Insulating Water Pipes
Insulating water pipes can be a relatively easy solution to several problems. Also, insulating water pipes can save some money on your power bill, especially if you insulate your hot water pipes.
Insulating water pipes is not something that is standard in construction. When homes are built, contractors do not generally plan to install insulation on the home's water pipes. If you are building, you will need to specify insulation on your water pipes. You can specify if you want both hot and cold insulated, or just the hot water lines.
Insulating water pipes after a house is built can be difficult, and rarely can all of the water pipes be accessed for the installation of insulation. Water pipes that run through the studs behind walls are not reasonable to insulate. This is because the damage done to the wall, and then the necessary repairs, would far outweigh any possible benefit gained by insulating the water pipes.
Attic and basement water pipes can usually be insulated relatively simply. This is because these pipes are usually easy to access post construction. The fastest, easiest way to insulate these water pipes is to use preformed foam insulation, which is available at hardware and home improvement stores.
Preformed foam insulation for water pipes comes in different diameters – both inside and outside. You can get preformed foam insulation for 1" pipe that is ¾" thick, or 1" thick. Both have inside diameters of 1". Obviously, the thicker the preformed foam insulation is, the more insulation you get.
Preformed foam insulation is also available for 'T's and 90° elbows.
To install preformed foam insulation, you simply open the precut slit and slide the foam onto the pipe. It's usually easier to precut the 10' lengths for each application, but sometimes cutting after installing is easier. Preformed foam insulation cuts easily with a shop or utility knife, or a single edged razor blade.
In you insulate a hot water pipe, then the heat of the water in the pipe will be retained longer. If you insulate a cold water pipe, then the cold pipe will not extract heat from the area where it's installed. Also, insulating cold water pipes can cut down on moisture that comes from condensation on the pipes.
Insulating water pipes will also help quiet down noisy water line systems.
You can also insulate water pipes with fiberglass wrap insulation and tape. This is harder to work with and install than preformed foam insulation. The fiberglass is sold in rolls. The strips are wrapped around the pipe and then a layer of plastic, non-sticky tape is applied over the fiberglass to protect it.
Don't expect that insulating water pipes will dramatically affect your power cost for heating water. It won't. If you want to make a noteworthy difference in the power cost for heating water, then turn your water heater down to about 115° - 120°. Follow this up by insulating your water heater with one of the water heater insulation kits. These kits have plastic covered fiberglass insulation that is used as a wrapping blanket for the water heater.