Author Archives: FirwinCorp1

Clean Water and Removable Insulation Blankets – Sounds Good!

When one thinks of clean drinking water, many things may come to mind – natural water sources, reservoirs, treatment facilities, to name a few. But you may be surprised to learn that removable insulation blankets have a role to play in bringing that fresh water to your table.

Sometimes, that role has to do with heat management. But every so often, we are called upon to helped with sound and vibrations issues that can crop up in industrial facilities. And such was to case recently at a local water treatment plant, where the ‘Ozone Generators’ (used to disinfect the water at the treatment plant) were letting off some ‘not so good vibrations’, making the surrounding area uncomfortable to work in.
After a study recommended removable insulation as a solution to the excess noise and vibration, the Firwin team was called in to propose a solution.

The final product was a blend of 2″ thick mineral insulation coupled with a lb/ft² sound sheet. Since only ends of the vessel were to be covered, our design engineers also had to incorporate a unique fastening method to ensure that the blankets remained in place.
A follow up study done by the Generator manufacturer concluded that “by covering the Generator covered at both ends with a noise blanket, the noise was greatly reduced below the specification requirements of 80 dbm”.
If you need some help on a sound or vibration issue, feel free to give us a call.

Gimme Some Space – How Much Clearance is Necessary for an Insulation Blanket?

Insulation Blankets – Thicknesses and Clearances

It is important that there is enough room around any component being insulated to allow enough space not only for the insulation blanket, but also for sufficient air space between the insulation blanket and any nearby surfaces. A lack of air space between the outer surface of an insulation blanket and another object can cause a heat build up on the blanket’s outer surface and possible deterioration of the blanket material.
With the typical blanket thickness of one inch, the question arises as to what to do with applications that require removable insulation, but have low clearances around all or part of the components to be covered?
“Insulating areas with low clearances can be an issue, but it often depends on the particulars of an application and what the client is

wishing to achieve”, said Brett Herman, Firwin’s VP of Sales & Engineering. “For instance, sometimes just thinning out the insulation in areas of low clearance will still give the client sufficient insulation performance for the needs of his particular application. If, on the other hand, we are dealing with a relatively high temperature application, and the client has a particular temperature reduction goal that he wishes to achieve – this could be for personnel protection, or to ensure that nearby heat sensitive components are shielded from overheating – Whatever the reason, a lack of clearance means we are limited in the thickness of insulation that we can apply, which in turn can limit the amount of heat reduction that results”.

Solutions for Low Clearance Issues

So what solutions are available for situations where clearances restrictions would seem to limit the use of insulation blankets? “In situations where the client needs to achieve a certain temperature reduction, and there is insufficient room for the thickness that would be needed with standard fiberglass insulation, we have other solutions that we can offer to help the client achieve his goals”, said Brett.
“The first possibility we would look at is upgrading to a higher temperature insulation, such as MW1800 or FW2000+. These insulations have a higher temperature rating than our standard fiberglass FW1200, and sometimes when all that is needed is a small increase in insulation performance at a given thickness, these insulations will do the trick, with the price premium being relatively small “, notes Brett.
“If however, these do not suffice, the next step is to look at a high performance insulation such as Aerogel. It does carry a price premium, but it is one of the most effective insulators on the market, and will allow a client to achieve larger temperature reductions with a thin layer of insulation”.

High Performance Insulators

Insulation blankets are made up of 3 parts: The outer cover, also known as the `cold face`, the middle layer of insulation material, and the inner cover, or `hot face`. For most applications, the `standard` insulation blanket makeup of a silicone outer cover, 1 inch thick fiberglass, and a mesh inner liner, works fine. But certain applications demand alternative materials, be it because of very high temperatures, the environment where the insulation blankets will be operating, or in the case here, because of a combination of space constraints and desired insulation performance.

“Space constraints alone do not necessarily demand the use of an alternative insulator such as Aerogel”, said Brett. “It is possible that the customer`s needs can be met with a thin layer of fiberglass or superwool. An insulator like Aerogel is brought into the picture when the project needs insulation performance that typically could only be achieved with thicker insulation than the space allows.”

The chart below gives an indication of what kind of insulation effectiveness can be achieved even with a very thin layer of Aerogel insulation, compared to other insulations at standard 1″ thickness. As can be seen, even a thin 10 mm (approximately .4 inches) layer of Aerogel gives an insulation effectiveness near that of a 1″ thick fiberglass blanket.

Can removable insulation blankets keep pipe contents from freezing ?

Removable insulation blankets are great at managing heat. Be it by lowering the ambient heat in an engine room, protecting workers from hot surfaces, or shielding pipe contents from cold external temperatures, removable insulation covers are often the solution of choice where heat must be managed, but permanent insulation is not feasible.

Gate Valve with Glycol Tracing,,
wrapped with Removable Insulation Blanket

But there is one thing that removable insulation blankets cannot do – they cannot add heat. “We often get asked, particularly in cold weather applications, if our blankets can keep pipe contents or components from freezing”, said Brett Herman, Firwin`s VP of Sales & Engineering. “The answer is that while we can contain heat and delay heat loss by sheltering pipe components from cold external temperatures, our insulation blankets can`t add any heat that isn`t already there.”

Where insulation blankets can help, however, is where companies have some sort of heat tracing on their piping, and they want to minimize the amount of heat lost to the environment, and thus maximize the efficiency of their heat tracing.

Heat Tracing Challenges

“Companies, particularly in the oil and gas industry, and often in other industries such as mining, chemical, and food processing, use heat tracing to keep pipe or container contents from freezing. In cold temperatures, this heat tracing, if left un-insulated, becomes much less effective. Firwin has done a number of applications in this area, covering the component and the heat tracing, increasing efficiency and lowering the heat that escapes to the environment”, added Brett.

Like other removable insulation blanket applications, a properly designed blanket is key to ensuring that the heat tracing is properly insulated. “There are various type of heat tracing in the marketplace today – steam, glycol, hot oil, and electric”, said Rael Herman, Firwin’s VP of Production & New Product Development.

“In some instances, the entire component in covered by a ‘bolt-on heat jacket, changing the entire geometry of the part”. What they all have in common is the need to be wrapped tightly, so as to minimize the amount of heat that is lost to the environment. The challenge, when it comes to insulation blankets, is to design a blanket that will account for the sometime difficult geometries and penetration access points that often come hand in hand with heat tracing”, said Rael.

Firwin Blanket custom designed to fit glycol penetrations

Other Solutions

What about situations where the customer is not familiar with heat tracing, or where heat tracing is not a viable option ? “We have done applications where we have incorporated a heat source into the insulation cover (see previous article on “pizza blankets“)”, notes Brett. “Regardless of who supplies the heat tracing, what’s important is ensuring that the the insulation blankets are designed in such a way as to tightly cover the components in question, while allowing for penetration points that typically accompany tracing of valves and similar components”.

For more information on removable insulation blankets and heat tracing, please contact Firwin.