Thermal Efficiency through Insulated Metal Panels

coldfactoryThe wintry months ahead can be especially demanding on the insulating properties of a building enclosure. Moisture from rain or snow can compromise the effectiveness of insulating materials, while frigid temperatures can exploit vulnerabilities like thermal bridges. All of these factors increase the risk of thermal inefficiency, which can hike energy expenses and cause temperature variability.

Plant and building managers may find one solution in using insulated metal panels for the building envelope. A sophisticated building product, insulated metal is composed of a combination of materials that contribute to enhanced thermal resistance and improved sustainability. Insulated metal panels can be helpful in the overall operation of a building, making it more efficient and thereby using less energy. 

One of the main benefits of insulation is the energy efficiency. A properly insulated building will prevent too much heat from escaping in the winter or entering in the summer, which reduces utility bills. At the same time, insulation will help stabilize the indoor environment by decreasing temperature variability. Insulation is a solution for extreme spikes of cold and warmth that establish a rather uncomfortable environment for the building’s inhabitants.

Sealed insulation will also improve durability by preventing moisture from ruining the building materials.  Water can lead to structural weakness and decay that shortens the longevity of the building itself. Ultimately, a sound building can even result in a higher resale value.

The Components of an Insulated Metal Panel

Insulated metal panels are constructed from three basic materials. They consist of a foam core that is sandwiched between two stabilizers and two sheets of aluminum. The panels can be customized by thickness and type of materials in order to increase the thermal resistance, or R-value, of the panel.

There are two types of insulating foam: expanded polystyrene (EPS) and polyisocyanurate (ISO). EPS is a durable, closed-cell foam that is not only lightweight but rigid and formable. It features low thermal conductivity, especially when combined with fillers such as aluminum and carbon. It is also fairly resistant to water vapor transmission. These characteristics make EPS a solid insulant.

ISO is another tough, closed-cell foam with even lower thermal conductivity than EPS. It is fire and impact resistant, which is why it is specified for facilities and manufacturing plants. ISO is considered a superior insulant to EPS and is thus slightly more expensive.

Stabilizers are typically made of corrugated polyallomer or hardboard. Corrugated polyallomer stabilizers are preferable to hardboard stabilizers. Corrugated polyallomer contains pockets of air that improve its insulating performance and raises its R-value. It is also water resistant. In comparison, hardboard is more durable and dent resistant. However, it is made of wood, which makes it vulnerable to water damage, especially if the panel is not sealed properly. This can eventually cause the surrounding aluminum sheets to corrode and weaken.

The construction of an insulated metal panel is complete when its foam core and stabilizers are finally inserted between two sheets of aluminum.

The Advantages of Insulated Metal Panels

Insulated metal panels boast all of the well-known benefits of insulation. But they also have specific advantages over alternative insulation solutions such as batt insulation, blown-in insulation, rigid insulation and sprayed or injected foam.

One of the major advantages of installing insulated metal panels is that they provide continuous insulation. Removing gaps and discontinuities in the structural surface eliminates thermal bridges, which act as pathways for heat to pass in and out of a building at rates much faster than the surrounding insulated areas. They can thus undermine an otherwise well-insulated building. Insulated metal panels can prevent these structural deficiencies.

Insulated metal panels also qualify as continuous air barriers (CABs). CABs are materials and assemblies that meet specific standards of air leakage in the building envelope. Insulated metal panels seal especially well to each other and the building structure, providing an excellent barrier against air and vapor. According to ENERGY STAR, “all insulation can be effective if it is properly installed and coupled with a continuous air barrier.” A two-in-one solution, insulated metal panels exclude the need for a separate continuous air barrier.

Compared to other insulation solutions, insulated metal panels are also attractive and easy to install. The aluminum panels feature hidden fasteners and a finished look that contributes to a clean, high-quality aesthetic. They’re also lightweight, so they take less time to install, which translates into reduced labor costs and a quicker turnaround.

Insulated metal panels take advantage of several high-performance materials to offer superior insulation, convenience, and an appealing aesthetic. They are a smart way to increase the energy efficiency of your building while improving overall comfort and structural endurance. Insulated metal panels are often more effective than other common forms of insulation because they eliminate thermal bridges and the need to purchase additional insulating components. Finally, the benefits of installing insulated metal panels are especially fruitful in extreme weather conditions found in summer and winter.

imageKen Carlton is the Vice President of Corrugated Metals, Inc. Ken is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business and has been the Vice President of Corrugated Metals for over 20 years.  These years of experience provide him with an expert view of the metal fabrication industry and in particular, the important topic of counterfeit metals.  


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