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Old 11-18-2009, 02:45 AM   #16
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


This thread seems to be the definitive source on pipe insulation! While that's great, it underscores how underdeveloped this market segment is with regards to information. I agree with another, the information is very contradicting. In the interest of providing a better understanding of PE and EPDM rubber pipe insulation, I compared PE and EPDM rubber products from Nomaco, TundraFoam, and Frost King. Nomaco is the highest rated cross-linked PE I found at 210 F and is the only GreenGuard certified product. Of the TundraFoam and Frost King products, I preferred the TundraFoam products. Their EPDM rubber is higher temperate rated and the quality seems better. For example, both their PE and EPDM Rubber come with a tape flap that seals the seam as well as the adhesive in the seam itself. Whether or not this provides a more airtight seal remains to be seen but my guess is it would help eliminate installation errors and holdup better over time. Without a tape flap, I'd consider taping. The Nomaco website provides the most info on their products. They don't sell rubber insulation. The others sell both.


Iím concerned about the following: condensation control, longevity, indoor air quality, heat insulation, and toxicity in a fire in this order. For me, cost is not a factor. Temperature rating is also a consideration but only because I believe a higher rated product likely will last longer and maintain its performance characteristics better. To compare, I looked at information in various forums and contacted the manufactures. None of the manufacturer reps however were engineers; largely sales persons. The wording used and the way in which they responded didn't leave me with much confidence with one exception. That exception however answered largely opposite everyone else. So again who do you believe? Hereís my data:

1.) Condensation Control

+ Rubber will create hydrochloric acid. None of the manufacturer reps knew anything about this and I couldn't find any other information. It'd be great if someone could chime in to confirm or deny this
+ One manufacturer claimed PE was better at moisture control, the others said Rubber is and absorbs less moisture. Is there a difference between cross-linked PE and regular PE?
+ Seems this thread overall believes PE is better for cold pipes; both companies offering EPDM rubber said their rubber product is

My take: datasheets from the manufactures indicate both pass at least some moisture; neither a lot. Each measured this differently so I'm not sure which is better. Sounds like both work unless you believe the hydrochloric acid statement. I'll call this a tie and look at the other factors to decide


2.) Longevity


+ Definitely a disagreement here. Some say PE lasts forever yet the manufactures not only warranty PE for a shorter period but their reps also say rubber lasts longer
+ The reps did not know anything about rubber losing insulation value over time
+ Others say rubber hardens over time

My take: I'm confused why the manufactures don't warranty PE for as long as rubber. I'm guessing this is because rubber deteriorates less when exposed. If exposing to elements such as outdoor use or UV, rubber seems like the way to go. If well protected, both seem to last a long time (30+ years). My feeling is PE will last longer based on possible decline in insulation peformance reported (if true). It makes sense to me that rubber may harden over time. Will non-cross linked PE last longer than rubber on heated pipes given its lower temperature rating though? For cold water pipes, PE but again I feel the data is lacking.

3.) Indoor Air Quality

+ IAQ appears to have been ignored by the industry with the exception of Nomaco.
+ Two of the reps claim their products produce no VOCs
+ These same manufactures did not provide MSDN sheets. When asked, I did get one for their PE product (why no rubber?!). However, the MSDN provided looked minimally filled out so I question how much was really tested.
+ Another industry rep said all products off-gas but as long as they are cured right, itís not a problem for either PE or Rubber.

My take: both PE and Rubber off-gas a least a little. I canít imagine any rubber based product not producing anything. I expect rubber to produce more VOCs than PE. To hear two of the reps say their products produce no VOCs whatsoever seems extremley doubtful. Perhaps the level is so low it isnít a concern but I want to know the specifics. Big kudos to Nomaco for leading the industry here. Since the others provided no information, I can only go with my instinct and say PE will be better. While I don't know, perhaps the Nomaco product is better as well since they at least paid attention.

4.) Heat insulation

+ PE and Rubber have the same insulation properties; at least to start
+ Some say Rubber degrades over time but PE does not
+ One rep had no idea. Another calmed they had never heard of rubber losing insulation ability over time. The last rep confirmed PE doesnít lose its insulation ability over time
+ Someone on this thread said rubber can shrink up to 25% and PE only 3%. One product rep responded saying the opposite: rubber approximately 1% and PE 3% and only at the upper temperature ratings.

My take: hard to know what to believe. A higher rated product will likely do better IMO and won't hurt. That said both PE and rubber should be fine considering the rating of even the lower PE variety is 160 degrees F which is still hotter than your typical hot water at 120 F.
I thought it would be interesting to test so I bought a ďstickĒ of each and took a blow torch to them. I know this isnít a real exact test but it did provide some data to extrapolate from. Both contain a flame retardant and while both ignited, the flame instantly went out the moment the flame was removed. The PE pretty much melt away while the rubber maintained quite a bit more of its integrity. I didnít have PEX to try but I am curious how it would do. In any case, I think you can conclude you wonít burn your house down if you run PE right up to your hot water heater though it is true it doesnít hold up nearly as well to heat as rubber; at least at excessively high temps.

5.) Toxicity during a fire

+ The MSDN sheet for the PEX suggests Nomacoís product produces very low toxic gas when burned
+ Some claim rubber pipe insulation emits a nasty toxic gas when it burns.
+ Both of the reps I talked with had no knowledge of rubber producing toxic gas when burned. They further didnít know what I was talking about when I asked if their product was Halogen free. However, they did say their products are completely safe and do not produce any harmful products when burned.

My take: I doubt any of the products are better than the PEX; maybe the same. The fact two of the industry reps had no knowledge about claims of rubber emitting toxic gas when burned and didnít know what I was referring to when asked if their product contained Halogen didnít leave me with much confidence. To say they produce no harmful fumes when burned seems incredulous. With little additional information, I simply have no idea other than what has already been posted in this thread but my torch experiment did provide some clues. Both produced a white smoke. Both smelled. Doing this outside, I couldnít tell much of a difference in the amount of smoke produced. Iíd lean towards the rubber being worse if I had to choose but it didn't appear to be ghastly different.
My final conclusions? The information is very contradicting so Iím not 100% sure which is absolute "best". It doesnít sound like youíd go horribly wrong using either.

Iíll likely use the Nomaco PEX for cold pipes and either the same or the TundraFoam Rubber for hot pipes; leaning again toward the Nomaco

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Old 11-18-2009, 07:30 PM   #17
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


I think you may be a little confused. PEX is a type of plastic pipe(which is very common in new construction), not pipe insulation.
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Old 11-19-2009, 05:05 AM   #18
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


Confused a little but not so much about the PEX!

PEX is an acronym for cross-linked polyethylene. It can be made into a foam, the plastic pipe you refer to, or a whole host of other ďplasticĒ products.

Now whether or not the PEX acronym is avoided when talking about cross-linked polyethylene foam I donít know. I was just over 10,000 characters and trying to shorten my post. :-) Thanks for bringing it up. I definitely didnít want to confuse anyone!

Note, the PE pipe insulation from Frost King and TundraFoam is not cross-linked. I was under the impression the PE pipe insulation from Nomaco was hence the higher temperature rating. However, going back to their website Iím not finding where this is specifically stated. Instead they say they make products made of polyolefin and elastomeric insulations. PE is a polyolefin and rubber is an elastomeric. So Iím definitely wrong there since I didnít think Nomaco made a rubber pipe insulation and they do. I donít know why they donít use the terms PE and rubber but Iíll try to get the story over the next couple of days.

As Iím beginning to understand things better, I did find a couple answers when trying to confirm whether Nomacoís PE was cross-linked or not.

The first answer I found explained my torch test. PE is a thermoplastic material. In other words it melts above its rated temperature. Elastomeric (rubber) is a thermoset material and gradually fails above its rated temperature so its temperature rating can be exceeded for short periods of time without it being catastrophic.

The second answer was in regards to leeching of chlorine and corrosion of the pipes. Apparently both PE and Rubber can emit some Chlorine but the amount released by PE typically wonít do anything. The amount released by rubber can cause a problem in some situations but the Nomaco site implies this is really only a problem with stainless steel products and it doesnít sound like it would have much of an effect on copper.

Thanks,
Scott

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Old 11-21-2009, 11:07 AM   #19
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


Scott, I just want to say thanks for the depth of your research and extensive reports. Only found this forum about an hour ago, but hope to return the favor someday soon.... For now, can just say that I've had all of these insulations (except cross-linked) working on parts of the same system for 15 years or more, and the Frost King-type PE shrank significantly at temps up to 180F after only a few years. Great amounts of condensation on cold pipes, but no noticable corrosion on copper due to rubber, and rubber has not shrunk nor hardened noticably. Fiberglass used only on hot pipes and seems to radiate least, perhaps because it's the only one with a sealed silver membrane to reduce radiant infra-red in addition to conductive heat losses. Okay, back to work... Best to all.
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Old 11-21-2009, 09:51 PM   #20
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


Try this url for a pdf containing a pretty useful comparison: http://www.industrialinsulation.com/...rnce_chart.pdf
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:18 PM   #21
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


Well I finally found some time to work on adding the foam insulation to some of the pipes coming off my water heater and those part of my hot water recirc system. After adding the foam most areas were still warm to the touch on the foam...Couldn't really find a bigger foam size to fit around the existing foam to double up so to speak...so I'm wrapping the foam with some rolls of 3" fiberglass that is backed with foil. Even with that some areas STILL feel slightly warm to the touch but that's as far as I'm going with it!!!

I would have thought it would be standard to insulate all pipes that are part of a hot water recirc system even if they run through insulated areas of the house...given they are constantly full of hot water...and maybe it is...but mine are not at all....but you know builders...thus this forum!
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:46 AM   #22
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


I've been researching pipe insulation for a bit now and this is probably one of the best discussions that I have found, thanks for all of the great information. I have a cape style house and some of my hot water heating pipes run through the unconditioned space behind my upstairs kneewall. There is a minimal amount of foil-backed fiberglass wrapped around the pipes (compressed and tied with strings). I don't think that this is very efficient, what is the best type of pipe insulation to use in this situation? I'm not sure what the exact temperature of the pipes are at this location, I'm guessing around 200 deg F (it's hot water, not steam). Pipes are 1". Thanks!
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:38 AM   #23
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


This thread has great info on insulation, but I'm a little unclear on whether the electric heaters for pipes are a good option. I need to prevent some pipes that run through a crawl space next to the outside wall of my foundation from freezing.
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Old 12-11-2009, 03:06 PM   #24
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


I agree this is a great thread, and I stumbled across it on google looking for just this information.

I wanted to add this article for folks' information, which appears to describe the two common types of pipe insulation one sees: polyolefin (less expensive, like the water "noodles") and elastomeric (more expensive, often seen on A/C chiller lines). I won't repeat the info in it, because you might as well read it for yourself. It does a good job of comparing the two. Oddly, however, it doesn't offer much for either on heating (polyolefin may degrade at spike temps in a hot-water heating system and elastomeric hasn't been tested much).

http://www.enviro-tec.com/pdf/catalo...ns-FromNIA.pdf

And maybe a better one I just found:

http://www.enviro-tec.com/pdf/catalo...edCellFoam.pdf

Last edited by drewguy; 12-11-2009 at 03:35 PM.
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Old 12-11-2009, 05:52 PM   #25
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


Well, no one has mentioned that mice love to eat this on my pipes in the crawl space: http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?actio...B/6&lpage=none
It says- from -94*-------- +210*. Same brand, but mine is 10 years old, hope the new stuff is mouse-proof. 40% of it is on the ground with 3" oblong holes every 4-5" on 8-3' pieces. I'll use fiberglass tape over it next time.....
Be safe, Gary
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:40 PM   #26
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


Sorry for the delay. I was traveling but did finally get in touch with Nomaco. So here's the deal, Nolan's PE is *NOT* chemically cross-linked. Instead they attribute their higher temperature rating (to 210F) to using a superior resin.

So chemically is there a PEX version of pipe insulation foam? I don't know. One earlier responder suggests yes but I didn't find one. Chemically PEX and PE are all in the same family however.

Regarding which product to use, Nomaco suggests *their* PE is superior to their rubbber pipe insulation with regards to preventing condensation. Additionally for residental hot water supply lines which shouldn't exceed 140-150 F typically, you shouldn't have a problem with shrinkage on the hot water lines if "installed properly sealing all joints and connections with an approved sealing system". For those of you with lines toping over 200F, you probably need to consider rubber or something else if the temperature goes much higher as PE does fail quickly if you exceed its temperature rating for even a short duration. For cold water lines, it does seem like PE is the better choice at least the Nomaco PE since it should provide better protection against condensation which is the primary concern on cold lines...at least for me and I've decided to use Nomaco ArticFlex for my home's cold water lines. I haven't decided for the hot yet. In any case, the only other concern for using PE would be UV exposure. If using outdoors you do need to either encase or use rubber.

BTW, for some other poster, Nomaco has PE rated for use with heat tape.

Best of luck to everyone with their projects, a Merry Christmas, and wonderful New Year!
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:43 PM   #27
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As a final comment. I wanted to thank all those for the great feedback on this forum. It was extremely helpful to me and very much appreciated!
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Old 10-09-2011, 06:05 PM   #28
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Pipe insulation: Foam, Rubber, Other?


I'm dragging this thread up from the dead because it's the right time of year for many of us to think of it, but also because I wanted to re-ask a few questions--

I have a mix of 1-1/2", 1-1/4" and 1/2" black pipe (iron) for the first floor hot water system. The second floor uses 3/4" copper. My domestic hot water is provided by a coil in the boiler, it's 1/2" pipe.

Home Depot only seems to carry the cheap "PE Foam" in the sizes up to 1", so I bought various sizes of the PE foam to cover what pipes I could, and then fiberglass for the larger pipes.

My boiler aquastat keeps it at 180*-200*F, so water leaving the boiler could easily be 200* for the heating pipes. For the domestic hot water there is an adjustable mixing valve which is marked 120-160*, I keep it at about the middle, so I'd guess the temp of hot water will be at most 140* or so.

Will I have a problem using the cheap foam under these conditions? It's not being used on cold pipes, so condensation is not an issue.

The reason I'm questioning it because I see this PDF which lists the upper limit at 180*... I'm considering adjusting my aquastat to 160-180* to keep the pipe temps at or below 180*...
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Old 10-09-2011, 08:37 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobVilla View Post
The foam insulation is extremely flamable , so its not recommended to put foam insulation near your hot water heater (just to be safe)
That's kind of strange considering that water heaters come with two pieces of foam insulation.....
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Old 10-09-2011, 08:51 PM   #30
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i wouldnt use cheap foam on boiler lines.

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