Written By: Steven Johnson, Project Engineer, Horizon Engineering Associates, LLP
When performing a steam trap survey on your building’s systems, owners/operators receive a comprehensive map of how efficiently their current steam systems are operating. A well-executed steam trap survey will also include a plan for increasing the system's efficiency by detailing which steam traps have failed or are not functioning within their peak operating parameters. Another benefit of a properly conducted steam trap survey is that, once completed, a database will be in place to monitor the lifespan of the plant’s steam traps and provide insight as to when each steam trap should be replaced. Once the failed steam traps have been replaced, significant savings, in not only energy costs but also makeup water usage, will be realized.
Other major benefits of maintaining a properly functioning steam plant originates in the mechanical room itself. Steam traps that have failed to open or are leaking will allow steam to travel through the condensate piping, resulting in high temperature condensate, or steam, reaching the condensate pump impeller. If either of these fluids reach the impeller, the fluid will flash upon an increase in pressure and cause cavitation. Cavitation is devastating to pump performance and will often require a major pump overhaul. Failed steam traps will also increase the air temperature of the mechanical room. In most cases, mechanical equipment will function optimally at lower air temperatures. The lower temperature environment that a fully functional steam plant creates indirectly increases system performance, thereby decreasing operating costs.