If you live in a climate where freezing temperatures are likely at any time of the year, then your fire protection tanks will need freeze protection. People used to refer to maps with isothermal lines to figure out whether their fire water storage tanks needed insulation. The National Fire Protection Association now uses exact formulas to calculate which regions require insulation for their water storage tanks. Whatever method is used, it’s still apparent that a large swath of the country needs insulated tanks.
Why do fire water storage tanks need freeze protection? Well, it’s a little hard to fight fires if the water is frozen. Or if there are ice chunks that get lodged in the sprinkler system’s pipes, causing the sprinklers to not work properly or even, in some cases, not at all. Insulating your fire protection water storage tanks could make the difference between whether your building burns down or not.
Pittsburg Tank & Tower offers a few different insulation options for freeze protection: spray applied urethane insulation and panel insulation. The former is like putting foam glass around a tank, while the latter is made of polyisocyanurate and sheathed in aluminum. It’s a much smoother look to the spray-on method’s uneven coating.
While spray applied urethane insulation is generally cheaper than panel insulation, it’s also a lot messier. As the name implies, it’s sprayed on. This means there is a chance for overspray onto the tank or objects down below like parked vehicles. Forget about applying it in during cold months. The spray’s components won’t expand enough to effectively insulate tanks.
Panel insulation is a freeze protection that can be applied during any season. An electric immersion heater and thermostat are usually installed along with the panels to maximize freeze protection. Per code, heaters must emit enough heat to keep the water temperature above 42° Fahrenheit. PTTG can install a backup heater to help ensure the water remains above freezing should the first heater go out.
Panel insulation has a higher upfront cost, but there can be savings when the overall maintenance costs are factored in along with the initial price. Little or no maintenance is needed for an insulated tank with heaters – at least to the exterior, the interior would still require maintenance regularly.
Electric immersion heaters are also used to help heat up tanks that are uninsulated. Of course, the heaters must be big enough to keep the water above freezing, which means the heaters could require a lot of power to operate, depending on the climate.
The bigger the surface area of the tank, the more chance there is for potential heat loss. Tanks located in colder regions will need to either have larger heaters or thicker insulation. PTTG can help you determine what will work best for you.