Coping with the Expense of Heat Loss from Damaged Insulation

Industrial plant insulation is essential for operations in tens of thousands of businesses — and it’s everywhere. For example, a medium-sized oil refinery contains 356 miles of insulated piping and more than 1.4 million square feet (25 football fields worth) of insulated equipment, vessels and tanks. Plant temperatures can easily exceed 1100°F, making insulation essential to protecting personnel and maintaining operational efficiency.

Problem is, the installed insulation in many cases is not promptly or properly maintained. An industry rule of thumb indicates that 10 to 20 percent of exposed insulation becomes damaged or missing within three years of installation.  The impact of  this damage in the form of expensive heat loss can be substantial; damaged insulation cladding can allow water to penetrate into the insulation, which causes corrosion. Corrosion in turn leads to energy waste, downtime, repairs and potential replacement.

Projected heat loss and expenses due to damaged insulation can be substantial. Just how much could be saved by stemming these losses was illustrated by the results of a survey conducted by the Department of Energy as part of its “Save Energy Now” (SEN) program. The names of the companies and their savings from improved insulation is now posted online.