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These experts on thermodynamics help residential and commercial building owners conserve energy and fireproof buildings.

Conserving energy continues to grow in importance, as prudent homeowners routinely look for ways to reduce the amount of their utility bills and managers of major commercial buildings and industrial plants must always control their energy costs, which amount to millions of dollars per year in their company's bottom line.

Not only does conserving energy save money, it preserves vital natural resources and contributes to cleaner air and water.

For these reasons, insulation has become a vital part of every building project - whether commercial, industrial or residential. It is why insulators have become such sought after professionals.

Insulation professionals - known as mechanics -- primarily install and maintain the material that prevents loss of warm inside air on cold days and the cool inside air on warm days. This reduces the workload of air conditioning, heating and refrigeration equipment.

Insulation is installed in ceilings, around boilers, tanks and refrigeration units, and pipes that carry water and gas. Essentially, insulation is used anywhere where it's necessary to maintain a certain climate or temperature.

When people think of insulation, what often come to mind are the cushiony fiberglass blankets (known as Batts) that are laid on attic floors. However, in the past two decades, few construction materials have undergone more changes than thermal insulation, and few products have been so well adapted to fit the needs of commercial, industrial and residential users. Insulation is now crafted using advanced materials and is installed using a variety of methods such as pasting, wiring, taping and spraying. Among the most advanced materials that insulation professionals currently use are calcium silicate, cellular glass, polyurethane and organic foam.

Insulation mechanics don't only know how to install the high tech materials; they understand thermodynamics - the physics of temperature transfer. By knowing the fundamentals of thermodynamics, they can achieve the best results for each individual project.

For instance, foam insulation - which is sprayed using special equipment -- has replaced fiberglass Batts as the most effective way to insulate a building.

For pipes, boilers and other equipment, sheets of insulation must be fitted precisely to ensure optimum thermal effectiveness. The insulation mechanic must measure, cut and fasten it around the piping or equipment. Depending on the situation, fastening can be accomplished using tape, wire or cement. Sometimes they must sew a cover of plastic or canvas to properly secure the insulation or may encase pipes in sheet metal for protection against moisture.

Insulation mechanics also install materials that prevent fire and smoke from penetrating walls and ceilings. With these materials in place, fires that begin in one part of a building can be stopped from spreading throughout the entire structure.

The tools of the trade include power saws, compressors, trowels and sewing equipment.

Aside from installing new insulation, these professionals often must remove old materials, which includes asbestos. There are those in the trade who specialize in the removal of asbestos - which was widely used from the 19th century until the mid-20th century when it was found to be a severe health hazard. When removing old material, the latest safety equipment - including coveralls and masks - are required and offer ample protection.

Insulation mechanics also install acoustical control material that keeps sound from emanating outside a room. Acoustical control is used in theaters, recording studios and locations where it's important to keep sound waves from escaping an enclosed area.

Still, the majority of work is for climate control purposes and the insulation profession will continue to grow as energy consumption continues to become a greater concern for businesses and homeowners. New and more effective insulation products will require insulation mechanics that are highly skilled and knowledgeable, making it a very promising career choice.

Salary and Benefits
One of the primary - if not the primary - factors in choosing a career is the compensation - salary and benefits. Journeymen mechanics make a very attractive wage, and the trade like others provides opportunities for advancement to supervisory positions that increase the base wage.
Journeyman $30.62 per hour
Foremen earn more per hour based on the number of mechanics they are supervising on a given project.

Benefits Include:
   • Full health coverage for entire family
• Pension
• Annuity
• Disability Insurance
• Paid Vacation
Because much of the work is indoors, insulators can often work year 'round, which would bring the average annual salary to more than $65,000 per year (not counting overtime).

Working Conditions
Most insulation work is performed indoors. Many tasks are done at heights using ladders and scaffolds, and insulation mechanics often must work in tight spaces that require dexterity and flexibility. Very little heavy lifting is required.

In removing old insulation asbestos, there is an element of risk. However, any health risk is mitigated by the use of protective gear and extensive safety training.

Employment Outlook
According to the Federal Occupational Outlook Handbook, the new job opportunities for insulation workers will be excellent. The demand for new workers will increase in a range of 10 to 20 percent through the year 2010 as result of growth in residential and non-residential construction. An increased demand for insulation professionals will be "spurred by the continuing concerns about the efficient use of energy to heat and cool buildings," according to the Handbook.

The insulator's Apprenticeship Program consists of four years of both on-the-job and classroom training. Apprentices will spend 586 hours in the classroom, where instruction by experienced insulator professionals is combined with textbook study to instill a thorough understanding of the methods and techniques used in the profession.

Most of the time is spent gaining hands-on experience and by the end of the program an apprentice has spent a minimum of 8,000 hours on the job. Apprentices are employed by an insulation contractor and work on real job sites where they apply what they learn in the classroom by assisting mechanics. Apprentices begin with the most basic tasks but as they gain experience, their duties and tasks become more and more sophisticated.

Apprentices will learn math skills - basic geometry, algebra and fractions - necessary to perform the tasks of their profession. They will learn theory of how thermal insulation works to maintain temperatures, how to apply insulation and protective jacketing, and how to prepare walls to stop fire and smoke. Apprentices also learn how to: read plans and blue prints; accurately estimate the amount and type of material to use on a project; and effectively supervise other mechanics on projects.

Safety is a major focus of the Insulator Apprenticeship program. Apprentices from the beginning are taught how to properly use personal safety equipment, handle tools and materials responsibly, and safely work in confined spaces. They are taught how to correctly erect and use scaffolds and how to work around electricity.

Apprentices also are taught how to safely remove asbestos so that there is no hazard to themselves or others.

Apprentices earn a wage during their entire tenure in the program. The wage increases each year.

Apprentices begin earning a salary from the day they begin the program. The current wage for a first year apprentice is $14.22 per hour and increases incrementally each year. They are immediately eligible for vacation pay and annuity and pension contributions. In addition after completing 1040 hours, the apprentice receives full medical coverage for themselves and their dependents.

The requirements for admission into the Insulator's Apprenticeship Program are:
   • At least 18 years of age
• High school diploma or GED
• Valid New Jersey Drivers License
Apprentice candidates must pass a physical exam, a drug test and are required to take the Wonderlic Basic Skills Test TM , which tests basic math and verbal skills.

Written Test Prep
   • Reading comprehension
• Grammar
• Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division of Whole Numbers and Fractions


Ideal candidates for this trade are those that:
   • Display average proficiency in math and industrial arts
• Have taken mechanical drafting courses
• Enjoy working with their hands


  Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties:
Training Coordinator
Local 32
870 Broadway
Newark, NJ 07104-4308
(973) 484-6043

Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Mercer, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem counties:
Training Coordinator
Local 89
1502 South Olden Ave
Trenton, NJ 08610
(609) 587-8905 x5