Why Insulate Piping and Ducts?

Why Insulate?

Applied within the industrial[i] and commercial[ii] sectors, mechanical insulation is installed on systems that carry or store liquid, gas, air, or product that is affected by ambient air temperature.  The benefits of installing insulation on piping, boilers, ducts, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), and other systems include the following:

  • Conserves energy: insulation helps reduce heat loss or gain of mechanical systems, saving between 140-500 times the energy it takes to produce it over a 20-year period. The industrial sector alone is responsible for 38% of Canada’s total energy use and 34% of related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions[iii], and studies have shown that energy consumption can be further reduced by as much as 20%.
  • Controls surface temperatures: some mechanical systems can get very hot or cold, and covering them with insulation can increase worker safety and the avoidance of worker downtime due to injury.
  • Prevents condensation on cold surfaces: with sufficient insulation thickness, the surface temperature can be kept above dew point, which can limit corrosion on cold systems (i.e., cold piping, ducts, and chillers).
  • Prevents or reduces damage to mechanical systems from fire or corrosive atmospheres: in combination with other materials, mineral fiber insulations help protect systems from fire due to their non-combustible nature. Fiberglass insulation can resist melting up to 1300°F (704°C), and rock wool or slag wool insulations can resist melting up to 2150°F (1177°C).
  • Controls process temperature: using insulation, mechanical systems can be kept at a pre-determined temperature suitable for the process to optimise operational efficiency.
  • Controls noise: insulation can help reduce the noise from loud equipment, resulting in increased comfort for personnel.

3E Plus Version 4.1

Determining the amount of insulation required to reduce energy, lower GHG emissions [carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O)], and improve the system efficiency is complex.  A free industrial energy management tool, 3E Plus, helps to simplify this task and performs other calculations, such as the amount of energy saved with the insulation upgrade, the potential return on investment (ROI), and the emissions for GHGs.  It can also compare the data results from existing and upgraded insulation thicknesses, allowing users to compare the data of an upgrade or a replacement.[iv]  The tool has three calculation features: energy, economics, and environment.


  • thermal performance of both insulated and uninsulated piping and equipment
  • energy currently being saved with existing insulation systems
  • potential savings in British thermal units (BTU) with an insulation upgrade
  • dollar value of the energy savings


  • cost of energy
  • energy use and cost of systems with existing insulation systems
  • potential energy and cost reductions with upgraded insulation
  • required thickness of insulation to save energy and reduce costs


  • amount of GHGs (CO2 and N2O) prevented from release into the atmosphere in pounds or metric tonnes, resulting from reduced energy consumption due to greater insulation thickness
  • potential amount of GHGs prevented from release due to increased insulation thickness

To read more about the tool and download it, go to www.pipeinsulation.org.


[i] The most common industries using energy are aluminum, brewery, cement, chemicals, construction, dairy, electrical and electronic, electricity generation, fertilizers, food and beverage, foundry, general manufacturing, lime, mining, oil sands, petroleum products, plastics, steel, transportation equipment manufacturing, and upstream oil and gas


[ii] The commercial sector includes all commercial and institutional buildings covered by Part 3 of the 2010 National Building Code, which include non-residential buildings and large multi-family residential buildings [National Research Council (2010) National Building Code of Canada].  For instance, condominium complexes, hotels, office buildings, and art galleries.


[iii] The national indicator tracks six GHGs: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) released by human activity [Environment Canada (2014) National Inventory Report 1990-2012: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada][iv] Thermal Insulation Association of Canada (n.d.) Best-Kept Secret in Energy Efficiency: National Insulation Association Says Mechanical Insulation Saves Money.