Insulation Audit and the Economic Thickness of Insulation

A. Bhatia, B.E.

Course Outline

Consideration of cost and conservation of fuel warrant a close assessment of insulation systems in the existing installations and new projects. While placing insulation onto a pipe or equipment is fairly easy, resolving issue such as "what type" of insulation to use and "how much" requires understanding of various alternatives. The first part "what type" is covered in Part-1; "Process Plant Insulation & Fuel Efficiency" and the Part-2; "how much" is provided in this 3-hour online course.

This course is aimed at students, energy auditors, mechanical, chemical & process engineers, HSE engineers, contractors, environmentalists, loss prevention professionals who are responsible for system design and operation of system.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the reader will be knowledgeable about:

Intended Audience

This course is aimed at students at Students, Professional Engineers, Mechanical, Chemical & Process Engineers, System Design Engineers working in Power, P&C, Refineries, Fertilizers, Metal & Mining, Manufacturing and Engineering industries, Energy Auditors, Operational & Maintenance Personnel, Health & Safety Personnel and Loss Prevention Engineers.

Course Introduction

Identifying the rate of thermal energy (heat) loss from an inadequate or uninsulated surface is the starting point for understanding the incentive for installing thermal insulation.

A thermal insulation thickness that satisfies an economic assessment of the minimal cost of owning and operating a thermal system is commonly called the economic thickness. The economic thickness pays for itself besides earning a return over its original cost. From this definition, any changes occurring in the prices of fuel or in the insulation cost will tend to shift the economic thickness to another value. Therefore the insulation levels, which were uneconomical in the year 70's, may be quite lucrative now due to drastic increase in fuel prices in the recent years. Based on the prevailing cost structure one has to review the entire insulation system and assess if additional insulation is necessary to achieve optimum economy.

Safety considerations associated with systems operating at very high or low temperatures definitely outweigh energy savings in majority of applications.

Course Content

The course content is in a PDF file Insulation Audit and the Economic Thickness of Insulation. You need to open or download this document to study this course.

Course Summary

Prevention of heat leakage by application of insulation is the simplest method of achieving energy conservation. With the current pricing of fuel, upgrading the insulation systems provide opportunities for energy savings. The economics of the investment on insulating must be examined prior to actually taking up the up gradation work.

All this is done on a systematic and scientific basis involving rigorous fieldwork for data collection and analysis during a thermal insulation audit. The frequency of such audit depends on the quality of preventive maintenance but it is recommended that such detailed audits are conducted occasionally once in 3 years. For new projects, use of right insulation materials, optimum thickness and application practices shall be followed to fully utilize the capability of insulation.

It is important that due regard to the required levels of thermal insulation be given at the initial design stages of process plant. In too many cases the insulation of process plant is an afterthought. Consequently there are cases where proper levels of thermal insulation cannot be installed.

Large financial benefits which are available to industry by preventing heat loss through use of economic insulation, regular upkeep, and periodic audits should be recognized and understood, and that appropriate action should be taken to achieve them.

Related Reading

Process Plant Insulation & Fuel Efficiency

The 4-hrs course "Process Plant Insulation & Fuel Efficiency" describes the characteristics & type of various insulation materials besides providing information on the application areas and best practices.

Overview of Refractory Materials
For high temperature applications, exceeding 1500°F, such as melting furnaces, heat treatment furnaces, kilns, boilers etc, refractory materials in isolation or in combination with insulation are used. Refer to course titled "Overview of Refractory Materials" for further reading.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

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DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered professional engineer. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.