Best Refrigeration Pipe Insulation

best refrigeration pipe insulation

When evaluating the best refrigeration pipe insulation for your project, there are many things to consider. Such factors include…

  • Line (operating) temperature
  • Upper ambient temperature range
  • Upper relative humidity range
  • Thermal conductivity and permeability
  • Application – interior, exterior, subject to foot traffic and mechanical damage
  • Space restrictions (between pipes, other objects, retail grocery cases)
  • Material cost
  • Product life cycle
  • LEED® credit compliance
  • Fire safety compliance with either ASTM E 84 or UL 723 25/50 flame spread/smoke developed-index

Commercial and industrial refrigeration systems typically operate in the 20°F to -50°F (ammonia) range. These continuous service temperatures are below ambient and under constant threat of condensation and vapor drive. Additionally, hot gas defrost cycles can reach intermittent spikes of 250°F. The consequences of inadequate HVAC refrigeration pipe insulation design include saturated insulation, icing, pipe corrosion, system failure, and dreaded downtime. 

The ASHRAE Handbook recommends cellular glass, closed-cell elastomeric, closed-cell phenolic, polystyrene, and polyisocyanurate insulation for refrigeration system applications. These refrigeration pipe insulation types share a few characteristics: closed-cell structure, low water absorption, and low water vapor transmission (WVT).

Unlike open-cell insulation types, closed-cell refrigeration pipe insulation does not “wick” moisture into the insulation body when subjected to surface damage. Moisture-laden insulation will reduce thermal efficiency, promote mold growth and facilitate corrosion under insulation. Additionally, some closed-cell types offer built-in vapor retarders so the cost of material and labor to install a supplemental jacket are not necessary. Finally, some are flexible and do not require a separate fabrication step which reduces time and material loss through the supply chain.

When evaluating the best refrigeration pipe insulation (closed-cell), important factors to consider include:

  • Thermal conductivity (determines insulation thickness)
  • Water vapor permeability (supplemental vapor retarder or jacket)
  • Flame/smoke rating (25/50)
  • Is the refrigeration pipe insulation rated for the continuous upper and lower service temperatures of the HVAC equipment manufacturer?
  • UV resistance for exterior applications
  • Durability when subjected to mechanical impacts
  • Are continuous tubes offered to insulate multiple very long variable refrigerant flow (VRF) or variable refrigerant volume (VRV) lines?
  • Are factory-fabricated fitting covers offered?
  • Can the product be easily field-fabricated for a high-quality installation?
  • Does the manufacturer offer a single-source system solution for warranty purposes?

Closed-cell elastomeric refrigeration pipe insulation is commonly specified and installed due to its favorable performance benefits:

  • Closed-cell structure
  • Lightweight
  • Flexible
  • Built-in vapor retarder
  • No jacket required for most applications
  • Favorable thermal k (reduces required thickness)
  • Low WVT, low water absorption
  • Available in factory pre-cut tubes, continuous tubes, sheets & rolls, and accessories
  • Passes ASTM E84 (25/50) through 2” thick
  • Low-VOC for chemical emissions

While the most common closed-cell elastomeric refrigeration pipe insulation available is composed of nitrile butadiene rubber and PVC (NBR/PVC), Aeroflex USA offers an Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) alternative. The benefits of the Aeroflex® brand of EPDM best refrigeration pipe insulation include:

  • NonPolar (Hydrophobic) – does not induce or react with water vapor
  • Higher upper continuous service temperature of 257°F
  • Greater resistance to UV degradation
  • Inherently microbial-resistant (no biocides added)
  • Non-corrosive on austenitic stainless steel piping
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s)
  • Health Product Declarations (HPD’s)
  • Indoor Advantage Gold[TM] Certified for low chemical emissions
  • Available in standard unslit and “pre-cut” tubes (SSPT), continuous tubes, sheets and rolls (with or without PSA back), and factory-fabricated fittings up to 2” thick
  • Aeroflex EPDM system accessories – pipe hanger fittings, factory-fabricated fittings, adhesives, tapes, and coatings
  • Glue-less seam seals – Aeroflex® Cel-Link II®
  • SSPT ID range from ⅜” to 16” IPS
  • Passes ASTM E84 up to 2” thick
  • Complies with NFPA 90A / 90B
  • Made in the U.S.A. with global materials
  • Buy-American compliant

To learn more about why Aeroflex is a strong contender as one of the best refrigeration pipe insulation solutions, please visit Refrigeration Pipe Insulation.


Source: National Insulation Association