Water pipe insulation is one of the primary ways to winterize plumbing in the home. Insulating the pipes in exposed areas of the home, pump house, shed, or garage is a must if you live in an area where winter temperatures reach freezing. Water pipe insulation can save money by preventing wasteful heat loss and most importantly it can prevent frozen or broken pipes. Water pipe insulation also prevents pipes from sweating which can cause damage where the moisture accumulates.
There are various types of water pipe insulation. Take a look at the two most common forms of insulating material and how to install them.
Pipe Wrap: There is the traditional pipe wrap insulation. This type of insulation is available many different materials such as regular fiberglass and plastic, foil backed fiberglass, foil backed natural cotton, and rubber pipe insulation tape. There are others as well, but these are the most common materials that are readily available in home improvement stores. Pipe wrap insulation is easy to install. You simply duct tape one end (if its not already self adhesive) and wrap the insulation around the pipe overlapping it by at least 1/2 an inch. Completely cover the pipe taking care to not leave any areas, especially corners, exposed.
Tubular Sleeve: Pipe wrap insulation is fine when insulating small amounts of pipe, but consider tubular sleeve when more pipe needs to be covered. Most tubular sleeves are available in 6 foot tubes so you can cover a lot of ground quickly. The tubular sleeves can be made of either foam or rubber insulation and both are usually available in the self sealing option. Installing tubular sleeve water pipe insulation is very easy. The sides of the tubular sleeves can be split open and duct taped back together once they are on the pipe. To make it faster and easier you can purchase sleeves that are self sealing. It is easy to trim the sleeves to the correct length for each pipe. The corners should be cut to fit tight using miter angles and then duct taped into place for extra protection. It is also a good idea to use duct tape periodically on the run in case the self sealing adhesive decides to give way.
- When selecting water pipe insulation you may want to consider the R-value of a given material as part of the comparison of the various options. R-value means the resistance to heat flow of a given material. The higher the R-value the greater the insulating power of that material. The R-value does not have to be displayed on pipe insulation so you may need to do a little research. The colder the climate the higher the R-value you should look for in pipe insulation.
- Remove any dirt or grease from the pipes before insulating. No matter what type of insulation you are putting on it’s a good idea to give the pipes a quick once over to help the insulation stick better. If you use a cleaner or anything damp make sure it is dry before installing the insulation. Any moisture could cause some of the insulation to come loose.
- Check on the pipe insulation regularly. Even though you may have insulated the pipes the year before it is a good idea to double check that it is still in good condition and the pipes are completely covered each winter. The duct tape and self sealing adhesive on the insulation can come loose over time and expose parts of the pipe. If the pipes are not completely covered reseal those areas before winter temperatures drop causing frozen or broken pipes.