Making the Case for Mechanical Insulation

By Diane Mossholder

Making the case for mechanical insulation is the first step in ensuring a facility is as energy- and cost-efficient as possible. Recently, the National Insulation Association (NIA) has not only introduced new design and evaluation tools, but also succeeded in having the Mechanical

Insulation Installation Incentive Act introduced in the 112th Congress.

Mechanical Insulation—There’s an App for That

Building on the success of the Simple Calculators in the Mechanical Insulation Design Guide (MIDG) at, NIA is proud to announce its first-ever mechanical insulation smartphone application: the Mechanical Insulation Financial Calculator. Based on the MIDG Financial Returns/Considerations Simple Calculator, this app helps quickly determine the financial returns related to investments in mechanical insulation. It can be used for an overall project or a small investment such as insulating a valve or replacing a section of insulation.

The app is available for Android phone users in the Android Market—just search for “mechanical insulation.” Download this free tool to find out how quickly mechanical insulation can pay for itself in a building or facility and discover how much energy, money, and greenhouse gas emissions can be saved and what the return on investment will be.

Running the Numbers

In addition, some of the MIDG Simple Calculators have been updated, with a new Personnel Protection Calculator added and the Temperature Drop Calculator split into two based on application type:

  • Temperature Drop Calculator for Hydronic Piping: This calculator estimates the temperature change of water flowing in a pipe. An example is the use of insulation to minimize temperature (drop or rise) of a process fluid from one location to another (e.g., a hot fluid flowing down a pipe). Based on input, this calculator will provide temperature drop (or rise) in °F and leaving water temperature in °F.
  • Temperature Drop Calculator for Air in Ducts: This calculator estimates the temperature drop (or rise) of air flowing in a duct. An example is the use of insulation to minimize temperature change of a supply duct in a commercial building. Based on input, calculator will provide temperature drop (or rise) in °F and leaving air temperature in °F.
  • Personnel Protection Calculator for Horizontal Piping: In many applications, insulation is provided to protect personnel from severe burns. In addition, there are safety and comfort concerns related to personnel working in high temperature, high radiant exposure locations. This new calculator helps prevent severe burns by estimating the time personnel can be in contact with surfaces above 140°F (the standard industry practice) without suffering second and third degree burns. For example, surfaces at the standard temperature of 140°F contacted for up to 5 seconds would cause no more than first degree burns. Based on input, calculator will provide surface temperature in °F and maximum contact time in seconds.

Other Simple Calculators are:

  • Condensation Control Calculator for Horizontal Pipe
  • Energy Calculator for Equipment (Vertical Flat Surfaces)
  • Energy Calculator for Horizontal Piping
  • Mechanical Insulation Financial Calculator
  • Estimate Time to Freezing for Water in an Insulated Pipe Calculator
  • Simple Heat Flow Calculator
  • Simple Thickness Calculator

These calculators are useful for both the beginner and experienced professionals in the construction, design, specification, maintenance, management, and budgeting fields. The MIDG is used by design professionals, corporate management, facility owners and managers, energy and environmental consultants, mechanical engineering teachers, and mechanical insulation industry manufacturers, distributors, and contractors, among others.

The calculators were developed for MIDG by the Mechanical Insulation Education and Awareness Campaign (MIC), part of efforts by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Industrial Technologies Program?s Save Energy Now initiative to improve the energy efficiency of the U.S. industrial and commercial sectors. Project Performance Corporation and the National Insulation Association, in conjunction with its alliance with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, are working together to execute the MIC.

Congress Gets the Value of Mechanical Insulation

On September 8, Reps. Don Manzullo (R-IL) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Johanns (R-NE), introduced the Mechanical Insulation Installation Incentive Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would cut energy costs, reduce carbon emissions, and put Americans back to work through a tax incentive encouraging the use of mechanical insulation.

The Mechanical Insulation Installation Incentive Act of 2011, introduced in both the House of Representatives (H.R. 2866) and Senate (S. 1526), would create up to a 30 percent tax deduction to encourage commercial and industrial entities—like manufacturing facilities, office buildings, schools, hospitals, power plants, hotels, and universities—to go beyond minimum mechanical insulation requirements in new construction and retrofit projects and increase their maintenance activities.

H.R. 2866/S. 1526 provides a facility owner an incentive to increase the use of or maintenance of mechanical insulation by lowering his/her tax expense in the fiscal year in which the mechanical insulation was put in service or maintenance completed. If the property owner is not subject to U.S. income tax, the tax deduction would transfer to the primary contractor for the property, providing an incentive for energy efficiency regardless of the property owner tax status.

Specifically, H.R. 2866/S. 1526 allows businesses to increase or accelerate the depreciation deduction for the incremental insulation cost based on the percentage of energy saved above the minimum ASHRAE requirements, up to a maximum of 30 percent. Also, H.R. 2866/S. 1526 allows businesses to increase their maintenance deductible expense up to a maximum of 30 percent of the energy saved in comparison to the heat loss from the insulation system that was originally installed versus no insulation value. The tax incentive applies to the installed insulation system cost.

Conservative estimates indicate that over a 5-year implementation period, this legislation could save $35 billion, reduce 170 million metric tons of CO2, and create more than 25,000 jobs for skilled craftsmen in all 50 states within weeks or months?not years. While similar incentives have been developed for walls, roofing, windows, lighting, and other energy efficiency options, there are no existing tax incentives tailored for mechanical insulation.

The bill was first introduced in the 111th Congress, where it attracted 60 bipartisan cosponsors. NIA and the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers are working to encourage those cosponsors and others to support H.R. 2866/S. 1526 in the 112th Congress as well. To learn more about this initiative and how you can help, visit

Supporting Evidence

Insulation Outlook regularly runs articles containing data that can support your case for properly designed, installed, and maintained mechanical insulation. In recent months, we’ve published the results of the Mechanical Insulation in Hospitals and Schools study and the Montana Mechanical Insulation Assessment Pilot Program, to name just two. All Insulation Outlook articles are archived online one month after they appear in print, so bookmark for handy reference. Free electronic reprints of selected articles are also available to NIA members on the Members Only site.

We welcome articles or topic suggestions about mechanical insulation from our readers and subject matter experts. Contact us at, and you might be featured in a future issue.

NIA continues working to make it easier to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of mechanical insulation installation, upgrading, and maintenance by developing new tools, advocating on Capitol Hill, and disseminating data. Please send feedback and ideas to