Pipe Insulation: How to Do It Alone?

pipe insulation
One of the best ways to conserve energy and reduce heat loss, especially during the cold months of the year, is by insulating your pipes. This can help you reduce heating costs and prevent condensation and freezing. Additionally, you’ll notice that hot water is delivered faster if you insulate your pipes.

As you can see, the advantages far outweigh the hassle of pipe insulation. And it’s not even that difficult to do! However, it does take some patience and materials. It’s also important to know what kind of pipes you need to insulate. Let’s get to it!

Common Types of Pipes

There are three main pipes for plumbing systems in Ireland. Let’s take a look at them.

PVC pipes

These are very popular because of their low price and benefits. PVC is a long-lasting material and doesn’t corrode. However, you may need a water filter because pipes can have residues of chemicals from their manufacture.

Copper pipes

These pipes not only look great for a Steampunk setting: they’re also strong, require almost no maintenance and are generally made of recycled material. However, they’re costly and corrode like any metal.

PEX pipes

These are newer plastic-type pipes which have become a staple in new installations thanks to their strength and flexibility. They’re also very durable, as it’s estimated they can last more than 100 years. The only disadvantage is that plastic can get into the water for some time after installation. It goes away eventually.

Pipe Insulation Materials

There are several materials for insulating pipes, including fibreglass, foam, and vinyl. These come in different forms, too. For example, there are foam rubber insulation tubes which fit tight around the pipe, while fibreglass wraps have self-adhesive strips to attach them to the pipes.

Polyethene foam sleeves and vinyl are also popular choices thanks to their easier installation and lower costs. Ultimately, choose the one you prefer the most. All of them will work as intended.

Hot Water Pipe Insulation, Step-by-step

Fortunately, the same general ideas can be used for PVC, PEX and copper pipe insulation. Consider that you need to insulate, if possible, all pipes from the water heater up to the distribution points.

You’ll need:
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Duct tape
  • Protective gear
  • Caulking gun (optional)

Let’s take a look at a typical step-by-step scenario now.

1- Measure the pipes: The first thing you should do is measure the pipes in order to know how much material you need. Take notes of every section separately; you’ll need them for later.

2- Choose the insulation material: You know some of the features of popular materials, but there’s much more to it. You need to consider your particular situation when deciding on one. Each one has its own caveats, too.

For example, when it comes to fiberglass insulation, it’s recommended to use material with 2.54 cm of thickness at the very least. Research properly before deciding.

3- Cut the material: Now that you have decided on the material, take your previous notes and cut it according to the different pipe sections. Add about 5 cm at each end to ensure proper coverage.

4- Install the material: Depending on your choices, you’ll need to follow different instructions.
  • Foam tubes and polyethylene foam slides: stretch them slightly when applying over the pipes, leaving no gaps or air. Use duct tape around them at regular intervals for better fixing.
  • Fibreglass and vinyl: Each manufacturer has different instructions; follow them closely. Typically, you’ll need to fix them by peeling an adhesive strip and then using duct tape along the way.
5- Re-check for air leaks: If you find any gaps, you can use a caulking gun or more duct tape to seal these. It’ll prevent air (and consequently heat) from leaking from the pipes.

Don’t forget to wear protective gear! Gloves are essential since you’ll be touching hot surfaces, and goggles aren’t a bad idea if working from below the pipes.

If you have older piping installed with asbestos, don’t remove it! Breathing this material can cause mesothelioma, a very aggressive type of cancer, among other health issues.

Even though the task is not so complicated, a lot of work and planning is required. If it feels too much, or you need a hand, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can set you up with the right professionals in your area today!

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