Understanding Chilled Water Pipe Insulation

Chilled water pipes play a vital role in climate control for industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities, particularly if they provide individual cooling for each room, like schools, hotels, hospitals, etc., or large structures like airports. Chilled water pipes typically help cool a building by transferring heat from the indoor air into cold water forced through piping. The heated water then moves to an electric chiller where refrigerant rechills the water to about 45ºF or less, dispensing the cool air throughout the facility.

Prolonging the service life of a facility’s chilled water system requires applying high-quality chilled water pipe insulation, like Polyguard PolyPhen® phenolic insulation and taping to the pipes.

Chilled Water Pipe Insulation Serves Several Important Purposes

Stops Condensation

Damp soil surrounds permeable concrete basements and crawl spaces with moisture, and elevates humidity levels and condensation on cold water pipes’ cold-hard surfaces.

Condensation causes mold and mildew, diminishes the cooling system’s efficiency and can lead to a malfunctioning or inefficient chilled water system. In addition, condensation on the pipes can create a significant health risk to the structure’s occupants.

Fully insulating with vapor-impermeable foam and taping a cold water pipe will stop condensation on its surface.

Prevents Heat Gails

Chilled water pipe insulation can reduce heat absorption for pipes in conditioned or insulated spaces, minimizing the cooling system’s efficiency.

Protects Against Frozen Pipes

Chilled water pipe insulation also lessens the chance of frozen pipes in cold climates, particularly in uninsulated below-ground locations.

How to Select a High-Quality Chilled Water Pipe Insulation

Choosing the best-chilled water system insulation requires several crucial design considerations.

Polyguard strongly recommends obtaining the advice of qualified insulation specialists to avoid the adverse consequences of poorly insulated chilled water systems. Important considerations when choosing chilled water pipe insulation include:

  • Determine the correct insulation thickness to prevent condensation.
  • The ambient temperature and the piping network’s design determine the best insulation material for a specific project.
  • The amount of traffic and maintenance required of the exposed areas impacts the choice of insulation.

Types of Chilled Water Pipe Insulation

The most common materials used for chilled water pipe insulation include polyurethane foam, cellular glass, fiberglass, elastomeric, and phenolic foam.

Cellular Glass

Zero-permeability, moisture-resistant, non-combustible cellular glass can withstand a high amount of compression and wide temperature variations.

The manufacturing of partially closed-cell cellular glass transforms melted glass into rigid foam used as pipe insulation.


Manufacturers make cost-effective, thermal, fire, and moisture-resistant open-cell fiberglass insulation material from minute strands of glass in blow-in, loose-fill, rolls, and pre-cut batts. For solidarity, they often use binders or oils.

Elastomeric Insulation

Closed-cell elastomeric insulation contains elastomers, giving it high elasticity and flexibility.

Phenolic Foam Insulation

Phenolic foam offers closed-cell insulation with a high R-value and low thermal conductivity. When paired with a quality vapor barrier, closed-cell phenolic insulation, like Polyguard PolyPhen® phenolic insulation, creates a permeability rating of nearly 0.0, to provide excellent protection against chilled water pipe condensation.

Manufacturing makes fire-resistant phenolic foam in large buns by mixing a surface-acting compound with phenolic resin and solids, resulting in a network of microscopic bubbles that cures into foam insulation for chilled water systems. They ship the insulation to the job site after gluing the vapor barrier jackets to the phenolic insulation sections. During application, the contractor will seal the longitudinal seams of the insulation with mastic, then seal the vapor barrier with self-sealing double-coated tape.

The Benefits of Closed-Cell Over Open-Cell Insulation

Closed-cell materials provide several advantages over open-cell insulation:

  • Closed-cell materials consist of millions of microscopic, unconnected bubbles that effectively contain the blowing agent, the substance that foams the foam and keeps it rigid. In contrast, Open-cell materials consist of a blowing agent that forms linked, irregularly-shaped pockets. The open pockets fill with air because they allow the blowing agent to escape, severely diminishing the material’s thermal and moisture resistance.
  • When exposed to moisture, open-cell material becomes completely saturated, while only the surface of closed-cell material becomes moist. In addition, if moisture penetrates a damaged area of closed-cell material, the moisture will not spread.

The Best Chilled Water Pipe Insulation – Polyguard PolyPhen® Phenolic Insulation

The Polyguard PolyPhen® phenolic insulation offers a superior solution to chilled water pipe insulation for many commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities. We offer phenolic insulation in density from 2.5 to 7.5 lbs, with thermal conductivity ranging from 0.17 to 0.24 Btu·in./hr·ft2 ·ºF@75ºF, in various comprehensive and tensile strengths.

  • PolyPhen 2500 – 2.5 Lb. Density, Pink/Red, 8.3 Ft. Long, 3 Ft. Wide, 2.5 Ft. High, 750 Brd. Ft. in Billet.
  • PolyPhen 3750 – 3.75 Lb. Density, Yellow/White, 8.3 Ft. Long, 3 Ft. Wide, 2.5 Ft. High, 750 Brd. Ft. in Billet.
  • PolyPhen 5000 – 5.0 Lb. Density, Orange, 8.3 Ft. Long, 3 Ft. Wide, 2.5 Ft. High, 750 Brd. Ft. in Billet.
  • PolyPhen 7500 – 7.5 Lb. Density, Green, 8.3 Ft. Long, 3 Ft. Wide, 2.3 Ft. High, 700 Brd. Ft. in Billet.
Understanding Chilled Water Pipe Insulation

Thermal Performance

PolyPhen® phenolic rigid foam insulation product’s low thermal conductivity can insulate surfaces operating at a temperature of -290°F to 250°F (-180°C to 120°C), twice the thermal capabilities of cellular glass. PolyPhen® phenolic rigid foam insulation’s high R-value and low thermal conductivity saves money because it lessens the amount of insulation needed in order to maintain the same performance compared to other common insulation products.

Fire Performance

PolyPhen® phenolic rigid foam insulation offers excellent fire resistance, with a low flame spread and low levels of toxic gas emission. All of our PolyPhen® phenolic rigid foam insulation products achieve an ASTM E84 25/50 Class A flame and smoke rating, meaning that flame and smoke spread will not exceed 25 feet and 50 feet, respectively if the insulation ignites.

Environmentally and Cost-Effective

Energy-efficient, PolyPhen® phenolic rigid foam insulation closed-cell system offers accurately fabricated, tight-fitting insulation with firmly butted and sealed offset joints, minimizing energy use and saving money. Furthermore, a continuous, sealed Zero-Perm vapor barrier, mechanical and weather cladding, and optional vapor stop can limit damaging and costly condensation.

To further help with your chilled water pipe system needs, Polyguard also features:

Why Choose Polyguard PolyPhen® Phenolic Insulation?

For new and existing pipe systems, Polyguard’s Insulation technical, sales, and engineering experts can provide you with the best solution to ensuring high-quality, long-lasting insulation for your chilled water pipe system. Get in touch with us today to learn more about chilled water pipe insulation.