allows them to quote a higher number, but it is less useful for comparing different insulations because, for a given pipe that needs insulation, A_i is constant independent of the insulation chosen, whereas A_o depends on the insulation chosen.

From the manufacturer's quoted R-value R_{v,o}, on can calculate thermal resistance: R_{th}=R_{v,o}/A = frac{R_{v,o{pi d_o ell}and heat flow: Q = Delta T/R_{th}=frac{Delta T pi d_o ell}{R_{v,o

Note that doing any of these calculations in imperial units (BTU, feet, hours, inches and fahrenheit) is hazardous because there is often a mix of inches and feet used, even within the units for one variable (such as k).

The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association provides [http://www.pipeinsulation.org|free software] for calculating heat loss with and without pipe insulation.

In Europe similar software can be obtained by registering with L'Isolante K-Flex.


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