Pipe Insulation: Is It Really Worth It?

Everyone has cold and hot water lines running through their home. Whether your pipes are made of PVC, black iron or copper, they all have one thing in common: they transfer heat to and from the ambient environment. While the heat loss from your hot water pipes seems like it may not be that much, think of how many feet of piping are in your home. If you factor in the total square footage of pipe surface, that small amount magnifies enormously. Insulating the pipes can reduce this loss, and consequently, save you money.

What is it and How Does it Work?

Pipe insulation, or pipe lagging as it is sometimes called, comes in long preformed hollow tubes of foam. These pieces are cut to fit your pipe and just slipped over and around the piping. The lagging is then wrapped with cloth, duct or plaster tape to protect it and prevent it from moving. Plaster or cloth tapes are a little more expensive, but they can be painted afterward if desired.

Special steps should be taken when going around a bend. Cut the insulation at a 45-degree angle, and then mate the cut ends around the corner. Secure with either duct tape or the plaster tape. When purchasing lengths of pipe insulation, it is essential to know the outside diameter of the pipe you are covering.  

Should You Insulate Other Things?

Insulation is not just for your hot water pipes either. If you live in a climate where the temperature in winter can fall below freezing, think about wrapping your cold water lines. Insulation will increase the range of temperatures that your pipes can handle. In warm and humid climates, using tape insulation instead of a pre-cut tube will prevent condensation from forming and dripping. Also, insulate your hot water heater.

Water heater "jackets" are made to wrap the heater so that heat loss is minimized through the walls. A water heater pad can also be fitted between the heater and the floor. This is especially helpful if you have a concrete slab floor, which can be a major cause of heat loss.

What Is The Bottom Line?

In the end, insulating your pipes is a relatively inexpensive initial investment that will repay itself quickly. For an initial outlay of a few dollars and a weekend's work, you can expect to save that much every year. It is estimated that for every ten degrees that you lower the temperature of your hot water heater, the cost is reduced between 3 to 5 percent. On average, insulation of hot water pipes reduces heat loss by 4 degrees, which means a savings of about $8 to $12 per year (based on an annual bill of $400 - $600). While not a huge savings, the decreased use of the heater also increases its lifespan

Insulating your pipes is something every homeowner should do. It is a small initial financial outlay and while the savings are not huge, they continue every year. Contact a plumber like A Absolute Plumbing & Heating for help. Or, if hiring a contractor is not fiscally possible, insulating pipes is an easy task for the average person.