The Benefits Of Mechanical Insulation Energy Appraisals

The European industrial insulation Foundation (EiiF) released a report in 2012 that found that the power sector in the EU was bleeding energy.  The report1 found that there were three major steps the industry could take to decrease energy waste:

  1. Replace damaged insulation currently in service
  2. Install new insulation on surfaces that are currently not insulated
  3. Upgrade thicknesses of existing insulated systems to cost-effective levels

If the industry invested in these three demonstrable actions, they could reduce the amount of heat loss by the equivalent output of fifteen 500 MW coal fired power plants and the annual CO2 emissions of eighteen million cars!

Clearly installing and maintaining a properly designed mechanical insulation system needs to be an essential component of every facility’s operations plan.  These systems affect everyone in the organization  from the equipment operators to the CFO.  Now that we understand the magnitude of the implications of not acting, how do we obtain a methodical and empirical evaluation of our mechanical piping and process systems? The simple answer: certified energy appraisals.

Energy appraisers can be certified by a number of different organizations, including the National Insulation Association (NIA).  In order to become NIA certified, appraisers must take an intensive class with a proctored final examination. The class educates students on the benefits of mechanical insulation systems and trains them to provide insulation energy appraisals to facility owners.  Several tools are provided to graduates of the course that facilitate the energy appraisal process which will produce quantifiable outputs and provide the owner the following data:

  • Inventoried surfaces vs. potentially upgraded surface
    1. Heat Flow
    2. Cost of energy
    3. COemissions
    4. NOx emissions
  • Cost to operate current system
  • Cost to operate with new proposed insulation thickness
  • Reduction in heat flow
  • Reduction in emissions

Johns Manville Industrial Insulation Group currently employs four certified insulation energy appraisers, and we offer this valuable service for the very low price of free to qualified facility maintenance and engineering departments throughout North America.

I have personally performed several of these appraisals and am always amazed by the telling results – regardless of the size of the facility.  Many people believe that if their system is small, the resultant cost savings  are not worth evaluating.  This misconception could prove to be a costly oversight.  A perfect example of this was  a small-scale energy appraisal I did at a craft distillery in Washington state.   This local small business has been experiencing tremendous growth and needed to expand to three  shifts to meet production demand.  Not only do they run three shifts, but they also offer distillery tours for visitors and patrons. A friend of mine contacted me after touring the distillery where he noticed that all the steam pipes were bare, and throughout the tour, he saw  this very nice, custom-made sign:

The uninsulated steam pipes running from the boiler to the masher and distilling units will burn anyone who accidentally touches them.  When I spoke to the production manager and brought up the concept of installing thermal insulation on the steam pipes, he was immediately intrigued because it would improve safety, process control and reduce their natural gas bill.

We then scheduled a time to come back and perform an insulation energy appraisal.  The appraisal determined that he could achieve a potential cost savings of $4,628/year by simply installing 2” thick fiberglass pipe insulation. Additionally, the insulation will reduce their natural gas consumption by 3,790 therms/year.

Working with the local JM market development manager, Sean Reynolds, we provided a list of several insulation contractors to bid the project.  The distillery chose a quote to furnish and install the insulation for a cost of under $4,000.  Not only did the appraisal quantify a less than 12 month ROI on this project, I also discovered an energy conservation program offered by their natural gas utility that will pay them a cash rebate equal to the installed cost of the job!  Bottom line, they will get a “free” mechanical insulation system that will provide economic pay back for years to come, reduce steam production time on the boiler and protect workers and guests from being burned. Not only will their system have safe–to-touch surface temperatures, but it will all be covered in an attractive, washable jacketing.

While our brew master has made an art out of the distilling process, his system lacked the finesse of an energy efficient operation. Despite the fact that his system was small when compared to some of the industrial operations we are all familiar with, the insulation energy appraisal was able to provide him tangible, money-saving steps to improve his system.    If you believe that your facility could benefit from an insulation energy appraisal, please feel free to contact us to discuss this valuable opportunity via this link (