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THE VALUE OF STEAM PIPING INSULATION

dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
I have noticed many steam heating problems can be associated with non insulated steam piping around the boiler, steam main and lateral piing to risers and run outs to first floor radiators.

Aside from causing vent valves not to work properly, cause vent valve failures and water hammer in the steam system and lose about 20% of the BTU value going to the radiators.

The example given is from chapter five of my book Steam the Perfect fluid for Heating and some of the Problems.
Hap_Hazzard

Comments

  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    I think a lot of systems end up this way because they were originally insulated with asbestos, which was removed when they figured out it was killing people but never replaced. Then, when people started complaining about radiators not getting hot, someone would come out and crank up the pressure.

    The part I've never understood is why they used asbestos in the first place. I mean, steam pipes get hot, but not that hot. Or were they trying to keep the pipes from getting burned if the house burned down? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
    Insulation on steam piping was used to lower fuel consumption.
    Did you ever put your hand on a steam pipe with 2 psi steam pressure in it?

    Asbestos was the only insulation available at the time it was installed

    No one Knew asbestos was a cancer maker till the late 1940s.

    Jake
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    You don't need to talk down to me. I understand the need for insulation. I didn't know it was the only insulation available at the time. In fact, I'm a little skeptical that it was or that it was even the best material available.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    ChrisJ
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
    They had a cheaper insulation available. It was a cardboard air cell material with asbestos in the cells and the fittings were done in asbestos cement.

    I am 78 years old and worked in day when asbestos was used to insulate boilers and piping. We used wet hankies to cover our mouths and noses to keep from breathing the dust.

    As a young teenager at the time we used to make asbestos balls and throw it at each other at lunch time.

    Your comments are ok, but did you look at the the example why the pipe should be insulted. How about commenting on those figures, because this was taken off an actual job.

    Jake
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    Yes, I looked at the example, but I've been aware of the importance of insulation from my own house. When I first moved in I thought the pipes were left bare on purpose, but as I learned more about it, it seemed like a serious oversight. Then, when I learned more about the history, it helped me understand how my heating system had gotten so cocked up. I mean, removing the insulation from those pipes without replacing it was a major change in the design of a system that was originally very carefully designed to carry steam to all the radiators and heat the entire house. And then jacking up the pressure to compensate just made things worse.

    I think the wholesale removal of insulation from systems that were never designed to work without it is a big part of the reason steam has gotten such a bad rap, and replacing it is essential to restoring these systems to their correct operation.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    Gordo
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,623
    You guys are nearly violently agreeing with each other 😅
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Hap_HazzardNeild5Grallert
  • ndende Member Posts: 17
    edited January 7
    I just got around to insulating my basement piping this year (10 years in this house). The system ran fine without insulation, I don't think it makes a difference on venting, etc. The run time has dropped maybe 5-10%+- on therm shutoff. Rads may be a bit hotter so assume that saves another 5%+- on next cycle timing. So that would be about what I estimated that insulating would use 10% less fuel but just a guess.

    Biggest difference I notice is how much cooler the basement is, not surprising and have to assume that helps rads warm faster. I think payback doing it yourself is worth it, but to pay somebody else is probably why many people do not insulate since avg time in house is shorter than ever! I did find buying the USA made insulation even with high shipping cost was worth it vs what I checked out at box store esp relative to the sealing tape on the sections as well as supplied connection tape strips. I bought a roll of extra tape but it is not as well made as the supplied connectors, the tacks for pvc joint covers do work well and are recommended to buy extras. If doing again I would ask if more of the superior connecting strips could be purchased instead of roll tape for spots you have to cut the supplied lengths. Overall an easy project but wear eye and hand protection and mask for sure!
    ethicalpaul
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
    Glad to see that the insulation worked well for you.
    You are completely right about a contractor doing a job anyone that can use a knife,scissor, and cheap saw can do.

    To save some money mitering the insulation will for fittings will save the expense of pre-molded fittings except for Ts.

    Additionally wear long sleeve shirts. Fiberglass is a **** so when washing use cold water first to wipe away the fiber glass particles' Then use hot water to open the pores of the skin and use shaving cream from the can on the affected areas. Don rub the cream on. let the cream stay for two or three minutes to lift the particles out the open pores then rinse off with cold water.

    I did a lot of pipe insulation in my time and found this to be the best way of removing the glass particles from the skin.


    Jake
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    When I used to work in a body shop, we used to use ductape to remove glass splinters. Not too effective. I'll have to try the shaving cream trick next time. Do you use the foamy aerosol stuff or the cream that comes in a tube?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • rcritrcrit Member Posts: 71
    I cover myselfwith corn starch. Looks pretty stupid but keeps the itch down for me.

    I insulated my pipes with leftover R-15. Not the prettiest but it works.
    I'm just a homeowner that has a steam system, take my advice with a few grains of salt.
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
    Never heard of that one.

    Corn starch or baby powder is a great idea.

    I will recommend that for the do it your self people and of coarse to the trade people.

    Thanks for that info as a safety measure.

    Jake
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
    Yes the foamy stuff from the can. do not rub it in.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    Most baby powder that you buy nowadays is just perfumed corn starch.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • motoguy128motoguy128 Member Posts: 115
    Asbestos is an organic material. A naturally occurring mineral.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    It's not organic. It is a mineral. So is uranium.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • jhrostjhrost Member Posts: 35
    I did mine with leftover R-15 as well. I think I read the recommendation in one of Dan H's books as being a simple but effective method. It made a huge difference in the radiators getting more completely hot much more quickly. The basement went from semi-tropical to cool but I would't say cold - from being able to wear a t-shirt comfortably to maybe a light sweater.
    It was tied up fairly securely but was a little untidy looking and I was worried about fiberglass particles getting dislodged so I started to wrap it in some reflectix I had which I was able to tape up pretty securely with foil tape. I'm not sure I would recommend it since it was a little tedious and time consuming bit I am pretty satisfied with the result. It seems to have stayed on securely for over a decade. The reflectix makes it look neater and secures it , but I'm not sure it adds much further to the insulation , although one would think that if painting radiators a silver metallic color makes them less emissive, than maybe steam mains would emit less as well with a metallic covering ?
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