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the insulation energy appraisal— it’s all about savings

Spending a little time to evaluate your facility’s energy efficiency saves you a lot of expense.

Many manufacturing facilities overlook energy saving opportunities in their distribution systems. In a given day, a typical plant manager will focus on process improvement issues, ways to increase throughput and reduce cost, employee safety, new product development, facility maintenance, equipment failures and more. It seems there is very little time left to look at the efficiency of the energy delivery system (steam, gas, etc.). Yet, a company's costs are significantly influenced by the amount of energy used in its manufacturing processes. Assessing the true dollar and performance value of insulated process systems is an essential element of a plant's energy conservation plan.

NIA Sponsors a Certified Training Program

To help industry better understand the true dollar and performance value of insulation, The National Insulation Association (NIA) is sponsoring the Insulation Energy Appraiser Certification Program which trains certified appraisers how to evaluate the thermal performance of insulated versus uninsulated or underinsulated processes in a facility. According to William Pitkin, Executive Vice President of NIA, "An Insulation Energy Appraisal can put a dollar value to the energy saved through installing insulation as well as quantify the emissions saved for the insulation investment incurred. It can be a valuable tool for making sound business decisions regarding insulation that will have significant payback for the life of a facility."

The Appraisal Process

The Insulation Energy Appraisal utilizes information supplied by the plant manager or engineering staff, as well as data gathered from a walk-through of the facility. Data for each inventoried line or piece of equipment is then fed into a computer software program called 3E Plus® which calculates:

  • Just how much insulation is necessary to reduce NOx, CO2 and Carbon Equivalent (CE) emissions.
  • Exactly how much energy is saved through applying a range of insulation thicknesses.
  • The dollar cost savings realized through preventing energy waste.
Scope of the Appraisal

Because it is virtually impossible to inventory all process piping in a facility due to the complexity of some systems and insufficient information, the scope of a typical appraisal includes insulated lines, uninsulated lines and equipment only. Items such as small, congested lines of piping, sometimes described as spaghetti lines, are not usually included.

The Process

The appraisal typically takes one or two days to complete. The first part of the process is spent interviewing the plant/energy manager to determine the scope of the plant's energy usage and energy distribution systems, and the cost of energy. Additional time is spent reviewing plant layout and drawings and determining the major sources of energy serving the plant. Part two of the process is reserved for the facility walk-through during which the appraiser measures all pipes, ducts and vessels, including both insulated and uninsulated sections.

The 3E Plus® Computer Program

The next step in the Insulation Energy Appraisal process is calculating the data acquired during the information gathering interview and facility walk-through. The 3E Plus® software program, which was developed by the North American Insulation Manufacturers Associa-tion, greatly simplifies the calculations needed for the appraisal. Because insulation calculations for manufacturing processes once took days, insulation, as a viable solution for less efficient industrial processes was often overlooked.

Data to Support Conservation Priorities

The 3E Plus® program allows the Insulation Energy Appraiser to run several different scenarios, depending upon the conservation priorities of the plant management.

A certified Insulation Energy Appraiser will have a good understanding of the energy and budget management objectives of the client and be able to provide the energy user with solid data that can provide information on:

1. How much energy is saved through applying a range of insulation thicknesses.

2. The fuel dollar cost for bare and insulated surfaces as well as the savings realized through preventing energy waste with insulation. The 3E Plus® software uses the latest fomulas for calculating heat loss and heat gain which are based on pending ASTM C680 calculations.

3. Greenhouse gas (CO2, NOx, and CE) emissions for bare surface energy loss as well as the reduced emissions using various insulation thicknesses.

A Quick Example of the Process

Consider this miniature demonstration of the process. Following discussions with the maintenance supervisor and plant manager, the information in Table 2 was collected and used to provide data on a 77 ft. line of 4" pipe already insulated with 1.5" of insulation.

The savings at the current insulation level at 1.5" are significant. And, if the 3E Plus® optimum thickness of 2" is used, the numbers get even better. In fact, there is a significant increase in reductions if thicknesses ranging from .5" to 2" are applied. However, with thicknesses above 2", the reductions are less significant using incremental thicknesses.

Final Calculations

The calculations for the 4" line are entered into a final spreadsheet (see Table 6) which calculates the total fuel savings in dollars and Btu and emissions. The spreadsheet calculations for the 4" line show:

  • Bare surface cost per year to operate
  • Fuel savings per year if line were insulated
  • Emission savings if line were insulated
  • Savings with use of current insulation versus no insulation
All About Savings

Once the final savings calculations for each line (such as the 4" pipe example) are complete, they are included in the final report for the end user together with spreadsheets showing data for each pipe/equipment inventoried. Following an Insulation Energy Appraisal, many have found that insulating bare piping, valves, or condensate lines can add valuable dollars to a facility's bottom line. And others have found that they have been doing things the right way all along but they can now quantify the results of their efforts and get a read on their greenhouse gas savings from the insulated systems. Says Pitkin, "By putting a dollar value to the energy saved through installing insulation as well as quantifying the emissions saved for the insulation investment incurred, the Insulation Energy Appraisal can help energy users get a better understanding of the true dollar and performance value of an insulated process system."

The sample calculations demonstrate that the Insulation Energy Appraisal program has a significant impact on a facility's bottom line. The benefits translate to energy savings, dollar savings, and increased life of a facility. The true expense lies in dismissing the appraisal process.

To have an appraisal performed or to learn more about the program, contact NIA at 703-683-6422.


This article appeared in the November 2000 issue of Insulation Outlook.

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