Thermal Insulation vs. Acoustic Insulation
When people talk about insulation, they’re referring to one of two types: thermal insulation or acoustic insulation. Thermal insulation materials reduce radiant and conductive heat. Common forms are foam insulation, reflective barriers, and blankets, which are found in both residential and industrial settings, where high-temperature insulation is critical for safe operations.
On the flip side, acoustic insulation materials absorb or block sound from loud equipment in the form of absorbers and barriers. They are found in industrial settings where there is noisy machinery as well as sound booths and other spaces where it’s essential to eliminate outside noises (or keep the inside noises from traveling out).
Here we’ll discuss common types of insulation, insulation materials, and our patented solutions for both thermal and acoustic insulation.
Common Types of Thermal Insulation
There are two main types of heat-resistant materials: insulation and heat reflection. Insulation keeps heat in a confined space, minimizing conductive and convective heat flow. An example of heat insulation is the puffy material in the walls of a residential building that prevents heat loss in cold weather.
Radiant materials reflect heat energy that travels in a straight line, such as heat from the sun. These materials usually line the underside of roofs to block sunlight and reduce heat gain. Radiant materials keep buildings cool in hot climates.
Depending on the application, you will need different types of heat protection materials. All of the following require proper safety precautions during installation, but they are highly effective for insulating, reflecting, or both:
- Mineral wool. Mineral wool can refer to glass wool, basalt rockwool, or slag wool. Most mineral wool in the United States is slag wool, and it comes either loose or in batts. Mineral wool is inexpensive and effective at insulating heat.
- Fiberglass. Fiberglass can insulate or reflect heat. It is highly effective, but like mineral wool, it is hazardous if the glass particles are inhaled or enter the eyes.
- Polyurethane foam. This insulating material is soft, flexible, lightweight, fire-resistant, and moisture-resistant.
- Ceramic fibers. Ceramic fibers can either insulate or reflect, and they are most commonly used in heavy-duty industrial applications because of their high resistance to thermal shock. Common applications include exhaust systems, kiln linings, pipes, fire protection, seals, and expansion joints.
Common Types of Acoustic Insulation
Acoustic insulation comes in two main types: absorbers and barriers.
Absorbers take in and trap sound waves, which reduces the amount of noise in a space and improves acoustic conditions. They may be applied to walls, ceilings, floors, and even objects within a room.
An acoustic barrier is used to block noise from transmitting from one location to another. Typically used in conjunction with absorbers, barriers are common in soundproofing applications like engine housings, firewalls, and more. The substrates used to make barriers are denser than those used for absorbers, and while absorbers receive a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating that indicates how much sound they can absorb, barriers receive a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating, which indicates how well they block sound.
There are many types of acoustic insulation materials available, and they all do a great job at redirecting or absorbing sound. The one you choose will depend upon your budget, your application, any restrictions regarding the size and weight of the chosen material, and the NRC or STC rating you require.
Common types of acoustic insulation materials include:
Sound Absorption Materials
- Fiberglass. Long-lasting and fireproof, fiberglass offers both thermal and acoustic insulation.
- Polyester Non-woven Fibers. Safe and stable, polyester offers flexibility and durability at an economical price point.
- Polyurethane Foam. This is an excellent choice for absorbing high-frequency sound waves.
- Rockwool. Moisture- and fire-resistant, rockwool is easy to cut and fit, and it offers more sound absorption than traditional fiberglass.
Sound Barrier Materials
- Concrete. It’s not the most effective, but it is versatile and durable, which is why it’s used for about half of all highway noise barriers made in the U.S.
- Steel. It’s inexpensive and easy to work with, making it a common choice for sound barriers.
- Acrylic. Though more expensive than other choices, acrylic is necessary when you want to create a transparent barrier to avoid blocking the view.
- PVC and other viscoelastic materials. These are cost-effective options for sound barriers for a wide variety of applications.
Thermal Insulation Benefits
Thermal insulation is great for protecting products, devices, ancillary items, and people from a nearby heat source. Here, we’ll break down several specific benefits of thermal insulation as they relate to specific applications.
- Hotspot prevention. Motors and other equipment can create high-temperature areas which can damage nearby electronics, other sensitive equipment, and people. Hotspot prevention is crucial to protecting these assets.
- Fuel tank protection. Thermal insulation helps control fuel tank temperatures, reduces safety hazards, and is extremely important in protecting plastic fuel tanks from melting.
- Surface temperature reduction. Certain kinds of equipment can become extremely hot in the process of running, so thermal insulation is critical in preventing burns by way of being a non-conductive barrier between people and the machinery.
- Exhaust pipe protection. Exhaust pipes produce a sufficient amount of heat. Insulation protects internal components from heat-related damage while also regulating internal temperatures.
Acoustic Insulation Benefits
Acoustic insulation’s benefits revolve around noise reduction for a healthier workplace, but to fully understand the specific benefits, we’ll take a closer look.
- Sound absorption. Porous absorption materials are used to line the surfaces of hard objects (e.x. Heavy machinery, engines), which would typically reflect sound and airborne noises into a workspace. The porous materials keep sound waves from reflecting back into the workspace which promotes worker health.
Thermal Products by Technicon
Technicon Acoustics offers several high-temperature thermal insulation materials that are safe and effective for a broad range of applications.
Our Tech Shield™ is a hazard-free radiant solution that enhances comfort inside operator environments and cabins. It blocks heat sources up to 1000 °F as close as one inch away. With a fire-retardant core and low setup costs, Tech Shield™ ensures the safest and most efficient means of heat protection.
Our Tech Shield Sleeve™ is a braided sleeve composed of patented fibers that insulate exhausts, keeping the heat in and lowering surface temperatures. It comes with special structural cords that cure the sleeve in place after initial exposure to heat. Once cured, the sleeve does not unravel even if the sleeve gets damaged or the pipe moves.
Acoustic Foam Products by Technicon
We produce three types of acoustic foams (otherwise called soundproof foams) which are used to manufacture acoustic absorbers. These materials are available in various thicknesses and facing options, and they may be used alongside sound barriers for additional noise control.
- Polyether & Polyester Polyurethane foam. It’s lightweight, flexible, compressible, and thermally insulating, in addition to offering exceptional sound absorption.
- Fiber-based absorbers. These offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to polyurethane. Made of our proprietary blend of virgin fibers with pre- and post-consumer waste, these absorbers are recyclable. They won’t degrade with exposure to UV light or water, and they’re resistant to most chemicals and oils. With exceptional low-frequency absorption properties, thermal resistance up to 350° F, and compliance with UL94 HF1 standards, fiber-based acoustic absorbers are a common choice in generator and air compressor enclosures, marine engine rooms, and HVAC applications.
Technicon: Superior Thermal and Acoustic Solutions
At Technicon, our experts develop high-performance thermal and acoustic solutions for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across the United States and Canada. We are committed to providing clients with products that meet their exact specifications. We also take care that our deliveries are on time and accurate.
To learn more about our thermal insulation, radiant blocking solutions, or any of our acoustic solutions, request a free quote or contact us today.