Should you Insulate your Steam Pipes?

To gain the utmost from your boiler and home heating system, it’s certainly worth thinking about whether or not your pipes are insulated or insulated well enough. A lot of heat can be lost through the pipes due to the nature of steam and you’re more likely to come across this issue if you have a steam heating system usually found in older homes.

The pipes that carry steam through your heating system are very unstable and would quickly return to a liquid state at the first opportunity! Therefore any drop in temperature introduced to the steam will cause it to condense, ultimately, reducing the efficiency of the heating system and leaking water over the floor.leak

This is the very reason you find that the room that contains the boiler tends to stay warm whilst rooms further away can still be freezing cold, it’s because the steam has travelled through cold pipes to get to radiators in other rooms, causing the heating system to slow down; effectively it is reducing the overall efficiency of the boiler and this means you are losing value through the effectiveness of your central heating!

How is Pipe Insulation a Solution?

So the pipes in your home are losing heat, and this will be reflected more in the distance the steam has to travel down the pipe, by insulating exposed pipes, they are going to stay warmer for longer periods of time, steam can then travel faster from the boiler, down the pipes to reach the radiators.

By doing this, it’s going to reduce the time it takes for your heating system to kick in once turned on, and you are increasing the likelihood of heating rooms that are long distances away from the boiler.

Another benefit you’ll find is it’s going to prevent those annoying leaky pipes, and if you live in colder climates, it’ll definitely help with them freezing over too and would no doubt be a recommended solution for you.

There is a choice of insulation available, and insulating steam pipes needs not be as much a hassle as it seems, it would all depend on whether you are looking for the insulation to blend more with the room you are in, or if you’re not worried about aesthetics at all.

Disregarding aesthetics though, it is a very affordable and achievable method of being more energy efficient and also in the long term it would prove to reduce the amount you spend on your heating to some degree.

Types of Steam Pipe Insulation

There are a few different types of insulation you can find and the choice that’s best for you may not be apparent. There are a few different considerations to look at such as size, affordability, material, and practicality when you are trying to decide on a suitable pipe insulation for your needs.

Foam Pipe Insulation

Foam Pipe Insulation is a very cheap and practical fix to the issue, there’s not really much in the way of looking good, but being mostly gray in color, these tubes are fortunately quite unassuming.

Very easy to install, they tend to come cylindrical in shape and have a slit going right through them, with enough tension to hold shape. Others, particularly longer pipe insulation foam can have a self-sealing slit with adhesive to seal it.

Foam insulation does come in a variety of sizes so you’ll want to consider the size of your pipe. Standard lengths can range between 1 inch to several feet and so its a very useful and adaptable method to give your heating system a boost.

Polyethylene Pipe Insulation                                 Self-Sealing Tube Pipe InsulationSelf-Sealing Tube Pipe Insulation

Polyethylene Pipe Insulation






Fibre Glass Pipe Wrap Insulation

Pipe wrap takes just a little more work to apply than the foam, but fiberglass is a very effective insulating material and the function fo the wrap itself is to suit pipes of varying sizes because slit style insulating tubes can be loose around some pipes.

The wraps adhere to themselves and so intend to stay on the pipes for a very long time. A downside to mention is that they are quite unsightly, and so I would recommend this choice for exposed pipes in areas like the basement which guests are not likely to see.

Frost King                                                               M-D Building Products
Fiberglass Pipe Wrap                                            
Fiberglass Pipe Wrap M-D Building Products Fiberglass Pipe WrapFrost King Fiberglass Pipe Wrap

Non-Fibre Glass Pipe Wrap Insulation

An additional problem with fiberglass pipe wrap is that fiberglass can be an irritant which requires you to use a mask and gloves to handle.

It’s not nice on the skin and can be a problem if inhaled in great amounts.A good alternative to the problem is this Duck Brand Pipe Wrap Insulation which is made from plastic fiber and also Frost King Natural Cotton Pipe Wrap, made from cotton instead of the more common fiberglass but works in more or less the same way.

Duck Brand Pipe Wrap Insulation                   Frost King Cotton Pipe WrapFrost King Cotton Pipe Wrap

Duck Brand Pipe Wrap Insulation

Final Words

Whether you are looking to completely get the most energy efficiency out of your home as possible, or you are trying to get a bit more out of your home heating system or even if you are looking for solution to fix those leaky pipes that freeze in the winter, pipe insulation is definitely something you should consider.

There are other options available that are not mentioned above; such as reflective pipe wraps or insulation blankets for insulating the boiler itself, and so its worth checking them out to see what suits your needs the best.

When it comes to it, the most important thing to realize is that using these relatively cheap products as a supplement to your home heating will see your heating bills reduce as you’re using less of your home heating due to its increase efficiency. Over time you’ll come to find that pipe insulation is no doubt a smart way to manage your heating bills.


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