In cold climates, particularly when Pipe are exposed to unconditioned temperature, hot water carrying ones can show condensation and cold water pipes can freeze and burst. Needless to say, the amount of heat loss from uninsulated hot water pipes is considerable and this is a waste of energy.
Therefore, insulation of exposed parts of pipes is important in order to protect them from bursting as well as to minimize heat loss and promote energy saving. It is common practice to insulate at least the first three feet of pipe coming from the water heater.
For the purpose of pipe insulation, a number of materials have historically been used and are still in use today. Asbestos, which used to be very widely used for many construction applications including pipe insulation is now only sparingly, if ever, used on pipes. This is because it has deleterious consequences to health.
Calcium silicate, cellular glass, elastomeric foam, fiberglass, mineral wool, phenolic foam, polyisocyanurate or polyiso, polystyrene and polyurethane are also examples of materials used for pipe insulation. Both natural materials and plastics are among these.
The lowest temperature that a material amongst these can withstand is minus 260 oC and the highest is 1000 oC. The fact that this range far exceeds the temperatures that water in pipes touches is a testament to the insulating efficiency of some of these materials.
Among the most widely used materials for insulating pipes are probably fiberglass and elastomeric foam. But the range of temperatures that plastic can tolerate is very near the temperatures that water in pipes actually is so that plastic is a good enough choice for insulating pipes as well.
The fire-resisting property of insulating materials is almost as important as their insulating efficiency itself. Materials that will burn easily in the event of a fire cause more damage to property and people than those that are fireproof or flame retarding.
On the other hand, not insulating an exposed pipe or not maintaining the insulation on pipes properly can lead you to waste a lot of money on heating or worse, deal with a burst pipe. Therefore, it is important that you pay attention to this especially if weather tends to be extreme.