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Guide to Selecting Thermal Insulation From McMasterCarr.

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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" R-value @ 1" Insulation R-value @ 1/2" R-value @ 1"
Material Pages Thick Thick Material Pages Thick Thick
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 Glass3457 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