Simple Energy and Cost Saving Tips – Part V

by | Dec 20, 2012

Cold weather is here and heating is an important part of your energy portfolio. This is part of a continuing series on simple, inexpensive energy saving tips to do that will produce real energy cost savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. Suggestions that will not “put out” your staff, and will make you look like a hero.


Heat loss through un- or poorly insulated pipes or roofs represents a true waste of heat. Pipes carrying steam or hot water (for space heating or for domestic hot water) often must travel hundreds of feet through piping to get from its place of creation (a boiler) to its use (radiator or heat exchanger near key offices or for process purposes). Given the temperature differential between the water and the space outside the pipes or roof, heat can be lost. Installing the right insulation can be a cheap way to keep the heat – created by the combustion of ever expensive fuel – to the intended use and location.

So the first and easiest strategy is to perform a visual inspection. Are all pipes insulated that are handling steam or hot water coming from your equipment going to your building zones? Some unoccupied areas may naturally be ignored in terms of insulation. But heat loss is heat loss. Make sure that all appropriate piping is insulated. Is the insulation actually on the piping? Are there tears or gaps? If you building is old and has not been renovated in a long time, may there be asbestos, which has a major health risk when friable?

If you see deficiencies, you can quickly remedy them. Insulation, which is easy to procure, is measured based on resistance to heat transfer, or R value. Some are graded by its heat conductivity, the inverse of resistance. So, it is preferable to get a high R (or low C) value insulation.  But procuring the highest R value insulation by itself is not necessarily the best strategy. Other factors affecting the right insulation to use include flexibility around different areas, ability to foster mold, sound attenuation, and (water) vapor permeability. Thus, insulation of below grade pipes should probably use vapor impermeable insulation material, such as polystyrene. Typically, insulation is purchased in packages. But it can also be sprayed into place. Some insulation types are natural and others man-made. For those concerned, some insulation comes from recycled sources, such as cellulose from recycled newspapers. There are a lot of available choices for you to quickly install the most effective insulation on your pipes (and ceilings and roofs) quickly.

Marc Karell is the owner of Climate Change & Environmental Services. CCES has experience in performing site-specific energy audits and recommending proven strategies and technologies to reduce your facility’s energy usage, such as insulation, in a cost-effective way without inconveniencing your staff. See our website: for more information or contact me at

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