Thermal insulation contractors, often known as insulation engineers, specialise in applying insulation materials to pipes, vessels, boilers and ductwork in a variety of settings such as factories, office buildings, petrochemical plants, power stations and ships. The insulation can be used to trap and conserve heat, or in the case of refrigeration and air-conditioning installations, keep heat out.
Thermal insulation engineers consult blueprints and diagrams to work out where insulation is required and they select the appropriate materials for the job. Surfaces are prepared and cleaned, materials measured and cut to size, then fitted using clips, adhesives or cement. Engineers also use machine blowers to fill cavity spaces between walls, floors and ceilings.
Once the insulation has been installed, the work area is sealed with metal or plastic cladding to protect it from damage or the environment.
Some projects involve stripping out old materials before being re-insulated. This often means the removal of hazardous substances such as asbestos, therefore observance of health and safety regulations is extremely important.
Thermal insulation engineers usually work 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although overtime may be required to complete a project.
Working conditions can be cramped where spaces are confined or difficult to access; they can also be hot, dirty and dusty. Work is also carried out at heights. Engineers normally wear protective clothing, especially when dealing with asbestos removal.
Extensive travel, with extended periods away from home, is usually required to work on different sites and projects. A driving licence is helpful.
To be a thermal insulation engineer, you should:
Opportunities for thermal insulation engineers are increasing, as issues around energy conservation and environmental impact of buildings become increasingly important.
There are opportunities for employment throughout the UK and overseas. Promotion prospects include technical, supervisory and managerial roles. Movement in to related areas is possible, such as heating and ventilation engineering or air-conditioning and refrigeration. See profiles for Heating and Ventilation Fitter/Welder, and Technician: Refrigeration / Air Conditioning.
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