Your Top Retrofit Questions Answered
Before and after: The Portsmouth Abbey School ice rink in Portsmouth, RI.
Do your customers ever ask about retrofit insulation systems? Do you have questions of your own about the process? Rest assured: You’re not alone.
Over the years, many contractors and building owners have come to Therm-All for their most complicated commercial building retrofit jobs. I receive many inquiries about insulation retrofit projects, so I thought I’d take a break from writing about commercial energy codes for this post and instead answer some of your top retrofit questions. A big thanks to Mark Diksas of The Northview Group (a partner of Therm-All’s), who shared his insights – knowledge that he’s gleaned from over 20 years worth of retrofit experience – throughout this post.
1. When is it time for a building owner to inquire about an insulation retrofit?
Before the retrofit: Decaying insulation board in a 47,000-square foot metal building in Franklin, Conn.
Another way to phrase this question is, “What are the top reasons for an insulation retrofit”? Below are a few, among many:
- Poor existing insulation: If the insulation already installed in the building is old, damaged or is causing building performance issues, it’s time for a retrofit.
- No existing insulation: If the building doesn’t have any insulation installed, serious condensation complications can arise.
- HVAC updates: Changes to a building’s heating or air conditioning system often require an insulation retrofit.
- Building use or ownership changes: Over the years, we’ve prescribed retrofits due to a change in the way a building will be used. For example, if an owner purchases an old welding shop and plans to use it as a farm building, the insulation system would need to be retrofitted.
- Fire damage: Smoked or scorched insulation requires a retrofit.
- Getting a building “up to code”: The evolving commercial energy codes landscape has created a need for higher R-values, so building owners are seeking insulation solutions with a maximum R-value.
2. What’s the most important question a building owner should ask before hiring an insulation retrofit specialist?
After the retrofit: The OptiLiner™ Banded Liner System transformed the interior space of F.W. Webb Company*,
New England’s largest plumbing and heating distributor.
“Have you ever done a building like mine, and can I visit it?” The retrofit process is very different for metal buildings versus a pole barn, so it matters whether or not the specialist has experience in your specific type of building. Also, seeing the specialist’s work in person trumps any pictures they’ll show you. It’s important to look closely at the application and check for quality.
3. How long does it take for a complete insulation retrofit in an “average” sized metal building?
In short: That’s variable. Factors such as whether or not there are machines on the ground can impact the length of time it takes to complete an insulation retrofit. On average, a retrofit specialist installs about 3,000 – 4,000 square feet of insulation per day.
4. What will the end result look like?
A brighter, improved appearance is how most building tenants describe the finished product.
Insulation retrofit systems also aid in:
- Sound abatement
- Condensation control
- Energy savings
- A more comfortable interior climate: Adding insulation to a building can keep the interior warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer (up to 10 – 15 degrees warmer/cooler without any additional HVAC updates).
5. Are all buildings candidates for insulation retrofit?
No, not all buildings qualify for insulation retrofit applications. In some cases, buildings have too many obstacles for the install to be a smooth, cost-effective process; buildings that house indoor pools are one example. It’s important to remember to choose an installation specialist who will give you an honest recommendation. A building should only be labeled viable for a retrofit after it has been visited by an insulation specialist or installer.
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