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where to get insulation for basement steam pipe


dvarga's Avatar
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Join Date: Nov 2003
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NJ

12-07-03, 04:21 PM   #1  
where to get insulation for basement steam pipe

I have a steam boiler in the basement of my house. It looks like a 3" pipe coming out, going up and traveling about 20 feet on the basement ceiling, under the joists.

The asbestos has been taken off and these pipes heat up the basement. I want to insulate them.

I go to home depot, they have nice fiberglass premade with a sort of white cloth skin on the outside. The problems are they dont make premade for 3" pipe and secondly it cost about $1 a foot!

Any ideas for insulating these steam pipes?

 
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resercon's Avatar
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12-07-03, 09:24 PM   #2  
The fiberglass insulation is fairly inexpensive and you could get less expensive stuff but it would not be that less expensive than a $1. a foot. Times 20 feet, $20. The question you might ask is "Is it worth it?" Answer yes and the reasons for it are the "Latent Energy of Vaporization" and Equilibrium.

If you didn't sleep through High School Science class you will remember the Latent Energy of Vaporization. To raise the temperature of 1 pound of water from 210 degrees Fahrenheit to 211 degrees Fahrenheit, a 1 degree difference, you require 1 Brittish Thermal Unit (btu). However to raise the temperature from 211 degrees Fahrenheit to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, a 1 degree difference, you require 970 btu's of heat. The reason for this is because you are changing the state of the water from a liquid to a vapor. Since energy can neither be destroyed nor created, when the temperature drops from 212 to 211 degrees Fahrenheit, the steam gives off 970 btu's of heat.

To illustrate how you actually get heat from your system is to put it into dollars and cents. Let's say you have $9.70 worth of gas, your boiler uses it to create $9.70 worth of steam. The steam expands and rises from the boiler, through your piping system to your radiator. Where it gives off $9.70 worth of heat. The steam then condenses back into water because the temperature dropped to 211 degrees Fahrenheit and since water is heavier than air, it drips back down through your piping system to the boiler.

You noticed that it is very warm in the basement because of the uninsulated pipes. The question is, "How much is it costing you on your heating bill?" Answer, A LOT!!! How about 30 to 50% more. To understand why is to realize what is happening. It is apparent that the steam is giving off heat in the uninsulated pipes in the basement. How much heat? 970 btu's. What happens to the temperature of the steam when it gives off heat? It drops to 211 degrees. What happens to the steam at that temperature? It changes back into water. Where does the water go? Back to the boiler before ever reaching the radiators.

There are those who will argue, "So What! Heat Rises!" First of all heat does not rise, it is the heated air that rises. However, this is only one single aspect of heat. Guess what? There are other characteristics of heat and one of them is Equilibrium. What this states is if one object is warmer than another object within a confined space, the cooler object will extract and absorb heat from the warmer object until the temperature in both objects are equal. Also, the greater the degree difference the greater the extraction and absorption.

To apply this to your situation, the ceiling of the basement is 70 degree Fahrenheit and your basement walls and floor are 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Which one will have the greater amount of heat extraction and absorption, the masonry walls and floor or the ceiling? In other words, you are more or less heating the great outdoors.

 
dvarga's Avatar
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12-08-03, 03:15 PM   #3  
big thanks

resercon, thanks a lot, that makes sense in taking care of that pronto in this cold weather.

 
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