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How Insulation Can Improve Your Building’s Energy Performance

One of the biggest factors contributing to energy inefficiency in leisure, residential and commercial properties is heat loss, and how we combat this has a huge influence on not just our ongoing energy costs, but what heat and power systems we have in place and even whether our properties will meet regulatory standards.

Understanding heat loss

In order for heating systems to be effective, of course, the heat output of the system has to be greater than the heat loss from the room. So understanding how heat loss can occur and what we can do to avoid it, has a huge bearing on:

• The specifications of our heating systems, to ensure they heat a building adequately
• How the building rates in terms of an Energy Performance Certificate
• Whether a heating system meets expected and desired comfort levels
• Determining the running costs of a system

While heating systems in leisure, residential and commercial buildings are a quite obvious source of heat loss, another widespread but far less visible problem can be found in refrigeration and air conditioning systems. This is as a result of uninsulated pipes and brackets, a problem occurs when pipework is directly fixed to its mounting bracket. The result of this is a build-up of moisture in the form of condensation, and this can render existing insulation material ineffective and can corrode the pipework, leading to a deterioration of the system over time.

Why insulation is important

Of course, eradicating air leakage and using an efficient heating method will contribute heavily to a reduction in energy consumption. But probably the most effective way to control heat loss and improve the building’s performance level is to ensure your insulation is adequate.

Heat loss from any heating system is a function of heat transfer rates, and these rates in walls, floors and roofs are measured in U-values. These U-values form the basis of whether a building falls within regulatory standards, so they are hugely important. A low U-value basically indicates a well-insulated building, and at the opposite end of the scale a high U-value shows a poor thermal performance.

Many leisure, residential and commercial properties are now looking at underfloor heating systems, for example, and insulation to ensure maximum upwards heat output and minimum downward heat loss is crucial to this system’s success. Naturally, the effectiveness of an underfloor heating system is influenced by the overall size of the room compared to the heated floor area, the type of flooring used (wood, tile or stone), the desired ambient temperatures, the power capacities of the system, and perhaps most importantly, the amount and specification of floor insulation. Too little insulation results in heat and energy being lost to the subfloor.

In terms of pipework in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, these should always be isolated from their mounting element by adequate insulation, to prevent moisture build-up and subsequent damage to the system. Thermally isolating the pipe in this way is the best method of ensuring an optimum and long term insulation performance. Furthermore, ensuring that the material used to insulate pipes and the pipe supports, is the same, offers greater compatibility, which leads to better condensation control, fire behaviour, ease of installation and ultimately, energy efficiency.

We can help with your insulation needs

Advice on insulating buildings, with regards to the building framework of walls, roofs and floors and the infrastructure of pipework in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, can be sought from qualified contractors such as Robinsons. We have trained and experienced personnel who can advise on insulation requirements – from design through to installation – to ensure you are reducing heat loss as much as possible, and therefore getting the most out of your climate control systems, both now and on an ongoing basis.

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