Study Shows Mechanical Insulation Critical to Schools and Hospitals
Mechanical insulation saves as much as 85 billion Btu per year per commercial building, according to an unprecedented study of the effects of mechanical insulation in schools and hospitals performed by the National Insulation Association (NIA). With energy costs rising and municipality budgets shrinking, the significant savings gained through the proper use and maintenance of mechanical insulation should not be ignored.
Savings varied with building function and purpose, from a high of 85 billion Btu for hospitals to 0.28 billion Btu for schools. Hospitals are typically large facilities with many energy-intensive systems that operate continuously, while schools are generally smaller with fewer energy-intensive systems that operate only five days a week for nine months per year. The 14 buildings studied were chosen to be representative of all climate zones in the United States and took into account equipment, operational hours, and other variables.
The study found that piping and ductwork in hospitals and schools are generally well insulated. All the buildings analyzed exceed the insulation requirements of ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007. Four of the five schools exceed the requirements of the recently published ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010 as well. However, only one of the nine hospitals exceed the 2010 requirements, and additional energy savings ranging from 0.1% to 2.6% could accrue with compliance to ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010 in the other eight hospitals.
For the schools studied, it is estimated that mechanical insulation saves, on average, 13 kBtu/sf/yr of site energy (about 20% of the total usage). For hospitals, the energy savings from mechanical insulation are estimated to average about 149 kBtu/sf/yr (roughly 78% of the total site energy usage). These large numbers highlight the importance of mechanical insulation in commercial buildings. In fact, it can be argued that some of the energy distribution systems in commercial buildings could not function without mechanical insulation because distribution losses would become excessive. The importance of properly maintaining the insulation on these distribution systems is obvious.
The entire study can be downloaded as a PDF. An article summarizing the study will be published in the September issue of Insulation Outlook.
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