New Generation of Acrylic Adhesive Insulation Tapes Meet Cold-temperature Installation and Performance Challenges

By Dave Shuey
Design and Application Engineering,
Avery Dennison Performance Tapes


Thermal insulation installers and contractors are well aware that cold temperatures and harsh conditions can adversely affect insulation tape behavior and performance. New generations of pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive tapes have been developed to handle these weather-related challenges. They offer improved sealing solutions in all climates and in diverse insulation applications, enhancing flexibility and convenience for installers and contractors.      

The advanced tapes enjoy installation and performance advantages over competing technologies, such as rubber-based adhesives and older acrylic tape varieties. Chief among these is their ability to bond securely at extremely low temperatures, widening the range at which tapes can be applied. In addition, they are easy to handle and designed for compatibility with the latest insulation materials and facings. 


Improved Formulations

Conventional insulation tapes come with a number of limitations, including a narrow temperature window. They generally require installation temperatures of at least 50°F/ 10°C for optimal sealing. Below this threshold, the tapes’ adhesives turn glassy in appearance and lack sufficient tack to bond effectively.  

These limitations cause inconvenience and delays for installers and contractors working in cold weather conditions. Typically, they have to bring heaters on site and heat the tapes beforehand, sometimes overnight, to prepare them for application. The prep process can take several hours. If the tapes fail to securely bond on the first try, installers often have to return for rework when temperatures rise.  

To address these issues, adhesive tapes manufacturers launched R&D initiatives aimed at improving insulation tape performance. New adhesive chemistries were developed to widen the temperature window for application. The R&D efforts resulted in a new generation of pressure-sensitive acrylic tapes intended for sealing insulation joints and seams and for related applications. 

The advanced tapes bond securely at temperatures as low as 0°F/ -18°C——a significant improvement over conventional tapes. The tapes adhere instantly and do not require curing. They are also conformable to the curved surfaces prevalent in insulation applications.


Replacing Mastics

The advanced tapes’ sealing properties and durability reduce the need for mastics, which are still in widespread use. Mastics are a putty-like paste applied with a brush. They are used as a substitute for insulation tape or sometimes applied as a protective coating over tape to hold it in place. After application, mastics require time to dry and set. Replacing mastics with advanced acrylic adhesive tapes is a time-saving option for installers.  


Minimal Outgassing

The new-generation acrylic adhesive tapes are also designed to produce low outgassing of volatile organic compounds. Consequently, the tapes emit very little odor compared with conventional acrylic adhesive tapes.

The advanced tapes’ low outgassing properties can contribute to overall environmental compliance efforts. For example, they are helpful in meeting the strict green-building standards in effect today, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ratings.

Easy handling during installation is another benefit. The advanced acrylic adhesives tapes can help installers maintain high cleanliness standards and keep an orderly work environment. They are easily cut by hand or with a tool and produce no adhesive bleeding or residue. This is in contrast to some rubber-based adhesive tapes. Their adhesives can separate from the tape portion during cutting and cling to hands or knife blades, interrupting work.


Attractive Appearance

Once applied, advanced acrylic adhesive tapes maintain strong adhesion and are impervious to moisture and temperature variations. They perform reliably in continuous temperatures up to 200°F/ 93°C and intermittent temperatures up to 250°F/ 121°C.

The new-generation tapes are visually appealing and have a neat, uniform appearance. They are supplied in colors designed to closely match those of common insulation facings. When mastics dry and set, in comparison, their appearance can contrast unattractively with adjacent insulation facings.  

In recent years, new materials have been introduced for insulation components and facings, often as a substitute for paper. These include low surface energy (LSE) materials, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, which pose difficulties for conventional insulation adhesive tapes. The new-generation acrylic adhesive tapes, however, bond effectively with LSE materials. They can be used, for example, in water pipe applications and in applications that must withstand frequent water washdowns.


UL/ULC Certification

Installers and contractors are well advised to employ advanced acrylic adhesive tapes that have undergone testing by Underwriters’ Laboratory and earned UL/ULC certification in accordance with Canada’s ULC-S102 and US UL 723 standards. Some varieties of acrylic adhesive tapes are also approved for maritime use by the U.S. Coast Guard in accordance with International Maritime Organization standards.  


Originally published in TIAC Times, the official journal of record for the Thermal Insulation Association of Canada.