Factors to Consider When Choosing Thermal Insulation Materials
There are several things you need to identify before you can choose the best thermal insulation materials. Where will the insulation be used? What is its function? Are there any current issues that could cause the material to fail? Let’s take a look at what you need to know before you can land on the best thermal insulation material for your project.
How Does Heat Transfer Relate to Thermal Insulation Products?
The heat management material you need will depend on how the heat is being transferred for your particular application. The three types of heat transfer are:
- Radiant: The heat transfers from electromagnetic waves. An example of radiant heat transfer is from the sun or your fireplace.
- Convective: Heat transfers from a surface via fluid or air. An example of convective heat transfer is the blower on your furnace or an overhead fan.
- Conductive: This is the type of heat that’s transferred through physical contact. If a potholder has ever failed you, then you understand how conductive heat transfer works.
Each type of heat transfer determines the heat insulation material you need for the given application. Radiant heat requires an emissive surface (like foil) to deflect heat. For conductive or convective heat transfer, thermal insulation materials have to manage hot surfaces without failing.
Other Factors That Determine Heat Insulation Solutions
Three other factors go into your decision on which kind of heat insulation to use for your project:
- Weight & Density: Each of these factors affects the insulation material’s thermal conductivity. The higher the density and weight, the better job it does of insulating. With a higher rating comes a higher cost. Only you can decide if the price of heavier, denser thermal insulation is warranted for your project.
- Acoustic Performance: Although the main reason for choosing thermal insulation is for heat management, acoustic insulation is an option to consider if you’re trying to minimize engine noises and other unwanted sounds. Ceiling tiles are an example of a flexible heat insulation application that can also solve the problem of poor acoustics.
- Environment: Where is the thermal insulator being used? The answer to this question will have a big say on what material is the best choice for your project. The environmental factors to consider are:
- Temperature Ratings: Thermal insulation products rated for higher temperatures can withstand extreme temperatures.
- Intermittent/Constant Heat: Although some materials can’t withstand a consistently high temperature, there are insulations rated for lower temperatures that may work if your application has only occasional exposure to higher temperatures.
- Fluids: If the heat insulation for your project will be exposed to liquids, choose a hydrophobic material or insulation with a moisture barrier.
- Vibration: If you’re using your insulation on parts that will experience shaking, oscillation or some other form of continuous movement, select a heat insulation material that can handle regular vibration.