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31 July 2017

Key Considerations When Selecting Rigid Foam Insulation for Cold Storage Facilities

While we generally think of insulation of a practical method of retaining heat, the same principles apply when trying to keep an environment cold, such as within cold storage facilities. For such facilities to operate efficiently, effective insulation is absolutely vital.

Rigid foam insulation is by far the most favoured form of insulation for cold storage facilities due to its high R-value, continuous effectiveness, and proven durability, but even within this category there remains substantial variation. Rigid foam options include expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), and polyisocyanurate, each of which comes with its own distinct properties and advantages.

Img: Insulfoam
There are three major factors to consider when selecting rigid foam insulation for your cold storage facility; namely thermal performance, moisture performance, and compressive strength. Each of the aforementioned insulation types will perform differently in regards to each of these factors, and so understanding the merits and pitfalls of each is highly important. So, let’s break it down.

Thermal Performance

The key value when examining the thermal performance of insulation is the R-value, which is in simple terms a measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material; the higher the R-value, the greater that resistance.

For our money, expanded polystyrene (EPS) comes out on top in regards to thermal performance, primarily due to the long-term stability of its R-value. Another advantage is the fact that most EPS manufacturers will warrant the full R-value of their products during time in service, cutting out the costly expense of replacing ineffective insulation all while keeping energy costs down.

Moisture Performance

As anyone who as ever gone out in the rain without a waterproof jacket will tell you, moisture has a habit of somewhat hindering the performance of insulation due to its heat-conductive nature. As such, moisture performance is a crucial consideration when choosing between insulation options.

Rigid foams differ quite substantially in terms of moisture performance, and a number of lab-conducted tests have sought to discover which among them performs best. A winner does seem to have emerged; in side-by-side test EPS insulation performed almost 4 times better than XPS alternatives in relation to absorbed water content. Once again, EPS insulation wins this round.

Compressive Strength

Under-floor insulation is commonly used in cold storage facilities, and this is where compressive strength comes into play. You will want your chosen insulation to possess strength enough to withstand the weights and pressures imparted upon it, but going too far will only serve to drive up costs. Examine you options carefully to ensure the correct balance.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.