Steam systems may not be the most complex, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need regular care and attention. Marc Hough, product manager for Flow Control at ERIKS UK and Ireland, says there are seven traps to avoid.

1: If it is working it does not mean it is efficient

Steam systems that may have gone without a formal survey for as long as five years can have blockages or leaks in up to 30 per cent of their steam traps. This reduced system efficiency can have a massive effect on energy costs and CO2 emissions.

2: Check for leaks

As many as 10 per cent of steam traps may be leaking in as little as one year after system start-up. That number is likely to increase by seven per cent for every year that the system remains unchecked.

3: Count the cost

The effects of leaks on both processes and costs is striking. A malfunctioning steam trap will lose steam at an average rate of 11kg/h which equates to a total steam loss for the year of 66 tonnes, with a cost per tonne of £25-30. Overall, that’s an annual loss of £1650 to £1980.

4: Regular audits are a must

A steam system’s relative simplicity does not mean that it is maintenance-free and can be forgotten. Regular system audits are a must and can reveal a variety of costly and damaging problems in addition to leaks, including water build-up which creates water hammer, along with damage to pipes and valves.

5: Audits are more than visual

An audit is more than just a visual inspection, however. It should also involve ultrasonic and infrared thermographic measurements, which identify blockages and leaks, and assess the functionality of every system component.

6: Steam is a health and safety risk

Steam is dangerous because it is hot and unpredictable. High pressure leaks can prove extremely hazardous to workers, with an increased risk of scalding. The impact this can have on people and on corporate reputation can be long-lasting in the event of an industrial accident.

7: Do not think audits can’t offer real ROI

With increasing pressure to reduce energy costs, wastage and CO2 emissions, an expert steam system audit can often be a quick and easy win, with the possibility of achieving a return on investment in as little as two to four months.