Numerous industrial applications require protection against heat gain or heat loss. Thermal insulation is a technique used to slow down or completely prevent the flow of heat from equipment to the surrounding areas.
Different applications require different types of thermal insulation. Insulation can help to maximize energy efficiency, ensure safety against hot surfaces, maintain the desired temperature in industrial processes, ensure sanitation, and protect equipment against corrosion and fire hazards.
The right thermal insulation can make all the difference in terms of achieving the objectives of an industrial project. Read on to learn how to select the appropriate thermal insulation for your needs.
The first step in selecting thermal insulation is to consider your specific project requirements. Depending on your project objectives, some factors to consider include:
- Life cycle costs: This includes the cost of purchasing, installing and maintaining the insulation.
- Worker safety: If workers regularly come into contact with equipment in high or low heat, appropriate insulation should be used to keep surface temperatures to a safe level.
- Corrosion concerns: The corrosion resistance of the surface you want to insulate can affect the choice of insulation.
- Fire hazards: Some applications present high fire risks and, therefore, require non-combustible insulation.
These considerations will help you weigh the pros and cons of different insulation solutions.
Industrial processes take place within specific temperature ranges. Some — such as refrigeration — are low-temperature processes, while others—including boiling and incinerating — are high-temperature processes. Yet other processes, such as water heating, involve mid-range temperatures.
Each of these processes requires a distinct type of insulation. For example, low-heat applications require insulation that can keep the process temperatures very low, while high-heat applications require insulation that can minimize heat loss and ensure that process temperature ranges do not fall below 700° C.
Mechanical composition refers to the inherent construction and structure of the insulation. Whether used in low-, medium-, or high-heat applications, insulation comes in many different types based on its mechanical properties.
The three main categories of insulation include granular, cellular, and fibrous insulation.
Granular insulators feature small, hollow lumps filled with gas. Granular insulation may be in liquid form or can be combined with a substance such as fiber to produce solid insulation material. Common types of granular insulation include cellulose, open cell polystyrene, and calcium silicate.
The mechanical structure of cellular insulators consists of autonomous cells. Examples include elastomeric, closed cell polystyrene, and polyurethane.
Fibrous insulators consist of tiny fibers that lie at a 90-degree angle or horizontal to the surface you are insulating. Examples include mineral-wool and glass-fiber insulation.
The physical properties of insulation refer to the shape or form of the insulation material. Below are examples of common forms of insulation:
- Foam: Foam insulators are available in a pourable form and can be sprayed or spread out on the surface you are insulating. These insulators are suitable for construction projects.
- Blankets: Some insulators come in the form of flexible blankets. These are mostly fibrous insulators and are largely useful in high-heat applications.
- Sheets: Sheets are thinner than blanket-type insulators. Insulators with a fiber or cellular construction are commonly available as sheets.
- Rigid: Some insulators are available in the form of solid boards, preformed blocks, or piping. Rigid-form insulators are further available as fibrous, cellular, and granular types of insulation.
To ensure proper fit and installation, consider your project goals and specific application requirements when selecting the appropriate form of insulation.
Thermal insulation is a significant but necessary investment in many industrial applications. To get value for money, work with a reputable provider who will install the right insulation for your industrial processes. Call A M Refrigeration Service today for all your high- and low-temperature insulation needs.