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Old 02-09-2007, 12:19 PM   #1
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Insulating copper water pipes in the wall?

Should copper water pipes inside an interior wall of the house be insulated? When doing some remodeling I noticed where the pipes run out of the slab foundation inside interior walls up to the sink/tub/etc in my house (built 2001), they are not wrapped in any insulation. Is it standard building practice to insulate pipes in this situation or not? I am concerned about uninsulated pipes sweating and causing condensation in the wall which could cause mold. If they should be insulated what is the best material to do it with?

I am in north alabama if that makes a difference.


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Old 02-09-2007, 01:23 PM   #2
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I would say it is not standard building pratice to insulate the copper pipe in an interior wall. Generally speaking the only pipe insulated inside the house is the hot water side, which is not what you are worried about. Let's think about it for a second. The water in the pipe would have to be cold enough to produce sweat in the wall space. I know it may happen under certain conditions. But let's say the water is 50* in the pipe. Would that be cold enough to sweat? I think under most circumstances it wouldn't. And if they did sweat, I think the water would then evaporate before mold had a chance to take hold. If you want to insulate the lines, the big box stores do sell pipe insulation. It's similar to what's used on refrigerant lines. Some brand names are rubatex or armaflex.

If that doesn't work, I'll always think it should have.
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Old 02-09-2007, 01:32 PM   #3
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Actually I'm talking about both the cold and hot water pipes. Neither are insulated. Are you saying the hot water pipes should be?

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Old 02-09-2007, 01:41 PM   #4
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Howdy Rick,
If you have access to the floor below the pipes, I'd say insulate to where the pipe goes up the wall on the hot water side.. This insulation won't keep the water hot but slows the cooling process down a bit..
You can run a line from the hot water side of your valve back down to the hot water heater and the warmer water will rise to the level of the valve. Warmer water a little faster to the valve..
mm (aka "Paco")
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Old 02-09-2007, 01:55 PM   #5
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i never have seen pipes insulated on an interior wall. if it is a long run you might insulate the hot side, but if it sets a while insulation isn't going to help much. better to circulate the hotside on a long run.

if the air inside the wall is dry and there isn't a water source the pipe shouldn't sweat.

i did see a case where the insulation in an outside wall was saturated. water was actually dripping off exposed nails. Thought we found a roof leak but it turned out that moist room air was entering the cavity thru several holes the electrican cut and didn't use.
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Old 02-09-2007, 02:27 PM   #6
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I believe the thinking on this might be changing to where all pipes should be insulated.

The cold supplies will sweat if the water temperature is below the dew point. The severity would depend on the temperature of the incoming water in humid conditions (eg, the summer). If the water is cold, like from a deep well, condensation can be a real issue.

The hot supplies lose a small, but real, amount of heat. In the winter this is harmless, but in the summer you not only have to heat more water, but remove the heat lost to the wall space through air conditioning. Pipe insulation is cheap and easy to apply. I've used it and recommend it to others.
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Old 02-09-2007, 02:59 PM   #7
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Code here requires hots to be insulated when they are part of a recirculating system. In a recirculating system or not it is a good idea to insulate -keeps the heat loss down a bit- how much- not much but some is better than none.

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Old 02-09-2007, 03:10 PM   #8
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In a well built wall (don't find them too often), with the vapor barriers in place, they are typically quite dry, so condensation isn't a big deal. It isn't a bad idea to insulate any pipe, hot or cold, throughout the house if you have access.
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Old 02-10-2007, 11:27 PM   #9
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Brian and a few others here obviously haven't spent much time in Michigan in summer.

But there's still another reason to wrap those pipes - noise abatement.

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