mechanical insulation

5 Facts Contractors Should Know About Mechanical Insulation

Mechanical insulation systems play a key role in greater mechanical systems overall, helping to regulate temperature and providing a lot of other essential benefits. However, many contractors trying to expand their services into this field don’t fully understand what it encompasses as well as how to best manage it. Others make the mistake of automatically folding this into the concept of residential insulation when in reality, it’s entirely different. So, with this said, here are some essential facts that all contractors looking at the industry should be thinking about.

Not All Insulation is the Same

The average layman may confuse mechanical insulation with the insulation that they have in their houses on the roofs of walls. However, this is something entirely different. The type in most residential homes is building envelope insulation. Mechanical insulation is generally used to either insulate equipment or processes. Many common examples include insulation applied to pipe and ductwork. It also gets a lot of use in the industrial field to insulate equipment. This provides a few key benefits:

  • -Protecting workers from burns
  • -Reducing noise on systems that handle air
  • -Keeping the temperature of a substance in equipment at a proper level, not unlike building envelope insulation

Pretty much all commercial and industrial buildings use mechanical insulation in some capacity, but the type of insulation and application can vary a lot. 

mechanical insulation
Photo By Oil and Gas Photographer

There Are Many Different Material Options on the Table

If you’re looking for possible insulation choices, there’s certainly no shortage of potential options. Some of the more common ones include:

  • -Cellular insulation
  • -Flake insulation
  • -Granular insulation
  • -Reflective insulation
  • -Fibrous insulation

Which one is the best fit is largely contingent on what the project entails. For example, cellular insulation can comprise many materials, from plastic to glass, and consists of tiny chambers. With this and its versatility in terms of form/density, it’s great for a cheap area where water is a concern. On the other hand, fibrous installation is more popular for soundproofing or reducing the transferral of heat. Part of the work of mechanical insulation contractors is being able to identify the pertinent issue and recommend a type of insulation based on said issue.

Mechanical Insulation is Underrated for Energy Efficiency

On paper, it makes sense that mechanical insulation would do a lot for a structure’s energy efficiency. Keeping the hot/cool air from being released in the environment means that you don’t need to turn the temperature as high or low. In turn, this means lower emissions, better cost savings, and other benefits. But why is mechanical insulation rarely discussed in these contexts?

A lot of this has to do with the current green rating systems, like LEED certification. Right now, these systems don’t allow mechanical insulation to be considered as a stand-alone basis to get energy credits. However many studies show that adding insulation beyond what’s minimally required can do a lot for a structure, sometimes allowing it to use a smaller heating or cooling system due to efficiency. 

One study focused on mechanical insulation use in schools and hospitals showcases this in great detail. Schools saved roughly 20% of their total energy usage with insulation in place. For hospitals, this went up to a massive 78%. In some cases, insulation is a flat-out necessity to avoid excessive energy distribution losses. So, if your commercial structure is inefficient in terms of energy, this may be a good place to start. 

Your Clients Should Invest in Maintenance Plans From the Beginning

Ultimately, you have to heed what your customers want, and if that means skipping over this option, that’s their decision. However, you should at least be able to lay out the argument for it in order for them to make an informed decision. Part of the problem with insulation issues is that they are difficult to detect on their own. Chances are the average commercial or residential property owner isn’t looking at their ductwork on a regular basis. Because of this, problems with insulation only manifest when the customer sees their utility bill, and even then, it may take some time to put 2 and 2 together.

The best way to get ahead of this, especially for commercial installations, is just having a maintenance plan where one of your technicians examines the insulation once a year. This can save your clients a lot of frustration and concern at only a small additional price. After all, over time, the plan will pay for itself in terms of saved repair costs.

The lack of consideration for repair is another one of the major reasons why insulation energy efficiency is underrated overall. Between 10 and 30% of all mechanical insulation is either damaged or missing. This makes it impossible for it to properly do its job in a commercial or industrial setting.

mechanical insulation
Photo By Branka Tasevski

Project Management Software is an Essential Addition to Your Work

Part of what makes mechanical insulation work so complex is all the different elements you are juggling. The same contractor could be required to handle two different installations that require extremely different mechanical insulation materials and procedures. Keeping track of doing things properly and how this variance affects your bottom line is essential. This is why, no matter what mechanical insulation layouts you use, you should be implementing project management software like eSUB.

How does eSub help mechanical insulation contractors? For one, our cloud storage means that you can put blueprints and other essential documents in a place where your remote and office teams can access them, keeping things on the same page. Having handy organizational and analytic tools for your finances ensure that you are doing things as efficiently as possible. Finally, we operate on a modular system. This means you only buy what you need, with the option to upgrade later. With the wide variety of work that mechanical insulation covers, this makes for a great fit.