DIY Green Energy For Homes

How to Insulate Hot Water Pipes

Obviously to retrofit is going to be much harder than to install insulation to save electricity during construction of a home, but there are options for DIY that are not costly and will save you money in the medium term.

So why should you insulate hot water pipes in the first place?

Up to 30% of the household energy demand is for hot water heating and if it is sent to the tap in unprotected piping it can arrive lukewarm unless you keep the thermostat turned right up.

In itself this is costly as a high water temperature needs to be maintained and when it does arrive at the tap it can be dangerously high.

So what are the best ways to do this? Firstly take a look at your piping and see what condition it is in.

Old piping may be corroded and have leaking joints which make it pointless just to cover over.

In these situations, depending on access to the whole system, it may be cheaper to rip out the old and install new inside a plastic conduit that is insulated already. This can be done yourself, but local regulations will probably mean you need to have it properly inspected during installation.

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If the current system is in good condition then the options for insulation will depend on how thorough you want to be and how much money is available. On this note, check with your plumbing wholesaler for possible subsidies from your state or utility company.

There are several types of insulation, these are foam or fibreglass strip/wrap lagging and tube filled insulation piping. The insulation wrap is relatively easy to apply even in confined spaces as you can do short or long lengths as access dictates.

This needs to be duct taped to hold it in place and will last for 5 to 10 years with minimal maintenance, but does need to be checked as animal activity or contact in exposed areas may dislodge sections.

Different types of foam are rated for their thermal insulation properties so check this before installing as well. If you are wrapping pipes near gas hot water heaters it is recommended that fibre glass wrap at least 1 inch thick be used and wire or aluminium tape to secure it instead of duct tape.

Don't get the wrap any closer than 6 inches from the flue and another tip is to wrap the cold inlet as well for about 3 feet in cold climates. Tubular installation is more effective, less likely to be damaged, will last longer without maintenance but is more exacting to install and expensive in the short term.

If you have lots of twists and turns in your plumbing system the difficulties are multiplied, and if they are concealed in walls or behind other fittings, almost impossible.

The option here is to force an insulation material into the space and there are eco friendly filling materials that can do this job. Check that they have fire retardant rating as some insurance policies will void claims if the material is not rated for local regulations.

A further benefit of insulating hot water pipes is that you don't have to wait so long for the heated water to arrive at your tap or shower.

This can save you wasting water as well when you turn on the faucet.

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So save money, water and energy just with a little effort!