Installing Fiberglass Pipe Insulation

Learn how to properly install pre-formed fiberglass pipe insulating tubes using home shop tools to prevent pipes from freezing and radiated heat losses.

Insulating exposed hot and cold water pipes in your home is a moderately difficult job that the average homeowner can perform. Insulating pipes saves energy and provides an immediate return on your investment by reducing heat loss radiated away from exposed hot water pipes. It can also prevent major water damage from burst pipes that freeze during cold winter months, especially in attics where any repair can be very expensive. Use these guidelines for quick and efficient installation.

You'll need a ladder, coverall, work gloves, rags, household cleanser and a supply of dust masks before you begin the task of cleaning the exposed pipes located in the attic or in crawlspaces. It's a good idea to make an estimate of the amounts of pipe insulation you'll need beforehand, then plan on buying 10% more just in case your estimate is off. Clambering about in attics can be hot work. And you'll only want to wiggle through the crawlspace once.

Your local home center or hardware store should have a supply of the tube insulation you need. The insulation comes in six-foot lengths of pre-formed 1/2", 3/8" or 3/4" tubes slit along their lengths for $2-$6 per section. You'll need several rolls of duct tape.

Begin by removing accumulated dust, dirt and grease from all pipes with a rag. Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove any rust. Clean pipe surfaces with a household cleanser. Let dry.

Fit all the pre-formed tubes first. Straight runs are the easiest. Merely fit the tube sections over the pipe and butt together. Seal the ends with duct tape. For pipe bends, cut some notches in the tube on the slit side using a utility knife or serrated bread knife. Fit the section over the bend, butt together and seal the ends with tape. Seal the slits with duct tape.

Elbows are a little more challenging. Each end of the adjoining tubes must be mitered at a 45-degree angle. You can use a miter box or just eyeball it. Make the joints as tight as possible, Fit the mitered sections together and warp duct tape over the joint, completely sealing it.

T-joints are the most difficult to do. Fit one section to the straight run of the pipe. Use a pencil or marker to draw a 45-degree angle cut along both sides of a center line. On the tubing to be fitted into this notch, cut the end of the tube to fit it like a key. Seal with tape.

Once all the tubes are in place and the joints connected, double check all the joints and tube slits to make sure that all are sealed with duct tape. Wrap tape around the ends of pipes as well.

Insulating water pipes in your homes is a tough job appreciated once it's done. But you should see an immediate return on your utility bills. You can also relax knowing that should the temperatures drop, you no longer have to worry about bursting frozen pipes or radiated heat losses.

© High Speed Ventures 2011