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Guide to Selecting Thermal Insulation From McMasterCarr.com

Temperature Resistance

Many types of thermal insulation are designed to perform in a variety of temperature ranges. For insulation that resists cold temperatures, see Rigid Polyurethane Foam, PVC Foam, and Cork on page 3453 and Polyimide Foam on page 3456. For insulation that resists high temperatures, see Fiberglass and Mineral Wool on pages 3458-3460. For insulation that resists ultra-high temperatures, see Ceramic, Silica, Calcium Silicate, and Millboard on pages 3462-3463.

Heat Flow Rate

Also called the K-factor, heat flow rate measures the rate of heat flow from one side of the insulation to the other. The lower the heat flow rate, the slower the heat will flow through the insulation and the better the material will insulate. Another term related to heat flow rate is R-value, which measures an insulation's capacity to slow heat flow (see tables below). The higher the R-value, the better a material insulates. R-value is equal to the thickness of a material divided by its heat flow rate (K-factor). For example, a 1/2" thick piece of insulation with a 0.25 heat flow rate has an R-value of 2 ( 1/2"d0.25) while a 1" thick piece of the same material has an R-value of 4 (1"d0.25).

Protecting Insulation and Improving Its Performance

Some insulation comes with or may be used with a jacket or facing that protects it from outer surface conditions such as water, weather, and abrasion. A coating of latex paint ( 4530K183 ) or PVC jacketing (see page 3460) makes many suitable for outdoor use while metal jacketing (see page 3461) is an even stronger alternative. Because the jacketing and facings come in contact with the insulation—not the surface being insulated—they may not require as broad a temperature range.

Insulation

 

R-value @ 1/2" Thick

R-value @ 1" Thick

Insulation

 

R-value @ 1/2" Thick

R-value @ 1" Thick

Material

Pages

Material

Pages

Expanding Foam

3452

2.5-3.0

5-6

Melamine

3456-

   

PVC Foam

3453

2.6-3.0

5.2-6.0

Foam

3457

1.9

3.8

Polystyrene

     

Cork

3453

1.8

3.6

Foam

3453

1.9-2.5

3.8-5.0

Cellular Glass

3457

1.7

3.4

Polyurethane

       

3458-

   

Foam

3453

1.7-2.6

3.3-5.3

Fiberglass

3459

0.8-2.4

1.7-4.8

Bubble Wrap

3452

2.1

4.2

Silicone Foam

3456

1.3

2.5-2.6

Polyimide Foam

3456

2.1

4.2

Ceramic

3462

0.4-1.8

0.8-3.6

Polyethylene

     

Silica

3463

0.6

1.3

Foam

3454

1.9-2.0

3.8-4.0

Millboard

3463

0.5-0.7

1.0-1.4

Mineral Wool

3460

1.9-2.2

3.7-4.3

Calcium

     
 

3455-

   

Silicate

3463

0.5-0.7

1.0-1.4

Foam Rubber

3456

1.9

3.7-3.8