Insulation is used today in almost all buildings to either reduce the rate of heat transfer or as a means of dampening sound. It helps keep the cold out in the winter and the cool in during the summer, minimizing the energy used in both residential and commercial structures. Some workers specialize in applying insulation to pipes, ductwork, and mechanical systems. The people who install the materials that insulate buildings and equipment are known as insulation workers.
Insulation workers measure, cut, and install insulating materials in residential and commercial buildings. They may also install insulation on pipes, ductwork, or other mechanical systems to help them work more efficiently. Those who work with mechanical systems measure and cut sections of insulation and then stretch the material open along a lengthwise cut to slip it over pipes or other equipment. Once fitted, they secure the insulation with adhesive, tape, or wire bands. After measuring and cutting insulation material to the proper size, workers involved in building construction fasten it to the interior framing by stapling, taping, spraying, cementing, or fastening it with wire bands. Sometimes, the insulation material is then covered with another material to protect it from damage due to weather or other forces. Sometimes, workers insulate walls by installing wire mesh and then spraying a special form of foam insulation onto the rough wire surface. Another method workers use to install insulation, especially in attic areas, is to blow fiberglass or rock wool “loose-fill” insulation into the open space with a special machine equipped with a compression hose.
Insulation materials contain many irritants that can affect the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. The rate of injury and illness is high for workers who install insulation on floors, ceilings, and walls, so it is imperative for workers to follow safety guidelines and wear protective clothing, masks, or even respirators when renovating old buildings that contain asbestos.
Entry level jobs are available to those who are in good physical condition and possess a driver’s license. However, employers prefer individuals who have a high school diploma or GED. On-the-job training lasts approximately four years. The worker will usually begin with simple tasks such as carrying insulation or helping an experienced worker put insulation into place. Workers who opt to go into commercial and industrial insulation usually enter an apprenticeship program and receive more in-depth training. In order to be accepted into an apprenticeship program sponsored jointly by local contractors and the local union of the International Association of Heat and Front Insulators and Allied Workers, applicants should have a high school diploma or GED, be at least 18 years old, possess a driver’s license, and be legally authorized to work in the United States. Apprenticeship programs last approximately four to five years. Individuals must complete on-the-job and classroom training and pass practical and written tests.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects above average employment growth of about 17 percent over the next 10 years. The greatest growth will come from the push to make existing buildings more energy efficient. Additionally, the expected construction of new power plants will generate demand for workers who insulate pipes and equipment. While all jobs in the construction industry are sensitive to economic fluctuations, the employment outlook for insulation workers is expected to be good overall.
Salaries vary depending upon experience and specialty. The median hourly wage for insulation workers specializing in floors, ceilings, and walls is $15.34. The middle 50 percent earn between $12.04 and $19.64 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $9.61 per hour and the highest 10 percent earn more than $26.53 an hour. The median hourly wage for mechanical insulation workers is $17.95. The middle 50 percent earn between $14.01 and $24.58 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $11.46 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $32.82 per hour. In general, higher wages are paid to those who work on commercial and industrial projects as opposed to residential projects.