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1.7 Common Mechanical Insulation Problems

This section provides an overview of poor mechanical engineering practices that are commonly encountered in the field, as identified in the mechanical insulation White Paper. [12]

The following table summarizes common deficiencies identified, and the types of impacts that these deficiencies can result in.
Table 1.7.1 - Common Mechanical Insulation Problems

Deficiency Effects or Impacts
No insulation (either not installed, or removed by maintenance contractors) Excessive heat transfer
Pipe or duct deterioration due to corrosion
Risk of injury, e.g. from burns or sharp corners
Condensation may damage building structures
Energy efficient systems may not perform as specified
Improper installation Same as above
No mechanical protection for insulation Insulation removed by pests or damaged by exposure to the environment
Vandalism damage to insulation
Improper selection of materials for insulation Damage to insulation due to heat, corrosion or physical abrasion
Excessive heat transfer and potential damage to the insulation
Energy efficient systems may not perform as specified

The reasons for poor practice in the industry (identified during interviews) are numerous, and include:

  • Outdated or incomplete engineering specifications, or lack of knowledge of best practices by engineers, especially for newer, high performance and low-temperature systems.
  • Problems due to unqualified installers and inadequate training.
  • Lowest cost tendering and “value engineering,” reducing costs below what is necessary for best practices, particularly when the developer is not the eventual owner or operator.
  • A perception among some developers and engineers that mechanical insulation is not a critical building component. This may be due in part to lack of educational focus on this issue.
  • Poor quality, lower cost insulation materials on the market.
  • Challenges related to engineering field review, including assessing whether installations meet code and design specifications.
  • A fragmented design and construction process where engineers and installers do not typically work closely together.
  • Tight construction timelines and focus on drywall completion, which can prevent inspection of some systems.

Refer to Appendix A for example photographs of mechanical insulation problems.