What is Pipe Insulation?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Pipe insulation is a protective covering designed to help maintain an acceptable temperature for pipes and any substance flowing through the pipes. In many instances, pipe insulation also minimizes the impact of the temperature of the pipe on the immediate surroundings. It is also not unusual for the insulation to reduce the amount of noise created by some systems of pipes in businesses, apartment buildings, and houses.

Pipe insulation can protect water in pipes from freezing and protect people from getting burned if they are near hot water pipes.
Pipe insulation can protect water in pipes from freezing and protect people from getting burned if they are near hot water pipes.

One of the most common examples of pipe insulation is found with water pipes in the home. Often composed of fiberglass, and configured to wrap securely around the pipes making up the plumbing system within a house or apartment building, this type of pipe insulation helps to minimize the opportunity for water pipes to freeze and burst in extremely cold weather. A plumber can install the insulation, although many homeowners prefer to do the job themselves.

Along with pipe insulation designed to keep the cold from damaging the pipes, the same approach may be employed to protect the surrounding space from extreme temperatures created by the substances flowing through the pipes. For example, insulation may be applied to heating pipes in order to protect people from accidentally burning themselves when coming in contact with piping that travels along a wall. When the pipes are exposed, the insulation is normally composed of materials that can be fitted snugly around the pipes and painted to blend in with the surrounding color scheme.

Pipe insulation can also help reduce the amount of condensation on water pipes. This is important, as the condensation may drip onto furniture or woodwork and eventually cause a great deal of damage. There is also the chance that the condensation could damage the pipes over time, making it necessary to replace the pipes more often.

Along with preventing damage, pipe insulation can also help with energy efficiency. By helping to maintain the correct level of heat or cold in the pipes, the insulation alleviates stress of machinery used to drive water or other substances through the pipes. This means that water traveling from a water heater remains consistently hot, or that cold water traveling from a city system into the home will remain relatively cool even during the summer months.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Animandel - We have all heard the horror stories about asbestos, but if the pipe insulation is in good condition then your parents might just want to leave the pipes alone. There is still asbestos in old houses and buildings, but if the insulation is not worn it's not going to cause problems. Check the government website on asbestos and pipe insulation and see what it recommends in this case.


A plumber who does work for my father told them that their pipe insulation contains asbestos. My parents' house is very old and when it was built asbestos pipe insulation and all types of asbestos insulation was still being widely used throughout houses. The plumber suggested they have the insulation removed immediately before it causes problems.


Normally, we don't get weather cold enough to freeze water inside of water pipes causing them to burst and crack. However, we do get really cold weather now and then and cracked pipes can become an issue.

Last year we bought a house, and we were doing repair and renovation work at the house while we still living in our apartment. Because we were not in the house, we kept the heat very low. I came down to work on the house one cold morning, and there was water pouring out from under the house and into the yard.

Obviously , a couple of pipes burst overnight, and they had been leaking/gushing water for a while because there was a lot of water in the yard. Once I finally got the water turned off, I called a plumber.

The plumber told me the pipes probably wouldn't have been damaged if we had left the heat up a little more, or if we had left the faucets dripping a little. Still, I would feel better if all of the outside pipes were wrapped with pipe insulation.

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