Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

Insulating Steam Pipes to Protect Beer Collection

JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
edited June 18 in Strictly Steam
I have steam pipes running through my house's basement to serve radiators upstairs. Some run through my collection of aged Belgian beers. I need to insulate the pipes to keep them from heating the beers too much.

They're old pipes, mostly iron I guess. They're all over 25' from furnace.

Pipe circumferences are 5.25”, 6”, 7.5”, and 9”, which I'm told translates into diameters of 1.67', 1.9", 2.38", and 2.87". There are also plenty of joints and bends. It's 30 feet, total.

I've been told fiberglass insulation over steam pipes will degrade over time into carcinogenic dust, and to use rockwool/mineral wool. And I'm shocked by the low R value of fiberblass pipe wrap (it's like 1.2).

Another option seems to be rubber black lap seal pipe wrap insulation, which has a pretty good R-value (4.9), and I think I can find in small lengths at insulation stores.

Obviously, higher R-Value would be better. And I'd love (if it makes sense) to use all large-size, which would be easier to buy and use, and might fit over some of the joints.

I'm not a plumber or a steam geek (though I respect the hell out of you guys), so please talk to me like a newbie! Thanks for any help!

Comments

  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,420
    Best and easiest may be to find a steam guru near you from this site. Many can either properly insulate the piping, or use a contractor who specialize in insulating. There are pictures here of their very impressive workmanship.
    All the near boiler piping should be insulated too.
    Fiberglass is the best. Don’t know of anyone using rubber.
    steve
    Jimmbo
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,421
    I don't find a maximum temperature rating for that rubber insulation. Therefore, I think you are experimenting -- it might work. Then again, if might not.

    On fibreglass as a carcinogen. It is not so classed by anyone I know of, although I would imagine that if you were to abrade it and then inhale the dust is sufficient quantity it might be. First place, pipe insulation isn't meant to be abraded. Second place, the joker is "sufficient quantity". Having spent some time setting standards for various chemicals in accordance with the EPA rules (which are arcane), I can assure you that given enough of any material, over enough time, it will be harmful. So I'd say not to worry about fiberglass. As things like that go, it's pretty darn close to harmless.

    Now -- on to the practical problem. Are the pipes arranged in such a way that it is impossible to arrange your aged Belgian beer vault so that they don't go through it, or could the vault be arranged so that they go over it? With an air space? In addition to insulation -- which you should do in any case -- that would provide more protection, and possibly open the opportunity to really control the temperature and humidity in that vault.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    Jimmbo
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    It says here
    The recommended temperature usage range for AP/Armaflex Lapseal Pipe Insulation is -297°F to +220°F.

    Do steam pipes get hotter than that?

    I didn't say "fiberglass is a carcinogen". I reported being told that the high heat of steam pipes can degrade fiberglass over time, decomposing it into dust (which, even if it's not carcinogenic - as my source says - is not something I want wafting around my basement). If you steam-heads haven't heard about this, I won't worry about it. Though the R-Value of the rubber product is way higher than what I can get from fiberglass.

    The pipes snake through the area, never running closer than about 6-12 inches from the bottles. The bottles can't be relocated. I just need to block as much of that heat as possible.
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,880
    The jacket of the fibergalss, if installed properly, holds it all together even if the binder degrades. Might be worth looking in to something with a higher quality jacket and adhesive if you are worried about it. you could also box the pipes in and put additional insulation in the box after you insulate the pipes for more insulation. i would use something like luan plywood and screws over a 2x frame so it can be disassembled to get to the stuff running through the box.
    Jimmbo
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 11,262
    edited June 18
    Jimmbo said:

    It says here
    The recommended temperature usage range for AP/Armaflex Lapseal Pipe Insulation is -297°F to +220°F.

    Do steam pipes get hotter than that?

    I didn't say "fiberglass is a carcinogen". I reported being told that the high heat of steam pipes can degrade fiberglass over time, decomposing it into dust (which, even if it's not carcinogenic - as my source says - is not something I want wafting around my basement). If you steam-heads haven't heard about this, I won't worry about it. Though the R-Value of the rubber product is way higher than what I can get from fiberglass.

    The pipes snake through the area, never running closer than about 6-12 inches from the bottles. The bottles can't be relocated. I just need to block as much of that heat as possible.

    The Armaflex is rated to 220F according to what you posted.
    Steam pipes run from 212-215 degrees +-.

    Fiberglass pipe insulation is rated to 1000F.

    Which do you think will be more likely to decompose faster?

    In my opinion the best you're going to do is 2" fiberglass. I ran 1" on mine because it was the best bang for the buck but it won't block as much heat as 2".

    Keep in mind that will make the piping 4" bigger in diameter.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    ethicalpaul
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,203
    30 years ago I got approval from the ME on a job to insulate hot water lines in an attic with the Armaflex type slip on insulation.
    Not the cheap stuff, but high grade that you would use on refrigeration lines. The water temp was 160-180.

    Just 10 years ago during a remodel of the building, I noticed the Armaflex had turned to crap. It would dissolve in your hand as you grabbed it. The recir line was just as degraded.
    Fiber glass would have the standard of the day but the specs of the Armalex satisfied the ME. FWIW
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 11,262
    > @JUGHNE said:
    > 30 years ago I got approval from the ME on a job to insulate hot water lines in an attic with the Armaflex type slip on insulation.
    > Not the cheap stuff, but high grade that you would use on refrigeration lines. The water temp was 160-180.
    >
    > Just 10 years ago during a remodel of the building, I noticed the Armaflex had turned to crap. It would dissolve in your hand as you grabbed it. The recir line was just as degraded.
    > Fiber glass would have the standard of the day but the specs of the Armalex satisfied the ME. FWIW

    I used armaflex on my domestic hot water @140F. Hopefully itll last.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,203
    I would say you are good there. This was a 1 1/4" line going to a laundry in a nursing home. There was a recir line that kept the temp constant. Also being in the "attic from hell" added to the cooking of the insulation.
    They insulated the cold lines with fiber glass in 1971, in the same attic....but not the hot......the CW insulation is fine in the same attic. But then is cold water. The attic could reach 100-110 in the summer.
    ChrisJ
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,316
    @Jimmbo

    Do not use rubber insulation on steam. After a couple of years it will dry out into nothing.

    Fiberglass is the standard. 2" wall will cost a bundle. Put 1" on properly and you will be fine
    EzzyTethicalpaul
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    edited June 21
    Thanks, @EBEBRATT-Ed.

    Looks like 1.5" wall is available, and it's much cheaper than 2" and has a substantially higher R-value than 1" wall, so I'll probably go with that.

    The only place where clearance is a problem is a long run of size 1-1/4 pipe running along the floor. Clearance is less than 1" to the floor, so I can either use 1" wall (and scrunch it a bit), or else use 1.5" wall and leave it partially open (open side facing floor, of course, which still protects the beer above), tape it up as good as I can, and replace in a couple years. After all, I'd rather replace insulation than beer...

    The remaining issue is this kooky run:
    I'm thinking of using one length of size 2 (cutting out some insulation to accommodate the thick union just right of center). It will be loose on the left, but I'm hoping that's okay.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,203
    I have tried the "whittling" of insulation to cover the hubs of fittings. Later wished I would have gone with the covers.
    You order a cover for the fitting based on type of fitting, pipe size and insulation thickness. You get a roll of FG wrap and a nice looking cover that you can tape or pin with special tacks.
    I don't recall seeing a cover for the "eccentric" or as the word implies the "oddball" coupling. But you could improvise that one, maybe that is a "whittle" situation.

    The lower pipe near the floor is probably a return that will not get as hot as the steam main. 1" would probably suffice.

    Is that your only main air vent, what number is on it?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 11,262
    edited June 21
    > @Jimmbo said:
    > Thanks, @EBEBRATT-Ed.
    >
    > Looks like 1.5" wall is available, and it's much cheaper than 2" and has a substantially higher R-value than 1" wall, so I'll probably go with that.
    >
    > The only place where clearance is a problem is a long run of size 1-1/4 pipe running along the floor. Clearance is less than 1" to the floor, so I can either use 1" wall (and scrunch it a bit), or else use 1.5" wall and leave it partially open (open side facing floor, of course, which still protects the beer above), tape it up as good as I can, and replace in a couple years. After all, I'd rather replace insulation than beer...
    >
    > The remaining issue is this kooky run: (Image)
    >
    > I'm thinking of using one length of size 2 (cutting out some insulation to accommodate the thick union just right of center). It will be loose on the left, but I'm hoping that's okay.

    Why would you replace it in a couple of years? That insulation would probably be fine for 50-100 years.


    Ooh you're talking about rubber.

    I guess if you think breathing outgassing rubber is better than fiberglass just sitting there.....
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 6,005
    I think the 1 1/2" is a good idea. You can always add a layer in the area that is closest to the beer.
    The important part is to protect that beer at all cost :D
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 2,563
    There is, of course, the other solution to keeping the steam pipes from heating the beer. Drink the beer.

    I humbly offer my assistance, if you decide to proceed in that direction.

    ZmanErin Holohan Haskellgarrettgjp
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 6,005
    ratio said:

    There is, of course, the other solution to keeping the steam pipes from heating the beer. Drink the beer.

    I humbly offer my assistance, if you decide to proceed in that direction.

    I am happy to as well :D
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,421
    The line you mention running along the floor -- I assume that this place is in the basement? That line then is below the water level in the boiler? if so, that's a wet return and should have little if any heating value and doesn't need insulation. Not to worry about it.

    That kooky line you mention. Ugh. It suggests that there may be other piping oddities which are doing you no favours. But your scheme for insulating it will be OK.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    ethicalpaul
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,203
    For the floor pipe, even 1/2" thick would suffice. Rather than fight with the 1" IMO.
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    edited June 21
    JUGHNE said:

    I have tried the "whittling" of insulation to cover the hubs of fittings. Later wished I would have gone with the covers.

    Why, what happened? I haven't heard about risk there.

    I don't recall seeing a cover for the "eccentric" or as the word implies the "oddball" coupling. But you could improvise that one, maybe that is a "whittle" situation.
    Is there any problem using a size 2 for the whole run (whittling for that one joint), or does that create a condensation risk on the left, where the insulation jacket's much bigger than the pipe?
    The lower pipe near the floor is probably a return that will not get as hot as the steam main. 1" would probably suffice.
    Ah, thanks!
    Is that your only main air vent, what number is on it?
    "#74 steam unit heater vent". image

    For context, here is the kookie run (and vent) seen from the side (as you can see, it's further complicated by a "T" in the back): image


    A few feet away is another vent, a #1 Air Eliminator:
    image


    Here's the long view. I've circled both vents. The kookie run is partially seen from top right:
    image

    Just for context, this is a Sears "Verona" kit home, recently upgraded from oil to gas (but this piping is, obviously, original).
    ethicalpaul
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    edited June 21
    Zman said:

    I think the 1 1/2" is a good idea. You can always add a layer in the area that is closest to the beer.

    All this activity is close to the beer. The only possible place for these bottles is, unfortunately, amid a spiderweb of freaking steam pipes. We do what we can.
    The important part is to protect that beer at all cost :D
    Duh!
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    ratio said:

    There is, of course, the other solution to keeping the steam pipes from heating the beer. Drink the beer.

    I humbly offer my assistance, if you decide to proceed in that direction.

    If I DRANK the beer, how would I have all these 20 and 30 year old bottles of priceless Belgian treasure? :wink:
    ratioZman
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    edited June 21

    The line you mention running along the floor -- I assume that this place is in the basement? That line then is below the water level in the boiler? if so, that's a wet return and should have little if any heating value and doesn't need insulation. Not to worry about it.

    It gets pretty warm when the system's running, so I'll at least give it a 1" or 1/2" jacket, but you guys have talked me out of trying to finagle 1-1/2 thick insulation, which will save me some angst.
    That kooky line you mention. Ugh. It suggests that there may be other piping oddities which are doing you no favours. But your scheme for insulating it will be OK.
    This is the worst of the lot. If I do opt for largest size over this kookie part of the run, do I need to worry about condensation risk on the smaller-piped portion where there'll be a gap?

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,421
    I wouldn't think so -- I can't see how it would get cool enough to cause condensation...
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37

    I wouldn't think so -- I can't see how it would get cool enough to cause condensation...

    Ah, so that’s the determining factor. Basement never goes below 55. And if it falls much below that, condensation beneath insulation jackets will not be my biggest problem! :smile:
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,203
    By regretting the whittling of insulation at fittings I mean it was a chore to seal up the fitting well enough, was time consuming and didn't look that good.
    I believe the proper way is to just cover the pipe itself, thin couplings included. Then use the fitted covers mentioned above.
    Better job and looks professional.

    Your air vents are rather small.
    The Hoffman 74 is for a single unit heater rated at .033 CFM,
    The Gorton #1 is rated at .330 CFM
    A standard here is for every 20' of steam main is to have a Gorton #2 rated at 1.1 CFM.
    The faster the venting the quicker and more economical the heating system. Is your steam heat quiet?
    You could search on this site for main steam venting while testing some of that beer to assure it does not go flat. :)

  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    edited June 21
    JUGHNE said:

    By regretting the whittling of insulation at fittings I mean it was a chore to seal up the fitting well enough, was time consuming and didn't look that good.

    This video makes it look simple!
    I believe the proper way is to just cover the pipe itself, thin couplings included. Then use the fitted covers mentioned above.
    Better job and looks professional.
    You mean the PVC union thingees, right? Like this?

    Your air vents are rather small.
    The Hoffman 74 is for a single unit heater rated at .033 CFM,
    The Gorton #1 is rated at .330 CFM
    A standard here is for every 20' of steam main is to have a Gorton #2 rated at 1.1 CFM.
    The faster the venting the quicker and more economical the heating system. Is your steam heat quiet?
    You could search on this site for main steam venting while testing some of that beer to assure it does not go flat. :)
    I figured I wouldn't get through this without some steam tinkering advice! It's appreciated, but while I admire this forum's enthusiasm and know-how, it's not my comfort zone. My heating system is loud and slow, but it gets the job done, and apparently has been doing so since 1913, so I'm reluctant to fool around....even though these are the only vents in my entire basement.

    My sole modification (aside from oil-to-gas conversion) was to pay $4K to remove asbestos, which left my pipes un-insulated, leaving me here begging for help. I've belatedly discovered that asbestos is excellent insulation (aside from the cancer part), while alternatives are fussy and expensive. Sigh.

    I do have good beer, however. A serious saving grace.
  • JimmboJimmbo Member Posts: 37
    edited June 21
    Re: "the kooky run" (I'll replay the photo at bottom), a pro just told me:
    So you have 2 equal ts, a union, a concentric reducer, and an eccentric reducer.

    Some of that requires patterns to make look nice, and not all of it can be done well with jacketed fiberglass pipe cover. The reducers, eccentric in particular don't like that stuff.

    Honestly use the asj pipe cover for your straights, and your equal ts, and find yourself some mineral wool tank wrap for the fittings. Look up the patterns for the fittings I mentioned you have, and see if you can make them. Do the best you can, then get yourself a roll of canvas and a jug of lagging, canvas it. That will take care of your issues with containing degrading fiberglass.
    Failing that, there is a reason mechanical insulation is a trade unto itself, you can hire a professional.


    That's more than I can handle. But I can definitely do the rest of the basement myself. So I guess I either hire a pro just for this yard of weird piping, or I find some lazy solution that's imperfect that I can do myself without harming anything too badly. Since I'm sprining for 1-1/2" insulation, I have some headroom re: escaping heat, and could live with leaving some of this segment uninsulated.


Sign In or Register to comment.

Welcome

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!