Increasing Engine Efficiency with Insulation Blankets

Many of today’s modern engines have two chargers that help to improve engine efficiency, and for which insulation blankets have an important role to play—turbochargers and charge-air coolers.

To understand how insulation can help you get the best performance from your engine, you first need to know how turbochargers work. The function of a turbocharger is to increase the mass of air that enters the engine, which leads to a greater air/fuel mix and boosts the horsepower. This is achieved by an internal turbine and corresponding compressor. The turbine, which can spin at speeds over 200,000 rpm, drives a compressor, which increases the amount of air entering an engine’s cylinders. Because the turbocharger’s turbine is powered by the engine’s own exhaust and because of the rapid rpms, turbochargers run at extremely hot temperatures.

The extreme heat generated by turbochargers can stress sensitive engine parts in the piston and cylinder area, and have a detrimental effect on surrounding engine components and employee safety.

Unlike turbochargers, charge air coolers run cold. Charge air coolers work to cool the compressed air that leaves the compressor before the air enters the engine. The increased density of the colder air means that more air can fit into the engine, for greater power. Charge air coolers thus improve the efficiency of the turbocharger and engine by allowing a greater mass of air to enter the engine at one time.

Insulation blankets are used in conjunction with both turbochargers and charge air coolers. For turbochargers, the blankets keep the heat from escaping the turbochargers and from entering the surrounding engine components. For charge air coolers, insulation blankets are found on the hot piping that leads from the turbocharger to the cooler, in order to protect personnel who might be in the area.

To learn more about how Firwin’s insulation blankets can improve the efficiency of your engine, please visit our website or contact us today!

Visit our new site!

In case you haven’t noticed already, Firwin has a newly designed website for customers in the petrochemical, chemical, and oil & gas industries. The new site, www.firwinthermowrap.com, sports an updated look and feel, while keeping the navigation and content similar to our main site. In redesigning this online platform of our capabilities, products, and applications, we closely considered our customer’s needs. We’ve catered to audiences that are both familiar and unfamiliar with our company by streamlining the navigation, adding useful images, and highlighting our most popular products.

The first things that’ll catch your eye are the content buckets on the home page. The content buckets compartmentalize chunks of information that are specific to a certain topic. Experienced users, for example, will be able to access information about our products quickly by scanning the links under the list of Products & Services. Others that are newer to Firwin can read about our past successes by clicking on our various case studies. The new site prominently places a lot of important information for customers both new and old right on the home page.

We’ve also added quite a number of high resolution photos to the site, in a photo gallery. These pictures not only serve to educate new customers about our Thermowrap product line, but also may inspire experienced professionals with new solutions to equipment issues. You can view our Thermowrap products at work in a variety of different applications. One notable image in our photo gallery shows our product installed around a gate valve with glycol tracing, a complex piece of equipment with many bends and components. The images in our gallery may help you visualize how your next insulation project might look upon completion.

Overall, we’re focusing this new site on our Thermowrap product line of removable insulation covers. We hope that the site serves our customers in the petrochemical, oil & gas industries well and is a useful resource for anyone looking for insulation covers. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a look at our new site today!

Stop the Deep Freeze with Firwin

Wintertime, especially north of the border, means one thing: cold weather. Every year at this time, many of our industrial customers want to know if Firwin offers an insulation product that can keep piping and components from freezing. If you’ve ever owned a house, you know that frozen pipes can lead to disaster; now, just imagine if you are in charge of millions of dollars of industrial equipment under the same conditions.

At Firwin, we recognized that many of our customers operating in colder climates needed to find a way to both retain and create heat to keep their equipment safe and effective.  After a number of tests and prototypes, our R&D department came up with the perfect solution, the ‘pizza blanket’. Modeled after the insulated satchels pizza delivery people use to keep your food warm during transit, our pizza blanket introduces heat through a series of electric coils in order to prevent equipment from freezing up in harsh conditions. Of course, our pizza blankets are more than just heating pads; they also have all the properties of standard removable insulation blankets, including the ability to retain and contain heat. The combination of heating elements and insulation blankets means that our customers who operate in the harshest cold-weather conditions can be sure their facilities will constantly run at peak performance. 

So, if you’re facing a long cold winter and you need to know that your equipment won’t freeze up, contact Firwin today and let us tell you more about our innovative and cost-saving pizza blankets.

What to do about a square peg in a round hole?

Odd shapes and sizes are always something that design engineers encounter when creating everything from pipe fittings to fasteners. With insulation blankets, varying geometries and protrusions from engine and exhaust components and process piping are regularly encountered in the design phase.  At this point, when the surface to be covered isn’t smooth, how does that blanket fit?

Here is where our custom blanket services fit in. When it comes to the design portion of the production phase, our design engineers evaluate the surface and piping, and can create a blanket to accommodate any protrusions or cut outs.

How do we go about this with our customers? There are a few different options of reviewing and obtaining this kind of information. First and foremost, if the insulation blanket is needed in an emergency situation, with no lead time to make a custom cover, we can send a blanket and the customers can make the cut outs themselves according to the placement of the brackets. If that is not the situation, then our design engineers look at the end application. If the jacket will be covering a silencer, then they will supply the customer with a support brackets drawing they can fill out. If it’s a different component—such as for the oil and gas industry—we will then ask for CAD drawings or specific dimensions from the customer. Despite the application, it’s always pertinent for our design engineers to have drawings of the equipment that will be blanketed.

The most important aspect of the blanket design is that, according to our article, our “design team ensures that any cut-outs or openings are designed in such a way as to allow sufficient room for the protruding item, while minimizing any heat loss due to the lack of insulation.”

Whether you’re worried about complex geometries or protruding components on your equipment, don’t fear—our design engineers can create an insulation blanket for every application.

A Look at Firwin’s Product Information Guide

At Firwin, we always want to make sure that you get the most out of our removable insulation blankets. When you purchase any of Firwin’s removable insulation covers for the first time, we not only provide you with a high quality product, but also a world-class product information guide. The 24-page guide covers a wide variety of topics including:

  • An overview of removable insulation blankets
  • Detailed installation instructions including common errors to avoid
  • A closer look at harder to identify parts like segmented elbows, flanges, and cones
  • Alternative fastening methods
  • How to care for new blankets
  • How to keep the highest level of safety during usage

The guide includes diagrams and photos, allowing those who are new to our insulation blankets to properly install them.

While we provide top quality covers, we also want to provide top quality service. Is there anything missing from the guide? If so, let us know!

Tips on Caring for your Removable Insulation Blankets

At Firwin, we take pride in the performance and longevity of our removable insulation blankets.  We manufacture all of our products to withstand the toughest and most challenging environments, be it hundreds of feet underground or on the roughest seas. In order to make sure our insulation jackets maintain peak performance, it helps to follow a few easy care tips.

  1. Firwin’s fastening systems are extremely strong, but it is important to avoid excess force when installing your insulation blankets.
  2. It isn’t always easy, but for the best service, keep your blankets as clean as possible.
  3. Promptly remove or clean off all chemicals that cause deterioration of aluminum or silicone coatings.
  4. Avoid oil saturation; this will render your blanket’s “non-combustible” characteristics ineffective. You will then need to replace the covers.
  5. Treat blankets like all parts of the engine and inspect them regularly.
  6. Last but not least, always take care not to cut or damage the outer protective cover fabrics. It helps to limit the usage of sharp instruments around all insulation blankets.

If you follow all of these steps, you can automatically increase the lifespan of your removable insulation blankets. If you have more blanket care questions, please contact one of our insulation blanket experts today!

Choosing the Right Material for Your Insulation Blankets – Part 4: Fastening Systems

For the final installment of our Choosing the Right Material for Your Insulation Blankets series, we are going to look at fastening systems. As we have seen, arriving at the right combination of materials for your insulation blankets takes a lot of time and expertise. The same holds true for the fastening system used to hold your insulation covers in place. Just like with outer covers, inner liners, and the insulation itself, fastening systems come in a variety of materials to fit your specific needs.

  • Stainless Steel Lacing Wire with Rivets – This rugged system stands up to high heat (1200°F/649°C) and is the most economical option available.
  • Silicone Straps with Buckles/Rings – Does not offer as high a temperature limit (500°F/260°C), but does allow for quicker installation and removal.
  • Kevlar Straps with Buckles/Rings – Kevlar has a higher temperature limit (700°F/371°C) and is more rugged than silicone. This in turn makes it a more pricey option.
  • Stainless Steel Mesh Straps with Buckles/Rings – This top of the line system is rugged and has both a high temperature limit (1200°F/649°C) and price.
  • Springs – These springs offer easy assembly and removal with a high temperature limit (1200°F/649°C). They are perfect for quick blanket assembly and disassembly.
  • Snaps – Much like springs, except we do not recommended them for curved surfaces and low volume applications.
  • Velcro (polyester) – As one might expect, Velcro goes on and off quite easily. Its big drawback is a very low temperature limit of 200°F/93°C.
  • Nomex Velcro – Much like standard Velcro except with a slightly higher heat threshold of 280°F/138°C.
  • Stainless Steel Velcro hooks with Nomex Velcro Fasteners – A somewhat expensive, high temperature Velcro (450°F/232°C) that is less sensitive to dirty environments then other Velcro products. There you have it—From the basics to material choices to the fastening systems, we have outlined all of the steps in choosing the right insulation blanket for your application.

Choosing the Right Insulation Blanket Supplier

Choosing the Right Material for Your Insulation Blankets – Part 3: Outer and Inner Covers

In our last installment of Choosing the Right Material for Your Insulation Blankets, we went over basic insulation materials. This time around, let’s review more in-depth and discuss outer and inner covers. We have a lot of ground to cover, so we will break down the materials into three categories of usage: Outer Covers, Inner Liners, and those than can do both.

Outer Covers

  • Aluminized Fiberglass – Also known as Mirrored Fiberglass, it offers great aesthetic qualities and is used in place of silicone and PTFE where aesthetics are important. It has an advantage over fiberglass and PTFE—even when the aluminum coating breaks down at 450°F (230°C), the fiberglass substrate maintains its integrity up to 1000°F (538°C).
  • Heavy Duty Silicone – Often used in more severe outdoor applications when resistance to wear and tear is necessary.  It is flexible, flame retardant and water, oil, mold, and chemical resistant. Has a temperature range of -67°F (-55°C) to 500°F (260°C).
  • Stainless Steel Laminate Fiberglass – Quite expensive but is perfect where high levels of oil, chemical, and fire resistance are required. Unlike aluminized fiberglass, when its coating breaks down the laminate foil retains its integrity and can continue to act as a fluid barrier.

Inner Liners

  • Stainless Steel Mesh 304 – This common inner liner is used in most standard situations and has a temperature range up to 1200°F (649°C).
  • Stainless Steel Mesh 309, 316 – 309 offers a higher temperature range of 1800°F (982°C), while 316 is made specifically with marine environments in mind.
  • Stainless Steel Mesh Foil with Mesh Cover – Roughly, the same as 309 but offers a fluid barrier.
  • Stainless Steel Mesh Inconel – This top-of-the-line liner offers the highest temperature range (2300°F/1260°C) but is quite expensive.

Outer Cover and Inner Liner

  • Silicone Impregnated Fiberglass – A standard outer cover that is also used as an inner liner for applications < 500°F where a fluid barrier or insulation fiber containment is desired.
  • PTFE Coated Fiberglass – Interchangeable with and used in place of silicone in paint, food, and other chemical applications thanks to its broader chemical resistance. Both are flexible, flame retardant, water, oil, and mold resistant.
  • PVC – If you do not have a need for a high temperature rating, this is a good low-cost alternative to silicon and PTFE.
  • Fiberglass HT – A non-coated fabric used both as an outer cover and inner liner in high temperature conditions of >500°F/260°C. Also good for containing insulation fibers.
  • Silica – Another multi-use, non-coated fabric, Silica is perfect for extreme high temperature conditions of >1300°F/982°C. It is more expensive but is also fireproof, mold resistant, and good for containing insulation fibers.

Choosing the correct insulation blanket material makeup can be daunting—you need industry experts at a company like Firwin to recommend the right combination for your application.

Choosing the Right Insulation Blanket Supplier








Choosing the Right Material for Your Insulation Blankets – Part 2: General Insulation Materials

We have already discussed the criteria that need to be analyzed when choosing the correct insulation blanket material. With that out of the way, now it is time to look at the actual insulation materials typically found in insulation blankets.

  • Fiberglass – This classic insulation material is used in most standard insulation blanket applications. It is odorless, does not contribute to metal corrosion, is excellent at sound absorption, and resists decay, mold, and vermin. Fiberglass has a temperature limit of 1200°F (649°C), so it is not right for higher temperature applications.
  • CMS Wool – This material is slightly more expensive than fiberglass, but it has a much higher temperature limit of 2192°F (1200°C). It’s also odorless, does not contribute to metal corrosion, is excellent at sound absorption, and can withstand decay, mold, and vermin.
  • Mineral Wool – The big plus of mineral wool is its low moisture absorption qualities and excellent thermal resistance. Its temperature limits are the same as fiberglass, and it is a decent sound and vibration absorber. It is also slightly more economical than fiberglass.
  • Aerogel – This is the top-of-the-line when it comes to insulation materials. It is superior to both fiberglass and CMS wool and is ideal for a limited clearance application or where blanket weight is a concern. In fact, ½” thick Aerogel has the same properties as 1.5” thick fiberglass. As you might expect, it also carries with it a top-of-the-line price tag. It also has a slightly lower temperature limit of 1100°F (600°C).

Stay tuned for Part 3, where we cover the different materials available for your insulation’s outer and inner covers.

Choosing the Right Insulation Blanket Supplier

Choosing the Right Material for Your Insulation Blankets – Part 1: The Basics

When it comes to insulation covers, blankets, and jackets, one size does not fit all. In order to match your specific application with the correct insulation materials, quite a few factors need to be considered. An incorrect insulation blanket can cost you money, time, and even the safety of your workers and customers. Some of the factors that must be taken into consideration when selecting the correct insulation materials for your particular application include:

  • Maximum temperature range of the application in question – If your insulation cannot handle the temperatures your application demands, then it is at best, ineffective, and at worst, dangerous.
  • Desired outer surface “touch” temperature – What temperature do you need the outside of the insulation cover to be? Does it need to be ‘touch-safe’, or are you just trying to lower the ambient temperature in the surrounding area?
  • Exposure to elements (i.e. water, chemicals, debris, etc.) – What will your insulation have to go through? Can it handle the water, chemicals, and debris thrown its way?
  • Safety and regulatory requirements – Are there certain standards (i.e. UL, fire safety, etc) that your insulation covers must meet?
  • Space limitations – How much room do you have to work with? Space constraints can influence both the insulation thickness and type of insulation material recommended.
  • Frequency of insulation removal – If you need to remove the insulation often for equipment maintenance or adjustments, it will play a role in what fastening materials are chosen.
  • Aesthetic requirements – Last but certainly not least, do you need your insulation covers to match their surroundings or conform to a certain corporate color?

It is imperative that your insulation blanket provider is aware of these basic factors. Your Firwin rep can walk you through these steps and ensure that you get the right blanket for your application.

Choosing the Right Insulation Blanket Supplier