Steamtip of the month

How we could tell whether the trap is leaking live steam or generating flash steam.


Q: We have a steam trap discharging at 145 psi to the drain. Can you please let us know how we could tell whether the trap is leaking live steam or generating flash steam?

This is often an area of confusion because a steam trap which is operating at high pressure and is discharging to atmosphere will always ‘flash’ off some steam as the condensate drops from a high pressure (and temperature) to a lower pressure. This is a law of nature and can only be avoided by cooling the condensate.

As a guide 35 lbs. of flash is generated when 220 lbs. of hot condensate at 363°F is a discharged through a steam trap to drain.

A leaking steam trap is normally identified by the pressure and velocity of the discharging steam. Flash steam generated when discharging to drain at atmospheric pressure is more like a cloud rising to the sky straight after the pipe exit. On the other hand, leaking live steam has much more pressure behind it and will travel in the direction of the trap discharge out of the pipe before rising. The longer the distance traveled, the greater is the leaking of live steam.

Another indication can be found by listening to the trap. Even at moderate pressure, the trap will make a whistling noise which indicates something is wrong. A trap which is working correctly has common noise characteristic depending on the type of steam trap which is being used.

With the need to save energy and eliminate emission, the energy from the flash steam and condensate can be recovered.

Content provided by Spirax Sarco, originally published in Steam News. Edited by Anisa Samarxhiu, Digital Project Manager, CFE Media, 

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