Insulating your water pipes would not only prepare you for the winter months, it will also save you between 3-4% annually in energy cost. Insulated hot water pipes allow you to lower your water temperature setting as they reduce heat loss and help raise water temperature by up to four Fahrenheit. Similarly, insulated cold water pipes guide against costly accidents in winter resulting from cracked frozen pipe lines. A one-quarter of an inch crack in a pipe can release up to 500 gallons of water daily. The United States Environmental Protection Agency tips that any household of four exceeding 12,000 gallons water per month during a colder month has serious leak issues.
While insulating your water pipes may not be a complex task requiring inexpensive materials, leaving the job to a professional pipe insulation contractor nearby offers the guarantee you are indeed saving money on energy and mitigating against flooding emergencies in the middle of winter. A professional insulator knows the right insulation material to use for the kind of pipes in your home. Experienced pipe insulators would also easily identify possible cracks, leaks, and other faults developing along your water-pipe lines. To be assured you are hiring the right pipe insulation contractor near you for the job, here are a few questions to ask:
Generally, there is no specific licence for pipe insulation contractors. Pipe insulation jobs are best handled by professional plumbers or pipefitters or duct installers. These professionals require a state-level license to practice in all states in the US except Pennsylvania, New York, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming. Note, counties, and cities in these exempted states do require a form of local licensure for these professionals. It is recommended that you contact your local licensing office or consumer protection agency to determine the licensing requirements for plumbers and pipefitters in your area.
Therefore, when hiring a pipe insulation contractor near you, request to see a copy of their plumbing or pipefitting license. You are at liberty to contact the licensing organization to confirm your contractor’s license status. Also note that Plumbers are conversant with basic types of pipes relating to drinking-water systems and wastewater disposal systems. While pipefitters work with more specialized pipes used in refrigeration systems, boilers, or HVAC systems. Hence, an understanding of the pipes in your home needing insulation may inform the type of professional to call for the job.
Though pipe insulation may not be a complex task, plumbers and pipefitters are not immune to serious work hazards. In 2019 alone, a total of 33 fatalities and 6,100 injuries were recorded for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters on the job. A lot of these accidents are caused by working in confined spaces, at high heights, in mold infested corners, and asbestos fitted areas. Hence, it is important to ensure your pipe insulation contractor holds the necessary insurance policy and bond because you cannot predetermine an accident not happening on your site.
At least, your pipe insulator should have general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance plans. The general liability insurance covers any injury to a third-party or damage to property that occurs on your job. While medical bills for injuries to laborers on your sites are covered by the workers compensation insurance.
In the case where a pipe insulation contractor near you fails to complete your insulation work appropriately, the bond held by the contractor will serve to compensate you for any additional expenses to finalize such a job. Bonding requirements differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Typically, it is between $3,000 and $25,000. States like California, Illinois, New Jersey, Iowa, and Minnesota enforce their plumbers and pipefitters to hold a plumbing bond. The City of Chicago also requires a plumbing bond. Contact your state or city licensing authorities to determine the specific bond requirements for contractors in your area.
There are different kinds of pipe insulation, each employs a different material and insulates to a different degree. Some types of insulation are suitable for hot-water applications, while others use some form of vapor barrier to control condensation along a cold-water line. Common pipe insulation options for homes include:
- Conventional foam insulation: This type has a slit on its side for easy fitting over existing pipes. The slits are taped once installed to enhance its insulating capability.
- Self-sealing foam insulation: Unlike conventional foam insulation, this type features an adhesive along its slit. Once installed, the tape is removed and the adhesive strips pressed together.
- Spray foam insulation: spray foam pipe insulation is appropriate where there is limited space between your water pipes and the exterior walls. This type of insulation is applied with pressurized containers,
- Fiberglass pipe insulation: This is made of heavy density thermo-resin bonded inorganic glass fibers that can withstand extreme temperatures.
Other materials used for pipe insulation include mineral wool, glass wool, cellular glass, flexible elastomeric foam, polyethylene, and aerogel. Also note there are industry standards to observe when insulating household pipes. Hence, it is crucial to determine if your pipe insulation contractors understand the specialty your project requires and are conversant with the regulations for such insulation.
When dealing with contractors or companies near you, it is essential to ask for the details of the workman who will be directly in charge of your pipe insulation job. Also verify the appointed workman holds the necessary license and insurance to complete the job. Seeing a copy of the workman’s license gives you confidence, they are capable of completing the job. While an insurance is a guarantee you are not left liable for the workman or a third-party injury during the job.
Note, if your project is a large or complex one, your contractor may allocate more than one workman to it. In such a case, you may want to determine if these additional workers won’t increase your bill excessively.
Your professional insulators or plumbers might offer warranties on the products used and workmanship for the project. Typically, product warranties are provided by the manufacturer guaranteeing the replacement of the materials if installed and used appropriately. Many pipe insulation contractors near you who are professionals will be willing to give a warranty for defects caused by faulty installation.
As warranties may be written, spoken, or implied, you should try to get the promise in writing for reference purposes. Be sure to understand the terms, conditions, and coverage of the warranty, especially concerning duration, services offered, and the defects or damages covered.
Generally, installation of pipe and water heater insulation do not require a permit. Permits are usually required for large-scale installation, upgrades, relocation, or extension of the plumbing system. Such permits are provided, following a visit from the state or municipal inspector for assessment to ensure the project is in line with state or local plumbing codes.
It is required that you request up to three references from your pipe insulation contractor of similar work accomplishments. The references may include a portfolio of the projects’ pictures, showcasing the quality of their finished works. Such references serve as further confirmation your contractor is up to the task. You are at liberty to contact any of your contractor’s former clients for honest reviews. You can also check for testimonials on the contractor’s website or independent reviews of clients near you on sites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review.
Regardless of professional licensing, pipe insulation contractors are generally required to register their businesses with their state’s Secretary of State. Note, a business license is a permit issued by the state or local government allowing individuals or companies, including pipe insulation contractors, to conduct business within the government's geographical jurisdiction. Ensure to ask if the contractor has a valid business license, get license details, and verify by carrying out entity search on the state’s online portal. Search may be by name, business ID, or filling number.
Anticipating and preventing potential problems is a fundamental professional trait for pipe insulators. Some of these issues include:
- Extreme temperatures: Keeping materials dry is one of the main concerns of pipe insulators. Extremely cold or hot weather can lead to frozen or sweating pipes, especially for pipes located outside or in non-conditioned spaces. This leads to leaks, deterioration of pipes, mold growth, corrosion, wallpaper or paint damage, and so on.
- Damaged or corroded pipes: Damages must be fixed or replaced before insulation, and this will increase the total fees.
House structure and improper design of the piping system: Outdated or poorly-designed piping system, as well as pipes in walls, attics, or hard-to-reach areas, might make insulation more difficult and expensive.
Inferior quality of materials: Professional pipe insulators determine the best insulation needed by considering variables like the different pipe sizes or parts, R-value per dollar, and material the insulation is made of. Using low-quality materials will lead to poor functionality and potentially harmful materials like asbestos, diisocyanate, or isocyanates that may cause or increase risks of asthma, lung irritation, and cancer. Studies have also shown that insulation may increase fire risks in homes, depending on the insulation condition.
- Unprofessional practices: Disregarding safety codes during pipe insulation exposes the workers and inhabitants to harmful fibers, noise pollution, burns, and other avoidable injuries. Similarly, disregard for code may lead to poor installation and reduction in thermal and acoustic efficiency.
Pipe insulation fees vary depending on the house or project size, type/cost of pipe insulator used, and labor cost. The contractor may calculate the costs per hour, iron pipe size (IPS), or per session.
Typically, insulators charge between $15 to $25 per hour or from $100 to $1000 for the entire project, while material costs may range from 20 cents to $9 per linear/cubic foot. The average costs for insulator materials may be between $2.50 to $4 per square or linear foot.
While the average hourly rate for pipe insulators is $19, the total cost of pipe insulation projects can range from $100 to $1000 or higher depending on the following factors:
- Condition of the pipes: Damaged pipes will require fixing before insulation, and this additional service will cost the homeowner more, even if the job is done by another plumber.
- Budget: The budget of the project determines the type of materials used and the type of pipe insulator hired. Typically, unlicensed and uninsured contractors are cheaper than most licensed contractors and this may tempt homeowners to hire nonprofessionals.
- Size and scope of the work: The size of the house, project, and pipes will affect the number of hours and amount of materials used on the project. The bigger the house and number of required services, the higher the bill and vice versa.
- Cost of materials: The types of insulation needed will determine what materials to get. The prices of insulation materials vary according to the iron pipe size (IPS) and the length or number of the required material. Some insulation tapes may be as little as 20 cents or as large as $10 per foot.
- Cost of labor: Professional plumbers or pipe insulator specialists often cost more because they are licensed, insured, and bonded. Professionals can earn up to $30 per hour, but it is up to the homeowner to determine the cost-efficiency, especially when conserved energy will help reduce the bill.
- Location: The costs of labor and materials depend on the state and the cost of living in a particular area. However, hiring a contractor near you may help you save money on these costs.
Becoming a pipe insulator requires limited education, training, or apprenticeship. Typically, most new entrants to the industry hold high school diplomas to start out as helpers for plumbing, pipe-fitting, or HVAC contractors. These workers may go on to specialize in their chosen field first while gaining pipe insulation skills for secondary expertise.
What are Common Post Pipe Insulation Expenses?
Cleaning up the workspace is the only common task left post-insulation. Typically, the contractor would be responsible for this exercise and should have billed for it in the initial quotation for the job. However, you may ask to double check you would not be left to complete the cleaning and disposing of wastes.
Pipe insulation materials are quite cheap to be covered by a standard homeowner insurance. However, the insurance typically includes coverage for pipe bursts from freezing and leaking plumbing that did not happen due to negligence or lack of maintenance. Note, insulation is a means of further maintenance on your pipes, hence it may save some cost of your insurance deductible.
Like most small businesses in the US today, contractors near you would accept digital payments as means of receiving fees for services rendered. These automated payment solutions like credit/debit cards, mobile wallets, ACH payments, and others are preferred for their convenience, accessibility, and speed. Digital payments also make audits or payment tracking easier as it automatically records each payment. Ensure to verify from your pipe insulation installers that they will be willing to receive their payment via electronic payment.