Pipe Insulation Do-it-Yourself Guide

Homebuilders too often overlook pipe insulation.

Some shady contractors wishing to cut corners in order to keep the bottom line low for their clients will leave out these options often, but pipe insulation is essential for the performance and long service-life of piping systems.

So it is often these kinds of additions that homeowners will want to consider doing themselves. Pipes and ductwork need insulation just as much as your exterior walls do.

Poorly insulated ductwork can lose heat, reduce air conditioning effectiveness and cost you money in heating and cooling bills. Not to mention the fact that if they freeze and burst, those repair bills are often astronomically high. Un-insulated pipes usually sweat, leave watermarks and make your water heater work overtime.

Foam Pipe Insulation. Photo by Mattnad.

Naturally, pipe insulation is most important in areas where there is the potential for pipes to freeze and burst. But even in the southeast, where I live, we have days and nights below freezing and people’s pipes burst.

The cost of both piping and insulation is small relative to the damages when a pipe breaks. While it is obvious that outdoor pipes (under the porch, etc) need to be insulated, other pipes can still freeze even if they run in a temperature-regulated part of the house.

If the electricity goes out for several hours, or you go on vacation and don't expect the temperature to drop as much as it does, you may return to a huge mess. Proper pipe insulation can reduce, if not eliminate, the chance of your pipes freezing.

Insulation has a tremendous impact on your home's energy use. With rising energy prices, as well as environmental concerns, it is becoming even more important to pay attention to how you consume energy.

Proper insulation improves the thermal efficiency of your home, limiting heat transfer and providing a vapor barrier against moisture. Proper piping and insulation materials also eliminate condensation formation, which accelerates pipe deterioration.

Properly Insulated Water Heater Pipes

Fortunately, insulating your pipes is a simple home improvement job that even someone like me can do.

To insulate your pipes, you will need:

  • Pipe insulation
  • Duct tape
  • Rag
  • Mild cleanser
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Mask
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles

Insulated Water Pipes

Pipe Insulation Steps:

  1. Begin by removing any dirt or grease from the pipes with a rag and mild cleanser. Make sure you allow the pipes to dry thoroughly before continuing with the installation.
  2. Choose the insulation. Foam, foil or fiberglass insulation can be wrapped around the pipe with a 1/2" overlap. Secure each end of the insulation with duct tape. If you are working with Fiberglass insulation be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves.
  3. Make sure to cover the entire pipe when wrapping around corners and bends and wrap with duct tape. When working with fiberglass insulation, wrap the fiberglass in plastic to keep the pipes from dripping condensation.
    The easiest pipe insulation to install is tubular sleeve insulation. It comes in a variety of sizes and is the easiest to install. Simply cut the sleeve to length and wrap it around the pipe. Be sure to duct tape the seam where the pipes meet.
  4. When insulating around corners or T-joints, cut slits or make miter angles where necessary, and secure these areas with duct tape.

Insulating cold-water pipes will prevent them from dripping condensation, and insulating hot-water pipes will prevent costly heat loss and save on energy bills.

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