In a steam-based heating process, condensate (condensed steam) is formed when the steam gives up its latent heat and needs to be removed quickly to maintain heating efficiency. A steam trap is an automatic device (constantly opens, closes or modulates automatically) used to discharge this condensate (and non-condensable gases like air) without letting live steam escape. This critical component stays closed while the coil is hot to prevent unwanted condensate from causing poor heat transfer and damaging process equipment. One of the key challenges to proper management is the large volume of steam traps commonly associated with a steam boiler system – depending on the size, this number can be up to 100 or more. So how do you isolate problems like excessive steam (waste) and overheating caused by individual steam trap failures and improper operation?
With routine steam trap surveys.
A steam trap survey is an audit designed to assess each valve for proper performance and condensate removal. Steam traps should be checked annually at a minimum. Requiring about five minutes per trap to test, most facilities see payback within one day in performance improvement. A single faulty trap can cost thousands of dollars due to lost efficiency and increased fuel demand. IB&M’s steam trap surveys are performed on site by experienced steam plant experts who:
- monitor and evaluate the steam cycle depending on load (seconds/minutes)
- use thermal imaging to see inlet and outlet temperatures
- listen to flow patterns using ultrasound
Warning signs of steam trap failure
Improper operation and failures result in steam returning to the tank which doesn’t need to be there, not to mention the cost of waste. Some common warning signs of steam trap failure include:
- Excessive temperatures – these can impact feedwater pumps, DAs, tanks (overpressurized), heat exchangers (should have temperature gauges), etc.
- Boiler running more than expected
- Rise in gas bills when production is steady
- Steam coming out the vents
- Steam plume higher than expected
If you are experiencing some of the challenges above, Industrial Boiler & Mechanical can help. Contact our experts today and schedule a steam trap survey at your facility. We can help you troubleshoot system inefficiencies, repair equipment as needed, and ensure a safe and productive operating environment.