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How to accessorize for maximum effect - Part 2: Outdoor Use

Continuing our series looking at the use of insulation accessories, in this entry we will be looking at how to protect insulation for external use.

The basic problem with the majority of thermal pipe insulation products is that you cannot use them outdoors; notable exceptions are premium products such as Eurobatex R which can be used externally without painting due to its protective polyolefin skin, but comes at a price premium compared to other products, or high temperature EPDM rubbers such as Eurobatex AT which are inherently UV stable but lacks the thermal values to be used for frost protection on smaller pipes (this product is intended mainly for use on solar pipework where the thermal requirements differ from conventional thermal insulation products).

These products aside, the more common closed cell flexible foams such as Eurobatex Pipe InsulationClimaflex Pipe Insulation or Armaflex Pipe Insulation will degrade in sunlight. Typically, polyethylene pipe insulation (such as Climaflex) can last for a number of years outdoors without protection so this can be a low cost option in the right situation. Nitrile rubbers (such as Armaflex or Eurobatex) do not tend to fare as well outdoors as a polyethylene might, and given that the thermal values are so close it makes more sense to use polyethylene if you are looking for a cheap option you will need to replace after a few years.
The simplest way of protecting these sort of products outdoors is to use a flexible, water based paint such as Union Colour paint. It is important that it is a flexible paint as flexible foam pipe insulations expand and contract with variations in temperature, so a normal paint will crack and flake off. You will normally want to apply two coats, and once dry this product will protect the insulation from UV damage. It does not offer a great deal by way of mechanical protection, but in the majority of domestic situations will be sufficient. 


Foil faced products such as Kingspan KoolthermSager Pipelane or Rockwool Rocklap present a different kind of problem. Aluminium foil is not suitable for external use, again due to UV stability, but also because it is not waterproof so the insulation underneath will get wet. Wet insulation is actually worse than no insulation at all; insulation works by trapping air (which is an insulator). If you replace that air with water (which is a conductor) then your pipes will actually freeze quicker than if they had no insulation at all.

So, how do you protect it if you want to use this kind of product outdoors? The thing to use is a product such as Plysolene PIB (Polyisobutylene) Sheet. This is a strong but flexible jacketing product that can be used over a variety of insulation types. It is applied by using a welding agent to bond all overlaps and butt joints, going around the insulation 1m at a time. The material is supplied 1m wide, so this is achieved by cutting off the required length to go once around the pipe plus 50mm to overlap at the seam. This is then secured with welding agent. You should also allow an 80mm overlap for the butt joint. For more installation information you can visit Plysolene's Website Here: http://www.plysolene.com/pib-application-advice.asp

We plan to do more of these style of blogs - if you have any requests for our next entry drop us an e-mail at: info@insulationandlagging.co.uk



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