Brewery insulation is a topic not only for brewery owners or operators. Similar principles and recommendations are valid for other food and beverage production facilities. You can use the tips from this blog post and apply them to almost any place with hot and cold pipes, vessels or process installations. Although breweries have their own unique pieces of equipment same recommendations apply to other production plants.

According to Brewers of Europe, we had almost 10 000 breweries in Europe in 2018. However, as Statista reports on the number of breweries in 2019 we can count over 12 000 breweries there.

In the USA alone there were 8884 breweries in 2020.

Of course 2020 changed a lot of businesses with the biggest impact in the hospitality sector. We may see that not all breweries survived the COVID-19 pandemic. Beer sales fell approximately 20% in 2020 in Europe and 2.9% in the US.

With this high amount of breweries there is a high energy demand. Large portion of that energy is heat generation and cold generation.

There are numerous techniques to save energy in a brewery. One example would be to recover heat from the mashing, boiling and wort cooling and to use it in a hot-liquor tank.

Another way where breweries can save a lot of energy and money is by applying correct thermal insulation. And this blog post will focus on such methods.

Many breweries understand the importance of insulation because it can improve the taste of their beer as publsihed by the Insulation Magazine.

What are the benefits of correct insulation in a brewery?

There are several positive aspects of applying optimised insulation in the brewery.

  • Lower energy loss
  • Better temperature control
  • Smoother processes with temperature control
  • Less outages
  • Better control of beer flavour
  • Lower energy bills
  • Lower emissions of CO2 and NOx into atmosphere
  • Condensation control and reduction of mould growth

 

What equipment requires insulation in a brewery?

There are several items which we will look at in this article. Some of these are typical for a brewery and some of them are general for various manufacturing facilities.

  • Kettle
  • Mash Tun
  • Bottling/Canning machine
  • Heat exchanger insulation
  • Pipes (steam, hot water, cold water, glycol)
  • Pumps
  • Tanks
  • HVAC

Why would you need any insulation in a brewery?

Insulation in a brewery serves several purposes. These are mainly:

 

Probably the easiest to understand and most common purpose is to reduce heat loss. Breweries require large amount of heat for processes like:

  • Heating up water in the hot-liquor tank
  • Mashing
  • Boiling
  • Keeping fermentation temperature
  • Transferring beer in pipes
  • Transferring steam in pipes

Most common source of heat are usually gas burners. There are some breweries that use electric brewing systems. In both cases breweries can reduce their heating bills by applying optimum insulation.

Brewery Piping insulation

In brewery pipes transfer hot and cold mediums. There might be even several kilometres of piping in a single facility.

When we inspect insulation in breweries we find out that owners usually consider only straight runs of pipes for insulation. They tend to forget about piping as a whole system.

This means that they don’t insulate bends, elbows, pipe supports, T’s, flanges, nozzles or sight glasses.

These elements which are not insulated add extra costs to utility bills because of energy loss.

How much energy you can save with proper valve insulation in a brewery?

European Industrial Insulation Foundation carried out several studies about heat loss in industrial sector. In their recent publication from 2021 you see a great visualisation of heat loss from a valve without insulation. Breweries can also use this example.

A single valve with diameter of DN150 and medium temperature 150°C loses approximately 10,600kWh of heat during a year.

If we take this heat and transform it into electricity (even with 40% efficiency) we can get 4000kWh.

This is enough to charge an electric car like TESLA Model S and drive it for over 20,000km.

Now multiply this number by the amount of valves and other pieces of equipment and the results might be terrifying.

Of course you don’t need to charge your TESLA with the energy that you save but you can drastically reduce your energy bills.

valve-insulation-energy-loss-infographic

What type of insulation material is best for brewery insulation?

The world of insulation materials offers wide range of products. Not every single one of them is suitable for application as insulation in the brewery.

You should choose insulation material depending on the application. This means different product for steam pipes and different for glycol pipes insulation.

Most popular type of insulation material for hot services like hot water or steam is mineral wool or glass wool.

For cold services, for example, cold water or glycol supply pipes you should use closed cell insulation.

In this category you can use elastomeric foam insulation like Armaflex, K-flex or PIR section. The difference between these materials in mostly in their thermal conductivity. PIR insulation has lower thermal conductivity which means you can apply smaller thickness to achieve the same performance when compared to elastomeric foam. However, elastomeric foam will probably be cheaper solution. Additionally, if you value aesthetic aspect elastomeric foams are usually black whereas PIR sections are covered with aluminium foil.

 

Valve insulation jackets are essential item in the brewery insulation

We already wrote several articles about valve insulation jackets. How are these relevant to the brewery insulation? Exactly the same principles apply here. Even though temperatures are not as high as in other facilities, it is still worth to use insulation jackets for valves.

 

What are the benefits of using valve insulation jackets in the brewery?

  • Conserve heat and prevent heat loss
  • easy in installation and removal
  • You don’t need specialist tools
  • Insulation jackets have smooth & hygienic surface
  • No risk of corrosion
  • High resistance to damage during frequent maintenance

We manufacture our valve insulation jackets from flexible textile materials. These already have a thin layer of silicone on the surface. It protects inside from any liquid that might spill and get into the insulation. We fill the inside of our valve jackets with mineral wool or glass wool. Breweries most often use 50mm thick insulation.

We always make sure that our insulation jackets for the brewery fit tight around valves or flanges. This way we can keep the heat inside, provide continuous insulation and prevent thermal bridges in the brewery insulation system.

 

Acoustic insulation in brewery

Breweries should consider also applying acoustic insulation for noisy equipment.

It usually includes insulation of grain supply from mill to mash (augers or conveyor lines). Some microbreweries or brewpubs and restaurants run augers in the public area. The noise from transferring malt can affect customer experience in a negative way.

One of the easiest and most convenient solutions is to use insulation mattresses. These removable acoustic insulation pads absorb noise and are easy to demount for inspection or maintenance.

You just wrap them around the augers or conveyor lines and secure with Velcro straps. If you need to carry out any maintenance on the augers lines just unwrap the insulation mattress manually. You don’t need a specialist insulation engineer or tools to do it.

 

Glycol line insulation – preservation of cold

Breweries contain not only heat generating equipment but also cold production apparatus. Glycol systems are most common in this case. Brewers use these to control fermentation. Glycol lines run via pipe bridges and inside the fermentation tank shell.

You need to protect these cold service lines against heat ingress. Otherwise pumps, compressors and refrigeration system will be working much harder than usually consuming more power than expected.

Protection against mould and fungus with adequate insulation in a brewery

Some time ago we carried out an insulation audit in a small brewery. The owners invested in a brand new building and the newest gear. For some reason insulation of glycol lines was inadequate.

Only about half of the length of glycol pipes were insulated. All bends, T-pieces, supports and some of the straight pipe runs were left without any insulation. This lead to icing formation on the pipe surface.

Ice occurred because the water vapour condensed on a cold surface and froze. The pipes run internally through fermentation room.

icing-formation-on-uninsulated-cold-valves

Warm air caused some of the ice to melt and water dripped from pipes onto the floor. Not only it created a slip hazard for the personnel but in some areas it led to growth of mould and fungus.

I don’t need to explain to brewers how dangerous mould is for your brewing process. You know it can ruin the whole batch of carefully crafted beer.

Therefore, you need to make sure there is no insulation free spots on your cold service lines. Lack of insulation on glycol lines can cause heat ingress and lead to ice formation, water dripping, slip hazards and fungal growth.

What type of materials are suitable for insulation of glycol lines?

The most important aspect of insulation for any cold services is that it has to be closed-cell type of insulation. This means that the structure of the material does not allow any water vapour to pass through. What is more, you need to seal all the joints properly. You can achieve it in several ways.

  • Install insulation in double layer system with staggered joints
  • Seal the joints with adhesives and cover the joint with vapour barrier tape
  • Seal the joints with adhesive and cover the joint with a strap of the same insulation material

One of the most popular material is rubber insulation. You can choose from a few known manufacturers like Armacell or K-flex.

Another type of material is PIR foam insulation. It is more expensive than rubber insulation, however, it has lower thermal conductivity, approximately 0,022 ??? . This means that you can use lower thickness of PIR. It comes very handy in some tight areas where pipes are close to each other or there might not be enough space for other types of insulation.

Insulation of buffer vessel at bottling lines

Breweries often use buffer vessel in the bottling or canning lines. This vessel contains cooled beer before it enters bottling line.

Beer is transferred there from fermentation tanks and cooled down. Depending on the system you use it might be 5°C or less. Brewers need colder beer for bottling or canning as it doesn’t foam so much.

In order to preserve cold in the buffer tank and protect it from heat ingress you can insulate it with insulation jackets. Such insulation will help to keep the beer temperature at the right level and reduce the amount of outages or breaks in the process.

Insulation of bottle washers

Larger breweries can use bottle washers in their facilities. These are used to wash and sterilise returned bottles. Since this process is heat intense it is important to preserve the heat and energy. Depending on the brewery design and layout insulation of bottle washing equipment can also reduce the amount of heat ingress into other areas.

 

What’s the payback time for the insulation jackets in the brewery?

I’m sure as the brewery owner or operator you think how much does it cost to install insulation in the brewery. There are ways to estimate it with a good level of detail.

Brewer’s Association published an extensive study presenting energy saving methods in brewery. Several issues revolve around proper insulation.

Similar conclusions are published by Utility Helpline.

Furthermore, Environmental Energy Technologies Division recommended pipe insulation as one of the energy saving methods. Their reasearch paper says that brewers can gain quick payback, usually within one to two years.

First of all you need to calculate heat loss from uninsulated equipment. Once you know the amount of lost heat you can multiply it by the costs. Now multiply it again by the amount of hours in which the system is operating in a month or per year. This is the money that you lose.

How to reduce the energy loss and save money?

You can ask us for the quote for the insulation jackets. Once you have this price you just divide it by the monthly cost of heat loss and you will find out the payback period.

To sum up, insulation in a brewery is crucial for energy savings and achieving proper brewing processes. Different pieces of brewery equipment requires different approach to insulation. Hot pipes and equipment are best for mineral or glass wool insulation. Whereas cold lines like glycol systems you want to insulate with elastomeric rubber or PIR sections.

In any case, insulation in the brewery is a fast return investment.

 

How can we support you with insulation jackets for valves, vessels, pipes or heat exchangers in your brewery project?

Contact us via the form below.

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