Insulation for Portable Shipping and Cargo Containers

Shipping and Storage ContainersIntermodal containers are more commonly known as shipping or cargo containers. These rugged and long lasting portable containers are waterproof and can be locked, making them perfect structures for short or long term storage.

Because of their durability and flexibility, portable containers are used in many different applications other than their original purpose to transport material across waterways on container ships.

Now, they are being used for jobsite or residential storage. Moving and storage companies like Pods® and others rent and sell them. Common uses in the agricultural sector include greenhouses, feed storage, and raising honey bees to name a few. The modular flexibility allows shipping containers to be used in permanent housing which appears to be a growing trend. Another trend is doomsday preppers who are purchasing containers at a rapid rate and burying their accumulated belongings in them.

Regardless of what the shipping containers are used for the overall concern is the same, to protect the possessions and belongings inside. As good and versatile as metal storage containers can be, they function like metal buildings and therefore have two potential drawbacks. The first is heat gain and the second is condensation.

Heat gain is straight forward. Metal is an excellent conductor and if the container is exposed to the sun, the metal will get much hotter than the air temperature and this radiant heat will be absorbed and passed right into the interior space potentially making conditions unbearable for occupancy. Excessive heat can also have a negative effect on goods and materials designed for storage.

Condensation can also be a concern in many locations and climates, just like it is in metal buildings and barns. Condensation is harder to diagnose in most cases as buildings that do condensate or sweat only do so in certain seasons when the conditions are right. These conditions are typically either: warm, heated, moisture rich interior air contacting a cold metal roof in winter months or cool, moisture rich interior air contacting a hot roof in the summer months. If moisture has accumulated once, it will accumulate again potentially damaging possessions inside.

Thankfully, the same InfraStop® foil insulation used in metal buildings and barns can be used in portable shipping containers to prevent both radiant heat transfer and condensation. Insulating with InfraStop® allows you to keep your container cooler in the summer months and warmer in the winter months if you are heating the inside. A more consistent temperature is much better on goods and materials than large temperature fluctuations.

Regarding condensation and moisture, InfraStop® bubble insulation is a vapor barrier when correctly installed which includes taping the seams. This prevents moisture rich interior air from contacting the metal. The reflective layers of the insulation reflect any absorbed radiant heat which a typical non-reflective vapor barrier cannot do. The result is a conditioned space and a buffer zone of trapped air, an ideal insulator in itself.

Traditional insulations such as blow in-in cellulose or spray foam can be used as well. These types will do well in insulating but will not be as effective in blocking radiant heat or preventing condensation. Traditional insulation types are also much more costly to use and are be difficult to remove and are not reusable. Typically, they only make sense if the shipping container is to be used for permanent habitation by people.

InfraStop® insulation is a natural choice in this environment as reflective insulation is the insulation used in the shipping and packaging industries. The difference here is where it is installed. Instead of covering the material inside the shipping container as it would if a container ship was out to sea, InfraStop® can easily be installed on the walls and ceilings effectively doing the same job to protect the interior. Another benefit of InfraStop® is that it can be removed and reused very easily if needed.

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