What is a steam trap?
In construction the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle often applies. And with steam traps that carries on, steam traps are exactly what they sound like. A steam trap is a device designed to trap steam in a pipe, allow it to condense, and remove the condensate and air that would impede the flow of steam.
Steam traps have been in existence for over one hundred years and there are many companies that manufacture them in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and of course TYPES! You can find more out about the manufacturers and traps here, https://athena-supply.com/collections.
So, why use a steam trap? The steam trap was first designed to automate what was previously a manual process. Back in the 19th century it was one of the many roles of steam operators to manually throttle a valve to allow condensate to drain out of the steam line. This would prevent that pesky problem of water hammer. If you have ever been in a building with steam piping this is likely a familiar phenomenon. Water hammer sounds like someone is taking a hammer and hitting pipes. This is steam coming into contact with condensate and causing the condensate to flash inside the pipe into steam. When water changes phase to steam it rapidly expands causing the hammering sound you hear inside steam pipes. As you can probably imagine, this is an all-around bad occurrence, so we want to get that condensate drained out of your steam pipes through use of a steam trap.
The secondary function of a steam trap is to allow air and other non-condensable gases in the steam piping to be removed. These impede the flow of steam, which impacts system efficiency. In low pressure steam systems in particular this can be catastrophic as air-bound systems can totally impede the flow of steam.
So, now you’re probably wondering, what kinds of steam traps are there? And how do I know which steam trap to use? Steam traps are broken down into five main types of traps: inverted bucket, mechanical, orifice, thermodynamic, and finally thermostatic. In next week’s post we will begin to briefly summarize each type of steam trap and what it is best used for. Until then, drop a comment or an e-mail to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have!