As fall spends the last of the heat that summer left behind, we enter that time of year so many facility maintenance personnel dread: the heating season. Losing heat in a building not only poses a problem for the occupants—it can also cause extensive damages to flowing water infrastructure, such as pipes, valves, storage tanks, and even boilers. It is common knowledge that water turns to ice when exposed to freezing temperature; the resulting expansion can delay bringing the system back online as water cannot flow through the ice. Alternatively, pipes, valves, etc. can break and require total replacement. When you consider water freezing inside a boiler, the damage could quickly become extremely expensive.
To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, it is important to protect your system by heat tracing and insulating any exposed lines. Insulation alone is often insufficient if there is not additional heat source for the lines, as a prolonged period of down-time (such as a power outage) could allow lines to cool off and freeze. In addition, insulating steam or hot water lines will prevent latent heat from being given up through the metal. This effectively lowers the delivered amount of output from the boiler; you are already paying for the fuel, water, and power to produce the heated fluid, so why shouldn’t you be able to use as much of it as possible?
What type of insulation is right for you? As with most things, your selection will likely be tied to how much you are willing (and have available) to spend & what temperature you are dealing with, but there are several types of insulation most commonly employed. There is standard fiberglass insulation similar to the kind you would see used in most homes, and it is typically the most economical option. Foam and polystyrene insulation can offer greater efficiency, but they tend to be more expensive. Additionally, there is mineral wool insulation, other blanketed insulation of various types, and there are aluminum-jacketed insulation options for more aesthetic appeal and to better protect the material. Lastly, removable jacket insulation has become popular in many facilities for its effectiveness and ease of removal for inspection or maintenance and its ease of reuse thereafter, but it is much more expensive than other insulation methods since it is often custom-made to fit the shape of your facility’s equipment.
Regardless of what type of insulation you are leaning toward, keep in mind that the piping beneath it should be periodically inspected for corrosion and leaks. If a leak goes unchecked, moisture can soak into certain kinds of insulation or just remain between the insulation and the metal, which can quickly cause “corrosion under insulation” (CUI), which can eat through the pipe and cause a serious leak or provide a damp, warm, dark place for mold to grow. See picture below.
For any of Ware’s equipment, it is recommended that you consider the temperatures that the equipment will be exposed to during its time at your facility so that you can factor in the time and cost of properly protecting the lines from the changing weather. If your facility loses steam or hot water due to power loss in the middle of cold weather and it looks like it may not be quickly back online, it is important to secure your boiler as quickly as possible and to safely drain all water-bearing lines, valves, and equipment before they are allowed to freeze. Make sure that your operators are familiar with the proper procedure for securing your equipment. If, however, you find yourself with damaged equipment and need a boiler solution for your facility, Ware’s rental fleet stands ready to help you get back online. If you would like to discuss preparing a contingency plan for your facility, feel free to call 1-800-228-8861 or view our video here .