Why should I insulate my pipes?
- As discussed previously, insulating your pipes can keep them from freezing during a cold snap. Even if you hire the experts at Johns Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning to do it for you, itâ€™s a relatively cheap insurance policy against the huge cost and mess of a flood.
- Even without the risk of flood, insulating your pipes makes good financial sense. Uninsulated hot water pipes cause water to lose some of its heat as it travels through the pipes. But insulating the pipes allows you to lower your water heater temperature by four degrees without any change in the heat of the water when it reaches the faucets.Â According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it only costs $10 to $15 to insulate your pipes, which results in a savings of $8 to $12 a year. This may not seem like much, but it adds up over the years, and the investment amortizes in just one year.
- Insulating your hot water pipes also keeps water in the pipes warmer for longer, thus reducing the time you have to wait for heated water to flow from the tap if you turn it off for a few minutes and back on. This adds convenience, as well as helping to save water.
How do I insulate my pipes?
- Foam pipe covers make insulating your pipes a breeze. Your local hardware store stocks several different diameters for different sized pipes, and you can cut the length to fit. Most pipe sleeves have a vertical slit down the side so you can easily slide them over your pipes. Some already have a sticky inside which adheres to the pipe, but you can secure the sleeve with duct tape, wire, or a clamp, and youâ€™re ready to go.
- Fiberglass spiral-wrap insulation looks a bit like shiny duct tape, but itâ€™s not actually sticky. Secure one end of the insulation around the beginning of the pipe, and then wrap the pipe, overlapping each layer by about a half-inch. Secure the other end of the insulation at the end of the pipe.
Basements and attics tend to be dumping grounds for anything people donâ€™t want to deal with at the moment: unneeded cookware, for instance, not to mention outgrown shoes, extra light bulbs, and leftover containers of paint. However, basements are also usually home to furnaces and water heaters, and this is where problems can arise.
Both gas furnaces and gas water heaters maintain a small pilot light to power the appliance. Although small, these pilot lights are still flames, and in the enclosed space of a basement, flammable substances are especially susceptible to accidental ignition. Each year, many fires and explosions are caused by storing flammable substances near a gas-fired appliance, especially water heaters. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that itâ€™s often not the substances themselves that cause the accidental ignition; itâ€™s the fumes from the substances that are flammable enough to ignite.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to change consumer behavior when it comes to storage of hazardous materials. The problem is that for people who donâ€™t have outside sheds or garages, the basement is the natural storage place for things like lawn mowers, paints, and household chemicals and solvents. These items all emit flammable fumes that pose a serious hazard.
To reduce the danger of accidental ignition, the appliance industry has come up with a solution. Since 2003, all new water heaters must be equipped with Flammable Vapor Ignition-Resistant (FVIR) technology. FVIR water heaters have a thermal-release device and a flame-arrestor screen that allows combustion air to enter the chamber to prevent flames from exiting the chamber if vapors ignite. However, even if you have a FVIR water heater, itâ€™s better to keep combustible materials away from water heaters. Flame arrestor screens can get clogged with lint, dust, and oil (LDO)â€”which block air from getting to the applianceâ€”and negative-pressure environments can create back-drafts.