Leading Edge Technology for
Insulation & Composite Foam Cores


Series 2: Insulation's Potential Impact on Energy Consumption

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In Dyplast’s previous blog, we briefly discussed advanced insulation systems and explained the different sections of the energy value chain. In today’s blog, we will dive deeper into the potential impact insulation can have on energy consumption.

If advanced insulation systems offer so many benefits, why would the value of energy not be realized? Here’s why:.

  • Insulation is not sexy! While the next innovation, for instance, in refrigerant compressor efficiency may be of interest to engineers and retailers, the end-user is often not made aware that a very modest amount of insulation (at a much lower cost) may be far more cost-effective, particularly as a retrofit.
  • It is challenging to compare alternative insulants due to differing ASTM standards for various insulant materials.
  • There is a considerable amount of misinformation, disinformation, and lack of full disclosure by insulation suppliers.
  • End-users rarely select their insulation systems, and rather depend on their contractor/engineer/specifier who often consider insulation systems as an after-thought. They incorrectly decide these systems are more of a cost than an asset, or even simply a delay in a construction schedule that is already behind.
  • As mentioned in Dyplast’s prior blog, whether considering reductions in energy consumption or impacting climate change, the issues are inextricably linked. The vast majority of energy consumed comes from fossil fuels, with only 17% of electricity coming from renewable resources. Global energy consumption continues to rise as “petroleum and other liquids” lead all sources, even over natural gas, and with coal consumption leveling off but not decreasing significantly. Even though the linked EIA Report expects non-fossil fuels (renewables and nuclear) to grow faster than fossil fuels, fossil fuels will still account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040.

Commercial Buildings

If 10% of Commercial Buildings upgraded from existing insulants to polyiso the U.S. could reduce electricity consumption at the end-user-level by 6%, or 270 Terawatt-Hours (TWh). Doesn’t sound like much? Assume an average coal plant has a 600-Megawatt (MW) capacity, operating at an average capacity factor of 53%, can produce almost 2.8 Million Megawatt-Hours (MWhr) annually. Average transmission losses are 9%. This means 104 coal-fired power plants could be closed (almost 24% of coal generation) and not replaced with another source of generation. Let’s assume we were overly optimistic by a factor of 10; that still means 10 coal plants could be closed - so in other words, each investment in Insulation Systems would have its own Return-on-Investment requiring no federal or state subsidy.

Mechanical Pipe and Equipment Insulation

Dyplast’s primary focus has been on Industrial/Commercial Mechanical Insulation Systems which encompass lower-pipe insulation temperature pipe, equipment, and tanks. [Lower Temperature Insulation Systems range from low-temperature steam (<350°F) through hot water, chilled water, refrigeration, and down to cryogenic.] Almost every power plant, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, liquid natural gas, ethylene plant, etc. has a considerable amount of pipe and equipment operating at temperatures close to low-pressure steam down to cryogenic. Such systems include steam system condensation, lube oil cooling, chilled water, gas compression/expansion, and cold liquid distribution, among many others. Indeed, virtually all commercial buildings have significant HVAC systems operating at below-ambient temperatures, as do industrial food processing and storage facilities.

“Industry” consumes roughly 24% of U.S. electrical generation. A conservative assumption is that 30% of this energy goes toward mechanical system “building” and “room” heating/cooling, and 70% toward “process”. Again, conservatively, empirical audits point toward at least 25% of energy consumption going toward lower-temperature processes (<350°F) with mechanical equipment that requires insulation. The average net R-value per inch in insulation around pipes and equipment is at best 3.5 per inch. Polyiso, at an aged R-value of 5.6, could thus increase thermal efficiencies by 60%. Again, we do not expect all industrial facilities to retrofit to new insulation next year, so let’s assume a reasonable 10% do (motivated by increasing realization of a positive < 3-year ROI). This results in a reduction of electricity consumption by 4.2%. Considering transmission line loss, this could be 5% “at the fence” of the power generation plant. This once again results in a positive ROI for the end-user.

This reduction in electricity consumption is equivalent to 20% of the coal generation.

As previously stated, increased utilization of Advanced Insulation Systems has the highest likelihood of having a material impact on regional, national, and indeed global energy consumption with integral impact on climate change and sustainability. Dyplast is working to reverse negative trends by offering aggressive, full-disclosure of information, while working hand-in-hand with the industry and standards organizations use to enhance the abilities of end-users to readily select their optimal insulation systems.

Did you enjoy this blog? If so, stay tuned for the next installment. If you’re interested in learning more about Dyplast and how we can help you, contact us and request a free Lunch & Learn at your location!