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Save Energy and Money by Insulating Heating and Water Pipes

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The energy-saving potential by Insulating Heating and Hot/Cold Water Pipes is often overlooked. This article briefly details the key points and financial benefits.


At the heart of the energy-saving Community. AIM Energy Saving You Can Trust

The heat loss from water through a pipe is dependant on four key factors, initial temperature of water at point of supply [boiler], length of pipe run to point of utilisation [tap, washing machine, dish washer etc.] pipe internal diameter [bore] and location of pipework [exposed to ambient conditions, buried in walls, through ceiling voids, under suspended timber floors].

The priority areas for application of insulation protection are pipework exposed to ambient conditions [surface mounted on walls/floors] and pipework run under suspended timber floors. These two conditions have the highest

Looking at water quality, we have all experienced tepid water from the cold tap. This is not pleasant and wasteful, if a few litres/pints are drawn off until cold water is flowing. This is wasted heat [money] put into cold water which should not be there.

An added extra benefit is the frost protection of your water pipes. We all know someone, or have sadly experienced a burst water pipe. This can be a hugely expensive and disruptive event. Insulation of water supply pipework will help avoid frost damage in cold periods. An excellent protection measure for properties that may be unoccupied during cold weather periods.

Electrical safety is also improved. BS7671 requires the avoidance of ‘mutual detrimental influence’. This is best described as sources of heat having a effect on the condition of electrical circuits.

The picture below shows how hot water through central heating pipework caused heat damage to the PVC insulation of the socket outlet circuit. PVC/PVC cables are based on 70°C operating temperature. This is the safe limit for continuous use. Electric current subject to resistance causes heat. That is what makes an incandescent lamp shine brightly and an electric toaster get hot. The critical failure can take place when the electric cable is in casual contact with central heating pipework. The temperature of the central heating pipework could be up to 80°C. Even assuming an average of 40°C, the cable was operating at 50% of designed temperature, the combined temperature would be raised in excess of the designed operating temperature of the PVC cable.

Heat damage to PVC/PVC cable insulation

Whilst the pipework insulation is being installed it is also an excellent opportunity to check the quality of electrical installation. Sadly some Tradespeople cut corners on tasks that will be hidden from view. The picture below shows poor quality cable connections found under a floor. The close proximity of water supply pipework shows total disregard for safety.

Poor quality cable connections

The picture below shows the insulation material covering a section of copper pipe.

Pipe insulation saves energy and money for up to 30 years

There are many benefits to insulating heating and hot/cold water supply pipes. The values listed below give details of what can be saved.

The data is courtesy of Armacell and based on Manchester UK for temperature figures.

Pipework   Type Optimal   Insulation Poor/No   insulation Potential   Saving
Distribution 6.93% 17.73% 10.8%
Hot   Water 2% 4.5% 2.5%
Heating 4.75% 17.5% 12.75%
Ratio   of Heat Demand 12% 39% 27%

To make sense of these percentages we can assume that a home consumes £1000.00 worth of gas per year for heating/hot water. From the above data it is possible to save up to £270.00 per year by insulating all pipework.

It is expected that most homes can have all distribution pipework insulated for approximately £550.00. The pipe insulation has a minimum life expectancy of 30 years. So if gas prices did NOT increase for 30 years the following savings could be expected £7650.00 after 30 years, or -£180.00 in year 1, +£90.00 in year 2 and £270.00 for every year thereafter.

Just consider that gas prices have risen by almost 75% in the last 10 years. That would equate to over 200% over 30 years. With gas prices rising at a similar rate over the next 30 years the total saving could be up to £20,000.00. An excellent rate of return on the investment of £550.00 today.

We can also factor in saving in wear on the boiler and circulating pump. If a boiler has a lifespan of 10 years, reduced use due to efficiencies could extend this to 12 years. This could reasonably save an additional £1500.00 over 30 years. Or put another way, in 40 years you would need to purchase one LESS boiler!

Please contact us to discuss your requirements or share your experiences of insulating pipework in your property.

AIM is dedicated to improving your world without costing the earth.

Contact aim.home@gmx.com or telephone 07901380746 to discuss your requirements, arrange a free survey or for further details.

Full details of the Armacell data: http://www.armaflex.de/www/armacell/ACwwwAttach.nsf/ansFiles/KeyTecHPEnergySaving207EN.pdf/$File/KeyTecHPEnergySaving207EN.pdf


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