Pipe Insulation - Polyethylene Foam or Rubberized Foam

Discussion in 'Workshop and Home Improvement' started by turbocruiser, Jan 6, 2008.

  1. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser SILVER Star

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    Fellas, I'm starting to wonder about something ... many moons ago I replaced all the plumbing in my house because the original owner who did not skimp on much material wise decided to do the polybutylene piping. Apparently he thought that it was the thing (most-modern) at the time. Anyways, after several small leaks I replaced everything with wonderful "old-fashioned" copper and then wrapped the pipes in my walls and in my crawlspace with Armacell polyethylene foam tubes - you know, those things that look like swimming tube-toys. Well the other day while browsing through the local home center I noticed that they are now carrying both the Armacell polyethylene foam and the Armacell rubberized foam with the self-sealing strip stuff. On the boxes they both advertised the same things (prevents condensation, helps prevent freezing, etc) but only the rubberized version had the critical words "meets all national codes" on it. I asked the person managing plumbing about that and he told me that only the rubberized version gives good R value to prevent freezing pipes!!! He softly suggested that I get the old tubes off and replace them with the rubberized self-sealing versions!

    So, my decision/dilemma is that the stuff in the crawlspace is super easy to replace but the stuff in the walls will of course require me to cut the walls again and patch them again! Arrggh. Can anyone at all tell me if I got good advice, and if I should seriously redo all that insulated tubing? It does get down to -15 sometimes -20 here and I would never want a frozen pipe problem but considering that the pipes are in the walls, that they already have all that tubing on them and that they already have made it through about three winters since I replaced the tubing ... I just don't know what would be best to do.

    Any thoughts on this? Thanks. :cheers:
     
  2. beaufort-fj60

    beaufort-fj60

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    oh, that's to bad you removed it. There was a big lawsuit on the gray pipe (polybutylene piping is the gray stuff). I know in my state, a plumber will come in and change out everything at the polybutylene piping manufactures cost.
     
  3. LukeZero

    LukeZero

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    Here in Indiana they both meet local codes, and we use them interchangeably. One common mistake, however, is that pipe insulation can prevent freezing in a crawlspace, etc. But, people sometimes insulate pipes that shouldn't be insulated. ie. you are actually creating a barrier for the heat from the living space to get to the water in the pipes, accidentally promoting freezing rather than preventing it. Sometimes it is more important to insulate between the pipe and the outside, than to insulate between the pipe and the living space.

    I wouldn't sweat it (no puns intended). There is no real advantage to either type of insulation in your application. Don't give it another thought.

    My licensed plumbing contractor $.02.

    Luke
     
  4. beaufort-fj60

    beaufort-fj60

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    Was there another gray pipe in the past? or is polybutylene pipe the only one. I know in SC.. they make a big deal about getting rid of the older gray stuff.
     
  5. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser SILVER Star

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    Yes, I checked into that but unfortunately one of the requirements was that your house had three leaks within a particular period of time ( i forgot the timeframe) that were repaired by a professional plumber. You had to show the statements, file a ton of the paperwork required, and then the class action stuff started. Well, because I repaired all those little leaks myself I sorta screwed myself out of the class action consideration. That plus the fact that the class action cut off (for 100% reimbursement) at a determined date and we were past that date when we moved in so I would have had a percentage of reimbursement and because I would have had to have hired a professional plumbing company to do the work, and then the drywallers, etc. I would have been ahead by just buying materials and doing it myself ( I have a really cool and really close friend who is a life-long master-plumber and he helped me and did the difficult bits). Anyways, I'm just glad I got that crap out of there. There is a really good reason that copper has been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians! :cheers:
     
  6. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser SILVER Star

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    Luke, thanks for this advice, I really appreciate it. I never thought of the fact that "insulation" insulates the pipe from both the heated air and the cold air. Well, I thought of it, but not in that context. Still, unless I'm way wrong with assuming this, with the water coming into the house from the ten foot deep underground line it is going to get to around 50 to 55F at the inlet and then stay there assuming no transfer of heat or cold, right? In other words, by insulating my interior wall pipes I can see what you are saying that they are not going to get the benefit of my 70+F degree house, but they also are not going to get the detriment of the outside temps, would they actually freeze on their own with that in mind?

    Another question since you are a professional plumber, I was watching "Holmes on Homes" the other day ( I love that show ) and Mike stated "water pipes can take a lot of cold but they cant take a lot of cold airflow around them" I had no idea what he meant by that. Do you? In the center of our crawlspace it never gets below about 60F but at the edges by exterior walls it is cooler and one of my polybutylene pipes froze once from having some cold airflow next to it. There was a foundation vent within a foot or so of that particular pipe so I closed the vent, and had no problems afterwards. I just cannot wrap my mind around that comment though and was wondering with all my pipes wrapped (in wall pipes with regular foam tubes and crawlspace pipes with rubberized foam tubes) how cold would it have to get to freeze? Thanks again I appreciate it. :cheers:
     
  7. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser SILVER Star

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    AFAIK, there was only one gray pipe. I have heard that PEX, which is also plastic, is super good stuff. :cheers:
     
  8. LukeZero

    LukeZero

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    I think he was trying to say that air flow of any sort will move energy in a hurry...so that if you have less than 32* air blowing onto a pipe, you can freeze it very quickly, while a pipe that is surrounded by less than 32* air that is stagnant will not freeze as quickly because the energy is not going out of the water as fast...Think wind chill. You "feel" colder than it actually is because the wind is removing the heat out of your body faster than if it were just as cold, but no wind.


    PEX is good stuff. Polybutylene wasn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. The manufacturer of the resin (Shell Petroleum) stated, from as early as the mid '70s that the chemical composition of the tubing and the acetyl fittings were not very tolerant of chlorine and that plumbers should be cautious about using the materials in system that had chlorine content. (typically municipal water supplies would be chlorinated for bacteria control). Lo and behold, the tubing and fittings did break down from chlorine. People got pissed, sued their plumbers, who, in turn, sued QEST, who, in turn sued Shell. Shell said "hey, we told you not to do that, why is this our problem?" Finally, to shed the entire issue, Shell said, "OK, we'll stop making the resin, which will prevent all manufacturers from making the products, and we'll pony up this amount of money to reimburse end users with failed systems- now make it all go away." We have a stash of PB tubing and fittings and are able, with customer permission, to repair existing systems, provided they are hooked to well systems that are not chlorinated in any way.
     
  9. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser SILVER Star

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    Thanks again Luke, that makes perfect sense! Two other things that I heard about the PB stuff is that it is highly sensitive to UV Light (another thing that Shell warned of). So, on the job site stuff sits out in the sun for x amount of days or weeks or months and deteriorates accordingly. And the next thing is that all the fitttings rely on compression clamps and the crimpers have to be constantly calibrated. A lot of people apparently did not do calibrations so the compression clamps were either too tight or too loose which apparently caused a lot of the problems particular to the fittings. Too tight clamps would crack the fittings and too loose allowed leakage. The weird thing with my pipe was that I never really had a problem with the fittings which were the primary problem at least as I learned about. :cheers:
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008
  10. Toyo FJ40

    Toyo FJ40 SILVER Star

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    2X What he said
    If your pipes are inside your wall insulation than the pipe insulation isn't doing anything for you. Pipe insulation will hold heat in or keep the cold pipes from dripping but do little to stop pipes from freezing.

    Like Luke said insulating pipes in the walls will insulate them from the room heat and can make them freeze faster.

    We always see more frozen pipes when it's windy, I think the wind just makes the cold penetrate the house more by finding it's way though the cracks and pushing the warm air out of the walls.

    (I'm also a licensed master plumber)


    Kevin
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2008
  11. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser SILVER Star

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    Thanks again guys, to be totally clear, I don't have any pipes (drain or supply) in my exterior walls, and the ones that run inside interior walls only have the foam pipe tubes around them (no fiberglass in the interior wall between the bathrooms which was why I put the foam pipe tubes on). My crawlspace never gets below about 60 F but along the rim joists where my faucets are, the wind can get cold. I have sealed all the apparent cracks between the foundation, the baseplate, the kneewalls, the top plate and then the subfloors with caulking which I carefully taped off and smoothed out to look totally clean, and then I added insulation. So I think that I'm good, I just got startled by the absoluteness of the store tech saying that the regular foam pipe tubes are more or less "worthless" for what I wanted. I think this clears the confusion up. Thanks again. :cheers:
     

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