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A recent finding by the U.S. Department of Energy found that hospitals have as much as 2-1/2 times the energy usage and Co2 emissions as a typical commercial building. Similar consumption rates can be found in chemical processing plants, power plants and steel mills.  As a result, the DOE has been insisting that hospitals implement long term strategies for sustainable and efficient energy consumption.  In addition, the Affordable Care Act has placed even greater pressure on U.S. hospitals to improve efficiencies and reduce cost.

This initiative makes steam system maintenance a critical consideration.  The DOE released a startling finding that most hospitals haven’t inspected their steam traps in over 5 years and that 1 in 5 steam traps are either not working or are operating inefficiently.  As a result, a comprehensive steam trap monitoring program is recommended to prevent excess consumption of water and natural gas in older steam systems.  Inefficient traps can be repaired and those that are beyond repair should be replaced.

In this article we discuss the different type of traps, and how they function.


What are Steam Traps?

Steam Traps are basically automatic valves that are used to eliminate non-condensable gases and the condensate from an industrial facility, processing plant or hospital.  The best steam traps do this task without consuming any of the steam in the system.

The three basic functions of steam traps are:

  1. Discharging condensate immediately after it is formed
  2. Discharging the air or any non-condensable gases
  3. Consume as little steam as possible in the process

Steam trap flow example

So what are the different types of Steam Traps?


There are mainly three types of Steam Traps:

Unfortunately there is no universal steam trap that is suitable for all applications.  Each of the 3 basic types has distinct advantages in specific applications.



SARCO Thermo-Dynamic Steam Traps

THERMODYNAMIC TRAPS – operate on the velocity differences between steam and condensate.  Steam has a much higher velocity than condensate.





SARCO Inverted Bucket Steam TrapsMECHANICAL TRAPS – operate on the density difference between steam and condensate.  Steam is a gas and condensate a liquid.  These traps are the inverted bucket type which has “Blast “type discharge, and the float & thermostatic trap which has a modulating type discharge.



SARCO Bimetallic Steam TrapsTHERMOSTATIC OR TEMPERATURE TRAPS – these types of traps have a liquid filled capsule which expands and contracts on temperature difference of steam and condensate.  Also included in this category are the bi-metallic thermostatic traps with bi-metal strips of two dissimilar metals which expand and contract on temperature difference of steam and condensate.



Making Steam Traps More Efficient

Steam Traps open and close due to temperature changes.  High temperature volatility would mean they would cycle more frequently than required which leads to increased wear over a period of time and frequent replacement.  On the other hand, if the steam traps are slow at opening and closing the condensate accumulates making the system far less efficient.

Every facility should have a comprehensive steam trap program.  This is a labor intensive task but the benefits are immediately apparent; steam equipment will operate more efficiently and utility costs (water and gas) are reduced.


Spirax Sarco Steam Traps

Ohio Pipe, Valves & Fittings, Inc. supplies Spirax Sarco Steam Equipment to a number of major hospitals.  Their primary applications are for sterilization, kitchen equipment, humidification & heat exchanger.

Ohio Pipe, Valves & Fittings, Inc. is currently implementing a more efficient steam trap program in a major Cleveland hospital system.  In addition to the trap repair and replacement, this upgrade will include installation of advanced Spirax Sarco UFT and UTD traps, and pressure powered pumps to circulate steam within the buildings.  When finished, the upgrades to advanced equipment and use of best piping practices will save the hospital tens of thousands of dollars.

For more information on steam trap uses and/or to purchase Spirax Sarco steam traps, please contact us at Ohio Pipe, Valves & Fittings, Inc.




Steam Traps


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