Thermal insulation in cold storage installations (2023)

October 31, 2017

Thermal insulation is the most efficient way to maintain cold temperatures. Technically speaking, it consists of minimizing the transmission of heat energy between adjacent spaces. We spoke with Jaime Maruny, administrator of the Infrisa Group, a company with one of the most solid track records in the design and construction of cold chambers in Spain and which regularly collaborates with Mecalux in the setup of many of its projects. In this article, Jaime explains how the thermal insulation of low-temperature warehouses is achieved and emphasizes the importance of a rigorous design to guarantee optimal cold storage operations.

Thermal insulation in cold storage installations (1)

Most food products are perishable and deteriorate rapidly when exposed to an ambient temperature. Historically, the use of cold (through freezing or refrigeration) has been one of the most common methods for food preservation over long periods.

In the twentieth century, cold storage began to be implemented on an industrial scale. Research has been fundamental in the development of new and innovative solutions that are increasingly efficient, from the improvement of the materials to maintain cold conditions to the construction of installations and the use of high-tech cold storage chambers. Being able to keep food for long periods has a significant impact both socially and economically.

The evolution of thermal insulation

Thermal insulators are materials resistant to the passage of energy. They are employed in the construction of cold storage installations to create a barrier that prevents the transmission of energy and maintains the interior at a suitable temperature. From an economic standpoint, it is the best energy saving solution. Choosing the correct material to use is essential when building a cold storage chamber. Likewise, thanks to research, “the industry has evolved in the last few decades, moving towards new systems and increasingly efficient products,” Jaime Maruny points out.

Initially, cork was used with tar vapor barriers, all fixed to a building support and hand applied by bricklayers, with interior finishes in cement or ceramics.

Later, cork was replaced by petroleum derived organic materials, mainly Expanded Polystyrene Sheeting (EPS), but that continued to be fit to the walls with tar. Corrugated metal profiles served as an interior finish.

Over time, new products and modular technologies were introduced that dispense with built walls, such as the highly-resistant sandwich panels currently used.

Sandwich panels

Thermal insulation in cold storage installations (2)

In the second half of the twentieth century, due to the growing demand for industrial refrigeration chambers and the expansion of technology, sandwich panels were developed.

Jaime Maruny emphasizes that the utilization of these panels was a major breakthrough in the construction and insulation sector. Panels bring together a number of advantages within the same product, among those that stand out are:

  • Modularity. They are easy to transport and assemble.
  • They offer a broad range of core thicknesses and sheet metal cladding for facades. Their characteristics depend on the panel usage.
  • Excellent mechanical properties.
  • Superb vapor barrier.
  • Highly heat resistant.
  • Hygienic, sanitary finishes. Easy to clean and germ-resistant.
  • Manageable cost.

Nowadays, modern refrigeration chambers are constructed out of sandwich panels with a polyurethane insulation core (PUR) –although the use of polyisocyanurate (PIR) is rising due to its good fire protection behavior–, put between two outer layers that can either be metallic or non-metallic (generally made of steel or aluminum).

PUR and PIR are rigid cellular foams composed of two liquids: polyol and isocyanate, formulated in different proportions, with a foaming agent and other additives. As the foam forms, it adheres to both sides. The foam densities of the finished product are around 2.5 lb/ft3

Thermal insulation in cold storage installations (3)The panel facets are usually galvanized steel sheet metal, primed and finished with polyester silicone paint (better known as lacquer). This cladding has a minimum thickness of around 1/64” –up to a maximum of 1/32”– and has corrugated profile finishes, which makes it more resistant and rigid. Aesthetically, they can be decorated in a wide range of colors.

In warehouses located in harsh environments (marine, industrial, etc.) or where special products are handled and processed (food preserved in salt, unpackaged items, etc.), more resistant, anti-corrosive coatings are usually applied such as HDX, PVDF or PET.

Manufacturers often produce panels that measure between 3.6’ and 3.93’ wide, which allows for standardized transportation and facilitates their assembly. They are cut to the appropriate size on the production line to avoid having to do so on-site.

The longitudinal union of the panels is one of the most critical and delicate elements to be paid attention to during assembly; each manufacturer provides its own solution. The joining of the different sandwich panels must be done with precision when assembled and sealed on-site to avoid heat transfer, water vapor from entering and the creation of thermal bridges.

Regarding the current situation of sandwich panels, Jaime Maruny explains that their characteristics and production processes are under constant investigation and development, improving their quality and resistance. “Today –he states– a single line can manufacture millions of square feet a year, complying with strict international standards. This is a result of multi-million dollar investments in R&D&i and the progressive spirit of the industry”.

Panels are used in refrigeration chambers and industrial food processing plants, either in above zero ranges (at temperatures between 32 to 50 °F in docks or workrooms), as well as in sub-zero areas (freezing tunnels and frozen product storage chambers, usually at -13 °F).

Jaime Maruny notes that Infrisa has also designed and built highly complex chambers that operate at much lower temperatures, even reaching -76 °F, to conserve tuna products. Placing metal racks in warehouses under these conditions is a delicate matter and requires that the supplier's technical team, Mecalux in this case, conducts an in-depth study to find the most suitable solution, since steel is fragile and less resistant at temperatures below -31 °F.

The thickness of the panels installed in the industrial refrigeration chambers ranges from 3.93" to 4.92" at above zero temperatures and between 6.89" to 7.87" at sub-zero temperatures.

The design of refrigerated chambers

There are two types of cold storage constructions: traditional and rack-supported. In both cases, Jaime Maruny stands by Mecalux’s theory that ideally these installations are designed from the inside out.

Thermal insulation in cold storage installations (4)This involves developing and building a warehouse starting with the interior, taking into account all storage and handling equipment, so that it operates efficiently and complies with regulations. The distribution and organization of storage systems are planned on the available surface, according to the logistics needs of the company.

Once the interior has been clearly defined, the exterior is designed using the parameters of the warehouse and its chambers. Particular attention is paid to the joining of the pavement and insulation with the panels in walls, ceilings and floors (with a parallel system that avoids sub-floor freezing), the doors and accesses, pressure balancing valves, suitable enclosures, the fire-fighting system, etc.

The design of the installation and the chambers is undertaken in a multidisciplinary fashion, evaluating all the components involved in the operation and how they interact with each other. This requires an in-depth study that is carried out alongside the customer –or the customer's representatives– and aims to find out all the distinctive features and variables of the warehouse, the logistics needs and prospects of the company, as well as the storage systems that will be provided. The result is a custom-built installation and one that adapts to the characteristics and requisites of each company.

The design considers many complex aspects, such as the size and features of the plot, the legislation of each country, region and city, the special features and requirements of each customer, the regulations concerning fire safety, the state of technology and the materials of each market, etc. This study is executed in a very detailed manner, keeping in mind that some standards may vary in countries within Europe, Africa or Latin America.

A cold storage chamber is a considerable investment that must be profitable. For that reason, Jaime Maruny affirms that a good design is indispensable to achieve a long operational life.

In the refrigerated logistics sector, automated storage solutions have thrived. These maximize storage capacity and provide sound product control

Rack-supported chambers

At the end of the XX century and the beginning of the XXI, large-sized automated warehouses began to flourish. These take advantage of the whole available warehouse height and surface for the purposes of optimizing storage capacity and improving the throughput of logistical flows. By only occupying the necessary space, the power costs to maintain the installation constantly at low temperatures is less.

These warehouses are self-contained buildings formed by metal rack on which panels, vertical cladding and roofing are fixed. Its construction differs from traditional chambers, since it is set up in a short time and with limited civil works. It is essential to correctly position the sandwich panels when thermally insulating the installation.Thermal insulation in cold storage installations (5)

Perfect anchorage of the panels is crucial, as well as their positioning (horizontal or vertical) and special care of the joints to avoid strain that causes wrinkles in the panel sheets. Jaime Maruny points out that, by being subjected to constant exterior temperature changes, “the panels are specially sealed at the joints to prevent heat from entering, and the cladding must be painstakingly waterproofed.”

In the construction of these warehouses, other vital elements must be safeguarded. Firstly, that the slab is properly insulated and resistant to the large dynamic and static loads to which it is subjected. Then, the upper gallery is planned out, where the evaporators, valves, pipes and cables of the refrigerating, electrical and fire-fighting installations are placed and maintained. Finally, the safe assembly, with lifting equipment to operate at more than 98’ high, etc.

Fire safety

Fire safety and protection in cold storage is fundamental and indispensable, as well as complicated due to the disadvantages of operating at low temperatures.

It can be done actively, with the distribution of sprinklers strategically located in areas with a higher fire load, or passively, utilizing materials with better fire behavior, compartmentalization and techniques to prevent or delay its spread.

Sandwich panels permit warehouse sectoring for safety reasons, as well as fire-prevention. They are increasingly safe, especially those with rock wool cores (which sector against fire) and those with PIR cores, which do not let fire expand. Moreover, these products exceed demanding and costly, large-scale fire tests to ensure their stability.

Specifically, the sandwich panels with non-combustible rock wool cores provide excellent protection against fires, as long as they are attached to a structure that is also fire-proof. However, these have a lower insulative capacity, greater water vapor absorption and the panels are heavier.

In the case of Infrisa, adds Jaime Maruny, the fire safety systems are combined actively and passively. They also designed the Infrisa RF Cold system, which is applied in specific cases to sub-zero premises.

“Sandwich panels have never been the primary cause of fires in buildings constructed with panels filled with polyurethane foam cores (PUR), but it is true that in the past they have contributed to the spread of the flames. The use of the PIR paneling significantly reduces risks, by being a product with improved behavior in the event of a fire,” stresses Maruny.

Fires usually occur under the following circumstances:

  • Human imprudence: welding, cutting panels with spark-producing tools, cigarette butts, etc.
  • Electrical failures: short circuits, cables and splices in poor condition, incidents in the forklift battery charging area, etc.
  • Propagation of neighboring fires: through buildings or vehicles.

With the technology that is currently available and the development of increasingly resistant insulation cores in the panels, many fires that start do not spread.

Likewise, the smoke ventilation is also essential, as well as complex in cold storage chambers. This can be carried out through the natural or forced extraction of the generated smoke, with barriers that limit its spread and a unique venting system that allows the proper channeling of fumes out of the warehouse.

In short, a precise and detailed design, with as much information as possible and taking into account the specifications and regulations, as well as the use of the most innovative and resistant materials on the market, will enable the construction of a cold storage installation that exceeds the customer's expectations.

About Infrisa

Infrisa is a company that was established in Barcelona in 1971. An icon in cold storage design and construction, it serves a wide variety of customers in the meat, dairy, logistics, fishing, horticultural, etc. sectors. It does business –using its own locally based team of engineers– in Spain, France, Portugal and Mexico. For many years, it has frequently collaborated with Mecalux in the implementation of innovative, efficient projects on a national and global level.


What is the thermal insulating substance used in the cold storage? ›

Thermocol which is also known as expanded polystyrene is made of polystyrene.

What is the best insulation for a cold storage room? ›

Polyurethane is the most commonly used, efficient material in use for cold room panels, being used in over 90% of all panels. It is a rigid cellular foam composed of two liquids: polyol and isocyanate.

Does thermal insulation keep things cold? ›

Insulation in your home provides resistance to heat flow and lowers your heating and cooling costs. Properly insulating your home not only reduces heating and cooling costs, but also improves comfort.

Should a cold storage room be insulated? ›

Overall, cold storage facilities must have insulated floors and outer walls, and the roofing should be much thicker than normal to provide additional insulation.

How do you insulate a cold storage room? ›

The cold room will need insulation that will not allow water vapour to pass through, such as rigid EPS. This type of insulation is available in different thicknesses, including rigid foam panels. For best results, insulated ceilings should be installed over the walls.

What are examples of thermal insulation? ›

Some of the most common thermal insulators are fiberglass, mineral wool, polyurethane foam, and polystyrene. Some of the highest-performing thermal insulators include aerogel, pyrogel, and advanced vacuum insulation.

What is the best material for cold storage? ›

Polyurethane foam is used in cold storages to insulate the floor as it outperforms most other insulation materials in supporting the imposed load and maintaining insulation performance. With very good compressive strength, PUF insulated flooring provides adequate support to the slab by limiting its deflection.

How thick is the insulation in cold storage? ›

The external wall of a cold storage is externally-insulated, composed of a 2 cm internal plaster, 20 cm porous concrete block, insulant and a 3 cm external plaster as shown in Figure 1 below.

What materials are used in cold storage rooms? ›

The three main materials used for cold room door components are composite plastic, stainless steel, and aluminum. Each of these materials has different characteristics that we can use successfully depending on the desired performance.

What temperature is thermal insulation? ›

The temperature range within which the term “thermal insulation” will apply is from -73.3°C (-100°F) to 815.6°C (1,500°F).

How does thermal insulation work? ›

Thermal insulation works by restricting how heat moves via conduction, convection and/or radiation. Conduction is how heat moves along or through a material. The ability of a material to conduct heat depends on the material itself. For example, metals are a good conductor of heat.

What is the purpose of cold insulation? ›

Cold insulation has two important goals: To insulate so that as little heat as possible is transferred from the surrounding air to the object to be insulated. When thermal insulation prevents the flow of heat from the object to be insulated to the environment, the principle of cold insulation is just the opposite.

What is the difference between cold room and cold storage? ›

The biggest distinction between them is the temperature. Cold storage is meant to deliver temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius, whereas a coolroom is intended to keep its items at a cool temperature to preserve their freshness. The latter is intended to maintain the frozen state of everything that is within.

What is the standard for cold storage? ›

Cold storage warehouse temperatures are broad but normally range from -30° to 70° F. Warehouses that handle frozen goods can be as cold as -122.8° F (for ultra-low temperature pharmaceutical warehouses). But the most common freezer temperature range is between -10 and -20° F.

How do you prevent moisture in cold storage? ›

Condensation Prevention and Safety Tips

Keep cold storage facilities or units clean. Dry the area as soon as possible after cleaning. Ensure adequate ventilation within cold storage spaces. Ensure adequate insulation within a cold storage facility to limit thermal conduction.

Do you need a vent in a cold storage? ›

Ventilation is essential in cold areas to avoid moisture in cold storage, and proper ventilation is needed. You might end up with a significant mould and indoor air quality or air problem if you don't.

What are the four basic types of thermal insulation? ›

There are several different types of insulation, including the four most common listed below:
  • Loose-Fill & Blown-In Insulation.
  • Batt & Roll Insulation.
  • Reflective Insulation & Radiant Barriers.
  • Spray Foam & Foam-In-Place Insulation.
May 15, 2018

What is the most used thermal insulation? ›

Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass is the most common insulation used in modern times. Because of how it is made, by effectively weaving fine strands of glass into an insulation material, fiberglass is able to minimize heat transfer.

What are three good thermal insulators? ›

  • Fiberglass. Fiberglass consists of extremely fine glass fibers and is one of the most ubiquitous insulation materials. ...
  • Mineral Wool Insulation Materials. The term "mineral wool" typically refers to two types of insulation material: ...
  • Cellulose Insulation Material. ...
  • Cellulose Insulation Material. ...
  • Cotton. ...
  • Sheep's Wool. ...
  • Straw. ...
  • Hemp.

What not to put in cold storage? ›

This includes things like avocadoes, and bananas. In addition, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, melons, and garlic all are known to do poorly in colder temperatures. Honey, bread, and fresh herbs will also do poorly in cold storage rooms. Storing these items in a cold room will affect the texture of the food.

What are the disadvantages of cold storage? ›

The main and only drawback of a cold storage system is that not all types of products are suitable. When freezing a food its nutritional values ​​are not lost, both the nutrients and the minerals and vitamins that are present in the same fresh variety are maintained.

What is the R-value of a cold storage roof? ›

Roof insulation materials should have a with minimum R-value of between 30 and 60, with colder applications calling for higher R-values. Common insulation materials include polyisocyanurate, extruded polystyrene and expanded polystyrene.

How thick should thermal insulation be? ›

270mm for glass wool insulation. 250mm for rockwool insulation. 220mm for cellulose insulation.

Can insulation be too thick? ›

The thicker the insulation, the more effective it is at keeping heat from escaping through your roof. However, if your insulation is too thick, your house may have ventilation problems and be susceptible to damp, condensation and mould related issues.

What is an insulating wall of cold storage made up of? ›

The walls of a cold storage chainber are made of insulating bricks and are 10 cm thick.

What is Class 5 cold storage? ›

Class 5 in cold storage means storing food materials in a cold environment. Mostly frozen foods, seafood, meat, etc. In addition to spending on electrical energy, there is also the problem of food safety.

What are the requirements of thermal insulation? ›

Thermal insulation for cool protective garments is an optional requirement. The resultant effective thermal insulation Icler must have a minimum value of 0.170 m2 · K/W, or the effective thermal insulation Icle must have a minimum value of 0.190 m2 · K/W.

How do I choose thermal insulation? ›

Selection of insulation material should be based on initial cost, effectiveness, durability, the adaptation of its form/shape to that of the fish hold and the installation methods available in each particular area.

How do you calculate thermal insulation? ›

The R-Value is calculated as R = l/λ where l = the thickness of the material in metres and λ (lambda) is the thermal conductivity of the material in W/m.K. U Value is the reciprocal of all resistances of the materials found in the building element.

How long does thermal insulation last? ›

As a general rule, insulation should be replaced or retrofitted every 15 to 20 years. However, it may need replacing or retrofitting sooner depending on the type of insulation installed, the R rating of the original insulation, compression and movement over time, and whether any damage has occurred.

Where is thermal insulation placed? ›

Thermal insulation consists of an insulating surface placed on the outer wall, sometimes also on the inner walls, of the building. If the insulating layer is placed on the outer walls we can talk about a real insulation coating, protecting the house from the external temperature.

How much does insulation reduce temperature? ›

Wall insulation is important in any climate, and you can save up to 25% of cooling and heating energy with wall insulation.

What is cold storage examples? ›

For example, cold storage for dairy products includes ice cream freezing tunnels, ice cream cold stores, cheese and butter cold stores, and water chillers. Each of these items is stored at a different temperature for the most optimum preservation and freezing.

What humidity is required in cold storage? ›

Optimal conditions vary according to the specific type of fruit, vegetables, flowers or other food product being stored but, typically, a humidity of around 95%RH at a temperature just above freezing is needed but, even produce stored in warmer conditions benefit from a humidity level around 75%RH.

Should you keep cold storage at or below 40 degrees? ›

Chilling foods to proper temperatures is one of the best ways to slow the growth of these bacteria. To ensure that your refrigerator is doing its job, it's important to keep its temperature at 40 °F or below; the freezer should be at 0 °F.

What is a good storage temperature? ›

Keep your appliances at the proper temperatures.

Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). Check temperatures periodically.

Why vapor barrier is used in cold storage? ›

The vapour barriers are the materials which are placed on the hot side of the cold storage to prevent moisture migration and to protect the insulation from moisture condensation.

Does foam insulation stop condensation? ›

Spray foam insulation is the only type of insulation that will stop the moisture outside from coming in. Fiberglass insulation and other products don't provide enough of a barrier. You'll have gaps that will allow dampness to come inside. Many of these other insulations can even absorb moisture.

How do you insulate against moisture? ›

Install a protective membrane, such as rubberized roofing or ice-dam protection materials, between the foundation and the sill plate to serve as a capillary break and reduce wicking of water up from the masonry foundation wall. This membrane can also serve as a termite shield on top of foam board insulation.

What chemicals are used in cold storage? ›

Formic acid 8.4 °C.

What insulating materials are used in refrigeration? ›

The ASHRAE handbook recommends the following insulation materials for refrigeration applications: cellular glass, closed-cell phenolic, flexible elastomeric, polyisocyurante, and polystyrene.

What is thermal insulation for cryogenic? ›

Cryogenic paper and foil is used as the insulating material on double-walled cryogenic vessels. The insulation reduces heat transfer and minimises liquid and gas losses by having each reflective foil sheet insulated with glass fibre paper, which is low in thermal conductivity.

What is the best material to store cold? ›

Styrofoam is the best insulator for preventing ice from melting.

What should be avoided in cold storage? ›

Milk products: Similar to milk, yoghurt, sour cream and cheese are also best left out of the freezer. The water content will expand and spoil them, leaving behind unhealthy and non-tasty yoghurt or cheese. Fried Foods: Be it French fries or mozzarella sticks, leaving them in the freezer can leave them soft and doughy.

What is the hazard in cold storage? ›

Hazards in cold storage facilities include: entrapment. exposure to cold. hazardous / oxygen deficient atmospheres.

What liquid is used in cold storage? ›

Ammonia has been the refrigerant of choice since the early 1800's. Did you know that the very first mechanical refrigeration system using ammonia was developed and patented in 1834?

What are 3 good insulating materials? ›

  • Fiberglass. Fiberglass consists of extremely fine glass fibers and is one of the most ubiquitous insulation materials. ...
  • Mineral Wool Insulation Materials. The term "mineral wool" typically refers to two types of insulation material: ...
  • Cellulose Insulation Material. ...
  • Cellulose Insulation Material. ...
  • Cotton. ...
  • Sheep's Wool. ...
  • Straw. ...
  • Hemp.

What are 2 types of insulating materials? ›

The most common types of materials used for loose-fill insulation include cellulose, fiberglass, and mineral (rock or slag) wool. All of these materials are produced using recycled waste materials. Cellulose is primarily made from recycled newsprint. Most fiberglass products contain 40% to 60% recycled glass.

What are three common insulating materials? ›

Below is a list of the 7 most common insulation materials that are used in residential and commercial applications.
  • Glasswool Insulation. ...
  • Earthwool Insulation. ...
  • Polyester Insulation. ...
  • Rockwool Insulation. ...
  • Reflective Foil Insulation. ...
  • Insulation rigid boards (EPS & XPS) ...
  • Spray Foam Insulation.
Aug 28, 2019

What are the different types of insulation in cryogenic? ›

Insulation Performance Regarding Heat Transfer
MaterialConductivity MW/m-KRelative Heat Leak
Perlite (6″)1.351.35
Aerogel + Carbon (3″)0.551.1
MLI (30 layers = 1/2″)0.11.2
3 more rows
Jan 23, 2023


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