Alternative Energy

Published on September 15th, 2014 | by Peter Young


How To Insulate Your Hot Water Pipes

Insulating pipes

One of the best ways to save money and energy around your home is to insulate your hot water pipes. It will save you a lot of energy and money. Luckily, this home improvement project is inexpensive and easy to do. Just follow these easy steps to start saving money and energy today. 

First things first–assess the need. Due to the chance that you’ll burn your hand, we recommend against the touch test. You can use your laser thermometer to test the pipes. If they’re hotter than the surrounding area, then what you’re witnessing is the loss of heat through the pipe. If you’ve diagnosed the need, it’s time to move on to insulation.

Instructions: how to insulate your hot water pipes

Piping: It’s important to note that when you’re insulating the pipes leading to and from your hot water tank that the insulation shouldn’t come flush with the tank. Instead, you should leave some space between where the pipes connect to the tank and the start of the insulation. Having them flush with each other can create a potential fire hazard.

Method 1: Pipe Insulation Wrap

Pipe insulation wrap is easier to use and more flexible in its application than foam, so we’ll address it first.

Things you’ll need for the job:

  • Pipe Insulation wrap
  • Scissors
  • Duct Tape
  • Gloves
  • Rag

1. Start by wiping the pipes clean. Simply use your rag, perhaps dampened if needed, and wipe the pipes clean.

2. Wrap the pipes with the insulation wrap loosely. Be careful not to compress the wrap, as that would compromise some of the wrap’s insulation properties.

3. Use figure 8 wrapping techniques to fully insulate around the valves, elbows, and fittings. When you’re done with this step, you should not see pipe anywhere anymore except flush/close to the ends, as discussed above.

4. Cut loose ends. Use scissors to trim off the leftover edges, if any.

5. Secure the wrap with Duct Tape. Again, do not compress too much, but simply wrap the tape around the outside of the pipe wrap and connect it with itself to hold it in place. Firm, but not tight, as otherwise, you’ll squeeze all the insulating value out of the underlying insulation wrap. **Note: Do not put duct tape directly on the pipe–those puppies get hot! So just wrap it around the insulation wrap and connect it to itself. 

This handy graphic will demonstrate visually the steps above.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 11.47.31 AM

Method 2: Pipe Insulation foam

Things you’ll need for the job:

  • Pipe Insulation (both 3/4″ and 1/2″)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Sharpie
  • Silver Tape or Zip Ties
  • Scissors or Box Cutter
  • Dust Mask
  • Gloves
  • Protective Eye Wear
  • Rag

1. Turn off the power to the hot water tank. Simply open up your home’s circuit breaker and find the switch that controls the power to the hot water tank. Once you’ve found it, turn it to the off position.

2. Measure the various lengths of piping insulation needed. Take your tape measure and measure all the varying lengths of pipe you’ll be insulating. While you’re doing this be sure to take note of any angles you’ll need to cut as well as the diameter of the pipes (either 3/4″ or 1/2″). Also, remember the classic adage: measure twice, cut once.

3. Cut the insulation to the various lengths needed. Now that you’ve measured all the necessary lengths of insulation you’ll need, take your box cutter, utility knife, or scissors and cut the necessary lengths. Again, be sure to account for any angles and connections in the piping and leave your cuts a little long to start off.

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 2.52.40 PM

4. Place insulation on pipes. Pick a starting point along the piping and begin putting the pieces of insulation in place. As you’re doing this you’ll need to trim some of the pieces to ensure a snug fit. Also, be sure to double check that you’re using the proper sized insulation. Leaving space between the pipe and insulation will make the insulation less effective.


Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 2.53.05 PM

5. Remove the adhesive tape from the seam of the insulation. One by one, remove the pieces of insulation from the pipes and take off the adhesive tape from the seam. Now, simply put the piece of insulation back in place around the desired pipe and press the seam together. This will help to ensure you have a good seal around the pipes.

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 2.55.15 PM

6. Use the silver tape to secure the insulation in place. Now, take your silver tape and place a strip around the insulation in roughly one foot intervals. Also, be sure to put a strip around any connections between pipes. Doing so will help to ensure that your insulation stays in place and that you have a good seal.

7. Turn the power to the hot water tank back on. Now that all of your pieces of insulation are in place and secure, simply walk over to your home’s circuit breaker and turn the power to the hot water tank back on.

Check out this video to give yourself a better idea of how your pipes should look when you’re done:

If you’re looking for more ways to save energy and money around your home, check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Dex Knows.

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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