6 best types of Pipe Insulation: Foam, Fiberglass, Outdoor, Copper

Are you feeling like those ABS pipes aren’t doing what they’re supposed to?

Amongst the several comforts of the modern world, running a hot shower in winters continues to top the list. But your convenience comes at an expense! Either you’ve to bear the high utility costs for an endless supply of hot water, or you’ve to settle for room temperature water. Now, what if we were to tell you that there’s a solution that covers all your bases. Insulation is just the solution that fits your modern lifestyle and its comforts. It promises to cut down on utility costs and improve thermal performance. Additionally, it provides added safety measures so you can enjoy hot baths with utmost ease.

pipe insulators

Material types

Once you’ve recognized the need for insulation, you must identify the material that best serves your need. Whether the issue at hand is to improve energy efficiency or prevent corrosion, you must make the right choice. Picking the wrong material can lead to additional overhaul costs and an overall nuisance.

So here are the 6 best types of pipe insulation materials:

plumbing

Rigid Foam

When focusing on thermal performance and efficiency, polyurethane-foam tubing works best. A temperature resistance ranging from -50 °C to 135 °C, it has a low heat transfer coefficient and high R-value.

The value determines the degree to which the material can prevent heat transfer. Therefore, the material is ideal for insulating domestic water pipes and central heating systems. On one side, it maintains and on the other it prevents freezing. It creates an impenetrable setting, protecting the lines from mold or water damage. In terms of structural integrity, rigid foam assures stability and durability. The only downside is that setting up rigid foam may cost you a pretty penny, but even then, in the long run, the cost is justifiable. Ultimately, with polyurethane foam, you’re saving costs as utility bills go down and you spend less fixing water damage.

Fiberglass

It’s a material that has earned a reputation for being the jack-of-all-trades. It remains a popular choice amongst homeowners as it offers all the desired qualities at an affordable price. The fiberglass insulation is relatively easy to set up, but any miscalculation in cutting the material can drastically reduce the thermal performance. Otherwise, it’s highly reliable and durable when installed as per instructions. The material offers a wide range of R-value, but on average, it’s high enough to have a competitive advantage over other materials.

Along with higher energy efficiency, it reduces sound transmissions. And while you’re enjoying reduced utility costs, you can also stop worrying about moisture building up in the fiberglass. Overall, the material offers a vast reduction in cost and an eco-friendly option.

Rubber

A unique solution is required for a problem as grave as fluctuating temperatures and their adverse effects on the pipe’s structure. Luckily, rubber is the ideal material for enveloping outdoor lines.

Since it provides room for the pipe to expand and contract, you no longer have to worry about working with metallic pipes. And not just that, you can prolong your hot showers because rubber covering can maintain high temperatures for long. Gone are the days of worrying in harsh winters, as rubber prevents freezing. Furthermore, with the material’s structural integrity, you can easily reach tight spaces without worrying about lasting damage. And if all that wasn’t enough to get you onboard, rubber’s affordability and ease of installation is a selling feature. In fact, with self-seal rubber covers, you might even save cost on a professional setup.

In this category, EPDM is a strong contender!

Polyethylene Foam

If you’re in the market looking for a material that not only conserves heat but ensures a durable experience, polyethylene is ideal for you. It’s water-resistant, which leaves no room for mold or mildew infestation. And it securely holds the pipe in place, while the slits within the structure allow for a comfortable fit. In addition to being environment-friendly, polyethylene ones come at an affordable price. So now, with utmost ease and low cost, you can set up efficient thermal insulation. The only downside is that it doesn’t leave much room for expanding. Thus, it might not be ideal for places with varying temperatures.

Glass wool

A synthetic fiber engineered to improve the thermal efficiency of the building. Due to its low thermal conductivity and operating temperature of about 300°C, it insulates both cold and hot systems expeditiously.

As the energy efficiency is improved, your utility costs reduce over time while maintaining the same level of activity. Apart from being highly cost-effective, the material is mainly made from recyclable material. Thus, it’s environment-friendly. In addition, glass wool insulation improves the acoustic performance within your home by dampening noise. And since the fabric has a low density, the insulation is relatively easy to set up. If you’re looking for a material that complements your system perfectly, wraps around each curve, and bend effortlessly, glass wool is ideal for you. Like the other materials, glass wool is water repellant, so a bacterial or mold infestation is entirely out of the question.

pipes on a wall

Mineral wool

When a material is synthesized from eco-friendly options and offers greater thermal efficiency and acoustic performance, it’s hard to look elsewhere.

Mineral wool has a high R-value, so rest assured it dramatically improves the thermal performance within pipes carrying scorching water. As less heat is lost, less energy is required to keep your home warm and cozy, hence, lower utility costs. Mineral wool insulation provides the added benefit of lowering carbon dioxide emissions while improving the air quality within your home. However, with greater benefits comes a slightly higher cost. But over time, the cost proves to be highly justifiable as the utility and maintenance costs are significantly reduced. Essentially, the one-time setup cost can be seen as an investment into a better future!

What to look for

Before you take on an insulation project, it’s essential to consider the following factors:

Climate

Cold weather demands thicker insulation to protect the pipe from bursting or forming icicles, whereas hotter weather requires thinner insulation. Therefore, you need to identify which climate is prevalent in the area you live. If the winters are harsher and longer, you need to settle for thicker insulation to prevent freezing. The thickness can really play a significant role!

Site of insulation

Before you set out to the hardware store, you must have all the sizes measured. From the length of the pipes to their width, you need to look for insulating tubes that perfectly snuggle the lines. If you leave room between the pipes and insulation, not only will it render the material ineffective but negatively impact the structure of the pipes.

How to insulate pipes

With increasing utility costs and the lack of renewable energy, you need to consider insulation, not as a mere possibility but a necessity. Insulation ensures improved thermal performance while drastically cutting down on utility expenses. Essentially, with proper protection, you enhance the overall quality of your life, such as improved air quality and acoustic performance. However, if the wrong material is used or the suitable material is installed wrongly, you may face problems such as leaking pipes, additional repair costs, and damaged equipment. Therefore, to make sure you don’t have to face those issues, we have the following divisions for insulation.

By function

While the overall purpose of any insulating material is to improve thermal efficiency, each material has distinct characteristics. Therefore, we determine which material best fits a particular pipe with these peculiar qualities. For outdoors, the requirement is a material that expands and contracts, securely holding the pipe regardless of the weather. In contrast, a water pipe requires a material that can guarantee no leaks and heat loss as water flows a great distance. Similarly, when it comes to a stovepipe, leakage-free material becomes necessary as failure in that department could cause severe damage.

Water pipes

Securing the water pipes against potential leakage is a valid reason for better protection and covering, but it’s not the only one. Varying temperatures often alter the structure of the water pipes, thus, compromising their functionality. For instance, colder climates risk bursting if no proper insulation is provided and water going everywhere. Therefore, polyethylene or rigid foam is recommended to improve thermal performance.

The PE or foam material is available as pre-cut sleeves with adhesive on the lumen of the tube. First, you have to position the sleeve along the water pipe and insert the line through the slit on the foam tube. Once the tube is securely placed, remove the adhesive tape cover and press along the slit to close it. If the water pipe curves at a specific place, you can cut the foam to wrap around. Lastly, run a utility knife along the foam tube and place additional tape where two tubes meet.

Outdoor

When it comes to pipes within the house, the central issue is energy loss or poor acoustic performance. However, the problems are much direr with outdoor ones and demand immediate action.

Since they are exposed to changing climates, their behavior mirrors the temperature. In hotter seasons, the lines may heat up, and if not adequately protected, could prove to be a fire hazard. In contrast, as the water inside freezes in colder seasons, you are at risk of bursting happening in your home. And not just that, the water outside condenses, forming icicles. Therefore, it’s imperative to introduce either polyethylene foam insulation for improved thermal conductivity and to prevent freezing. Otherwise, rubber can allow the pipes underneath to expand, thus, accommodating colder climates.

pipe insulation

Since the PE foam is available in pre-cut sleeves, all you’ve to do is place it on the desired pipes and press down on the self-seal ends. Unfortunately, the rubber might not be readily available in pre-measured lengths. So you might have to make cuts once the rubber tube covers a particular distance. However, the rubber tubes also come with a layer of glue that you can press down upon to secure the material in place. Lastly, don’t forget to add duct tape between two sleeves or cut portions of the PE or rubber tubes.

For this purpose, we encourage you to look into something like a closed-cell elastomeric option that is a great way to control condensation and more!

Stove

When it comes to gas stoves, the requirements for the right material shifts a little bit. Thermal conductivity is no longer the priority. Rather a leakage-free setting and a fire-resistant material is required. Typically, any non-combustible insulation could be ideal. However, practically, mineral wool and glass wool, though non-flammable, are bulky and would spoil the outlook of your kitchen. Therefore, light material in both look and density could work. The most preferred material for stoves is rigid foam or polyethylene tubes.

If you plan on installing the protection yourself, you need to make sure the stovepipe exterior is clean of any debris or dust. Next, if the foam is pre-cut, you wrap it around the pipe, and if not, measure a section and cut the foam tube accordingly. Once placed firmly on the surface, remove the adhesive sticker and apply pressure on the sleeve. Lastly, secure the entire setting with duct tape.

For places where fire endurance and high temperatures are a concern, calcium silicate is a great option to look into to provide the jacketing you’re looking for!

PVC

The consensus is that PVC doesn’t require insulation as they have all the needed features. Since PVC has a decent R-value, it prevents thermal loss and dampens the noise to some extent. However, the PVC fails against any electrical damage fully on the electric side of things. All you need to do is wrap around an electrical heat tape around. The tape will protect against any electric leaks and even serve as an insulator come winter season.

Should you choose to install anything on top of it anyway, CPVC is a great option!

Copper

The metal itself is celebrated for its high thermal conductivity. However, it’s prone to heat loss. Thus, copper could benefit from proper protection against the cold. To save cost on utilities and conserve heat, you must opt for a foam sleeve.

Please measure the length of the pipe and divide it into easily manageable sections. For each section, cut a sleeve of foam. Wrap it around the line and press down on the adhesive tape within the seams. Secure the insulation with duct tape between two sleeves and cut around any faucets, if necessary.

Pex

Cross-linked polyethylene is used in water distribution systems due to their high heat resistance and durability. So you may wonder, does PEX even need insulation? And while they can withstand low temperatures with much ease, if the temperature drops below -6°C, even PEX is bound to freeze. Therefore, to avoid any permanent damage or additional repair cost, you’re advised to go for foam as the material of choice.

Simply, select the foam tubes with the appropriate width and wrap them around the PEX. Don’t forget to snuggle it with duct tape.

sink

AC

When it comes to AC or HVAC systems, you’ve got several options at your disposal. From fiberglass to Polyethylene foam, it’s simply a matter of preference. Where PE foam is relatively straightforward to install, fiberglass is the cheaper option. Therefore, the final decision is an apparent battle between ease and affordability.

If you choose PE foam, all you need to do is firmly place it on the pipe and press down on the self-seal ends. And if you decide to go with fiberglass, you can either call for help or select a self-seal tube and install it as you would a PE foam tube.

Rubber

Like plastic ones, rubber ones don’t require insulation as the material is capable enough to perform the desired functions. It is excellent at maintaining thermal performance and can withstand varying temperatures.

Ready to continue your search? Perlite, Polyolefin and Rockwool and cellular glass like FOAMGLAS for your cladding needs! Whether you have cryogenic needs, or something slightly less extreme, we’re sure you’ll find what you’re looking for.

What are the different types of pipe insulation materials?

Rigid foam, fiberglass, rubber, glass wool, Polyethylene foam are just some of the various materials. The best one depends on your needs.

What is the best type of pipe insulation?

Rigid foam. For most people, rigid foam will be the best option. However, for some purposes, it isn’t.

Which is the most common type of pipe insulation?

Fiberglass.

Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to insulate exposed hot water pipes

  1. Determine the appropriate type of insulation

  2. Position the sleeve by prying open the sleeve.

  3. Slide it over the pipe at which point it should tuck around.

  4. Seal the seam according to the manufacturer’s recommendations

  5. Tape the seams between different sleeves.

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