The Ombuseyman investigates Insulation and Plastic Pipes
December 3, 2008
You never know what questions can come up from week to week on Shell Busey’s Home Discovery Show, and that’s part of its charm. Most of the time questions can be answered very quickly over the phone with some instruction from Shell, but every now and again an inquiry or question comes up that needs a little research, and investigation. Thats where Shell assumes the role of "The Ombuseyman"
, (an Ombudsman for homeowners) gets to the heart of the issue.
Shell recently received a call on the Home Discovery Show from a concerned listener who read a circulating home improvement brochure that stated insulation around plastic pipes could cause a negative chemical reaction and lead to breakage. Shell wasn't completely comfortable with that statement, and so The Ombuseyman had to investigate.
He sent an inquiry to the Canadian Association of Home and Property inspectors who replied that after contacting the store in question, had uncovered no knowledge of any negative reaction between plastic pipes and insulation. So the issue was then brought to Natural Resources Canada (NR Can), who was listed as the credited source in the home improvement brochure.
A representative from NR Can replied stating, the message that was printed in the article is incorrect and there had been a misinterpretation of NR Can's original statement. What NR Can had said is "...there is little to be gained by insulating plastic water lines as the plastic was a decent insulator already compared to metallic pipes, and some pipe insulation products may cause risk of reaction with some types of plastic pipe and fittings."
The response was based on information received previously from the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association
who issued the following statement concerning the insulating of plastic water lines:
"In general, plastic pipes have low coefficient of thermal conductivity compared to copper or other metal pipes. For example, a 12 mm diameter plastic pipe with water at 65 C would have a heat loss of about 8 W per meter of length; while a similar copper pipe would have heat losses of about 91 W per meter of length. Therefore, additional benefits associated with insulation of plastic pipes are marginal." Furthermore, "Some types of insulation lubricants may cause severe stress cracking of the plastic pipe fittings. Therefore, advised to use only rubber or polyolefin based insulation materials."
If your home does have copper or metal piping, insulating is a great way to conserve energy and prevent heat loss, although as plastic pipes are fairly efficient insulators already, there is no need to insulate them.
“Ask The Ombuseyman” is a radio segment heard the last weekend of every month on Shell Busey’s Home Discovery Show. Shell will investigate an issue relating to building code, Strata issues, or any home concern that needs clarification or direction. The findings from Shell Busey’s Ombuseyman segment will be published every month in TheHouseSmart.com E-News.
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