Best practices for steam trap installation

A steam trap has two major functions, to remove condensate as quickly as it forms, and to prevent steam discharge. There are certain installation faults, which negatively affect the ability for traps to perform these functions efficiently.

05/11/2011


A steam trap has two major functions, to remove condensate as quickly as it forms, and to prevent steam discharge. There are certain installation faults, which negatively affect the ability for traps to perform these functions efficiently.

A high percentage of steam trap failures are simply due to incorrect installation. Proper installation should provide six years of maintenance-free operation. Outlined below are Best Practices for steam trap installations, to help maximize system operation:

  1. The most important rule to remember for steam trap installation is GRAVITY. Condensate must flow from the process to the steam trap by the forces of gravity. Pressure and velocity cannot be relied on to remove the condensate from the process.
  2. Determine the steam leak rate of any new steam traps purchased, per the following leak rate standards:

    1. PTC-39
    2. ISO 7841

  3. All steam traps leak a quantifiable amount of steam and the consumer should be specifying steam traps with the least amount of steam loss to prevent unnecessary energy loss.
  4. Steam traps with 1 in. or smaller connections should use tubing with tube connectors to eliminate leak points such as threaded connections. Threaded connections are obvious sources of leaks in the system due to expansion, contraction, and corrosion that occurs in a steam system.
  5. Some steam component manufacturers have tube connections available for steam trap installations. Ensure material pressure ratings are acceptable. 
  6. Never reduce diameter of the tubing/piping before the steam trap, or reduce connec­tion size of the steam trap. Piping from the process to the steam trap should always be equal to or larger than the process outlet connection. For example, a steam unit heater with a 1 in. condensate outlet would require a 1 in. or larger tubing/piping from the unit heater to a same connection size on the steam trap.
  7. Expand the tube/pipe diameter after the discharge connection of the steam trap. For example, a 1 in. steam trap discharge should connect into tubing/piping with an expanded diameter of 1.25 in. or 1.5 in.
  8. Connect steam traps with connection sizes of 1 in. or smaller to the tubing or piping with universal mounts. The universal mount provides the ability to connect the steam trap to the application with two bolts, thus dramatically reducing installation time.
  9. Install a strainer to help eliminate or reduce premature failure due to corrosion. There are three main choices for strainer installation:

    • Installation of an external strainer ahead of the steam trap
    • Installation of a steam trap with integral strainer
    • Installation of a universal mount with an integral strainer

      • When installing an external or internal strainer; always install a blow-off valve on the strainer. This allows the strainer to be blown down during operation and, more importantly, permits the steam trap cavity to be safely depressurized during servicing.

  10. Always install the steam trap in a location that is accessible by plant per­sonnel.
  11. Install a visual indication of the steam trap performance on all process ap­plications. The visual indication can be a sight glass or test valve.
  12. Locate the steam trap below the lowest condensate discharge point of the equipment.
  13. Never install a rise in the pipe ahead of a steam trap.
  14. Check valves should be installed after the steam traps in most applications.
  15. Develop and maintain installation standards for all applications.
  16. Codes:

    • Material test reports on all components (steam traps, connection devices, etc.)
    • B31.1 Piping code

For more information, visit www.swagelokenergy.com.


The above material is part of Swagelok Energy Advisors' series of Best Practice papers, authored by Kelly Paffel. Kelly is a recognized authority in steam and condensate systems. He is a frequent lecturer and instructor on the technical aspects of steam systems. In addition, Kelly has published many papers on the topics of steam system design and operation. Over the past 30 years, he has conducted thousands of steam system audits and training sessions in the United States and overseas, which has made Kelly an expert in trouble-shooting actual and potential problems in the utilities of steam. Kelly is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Steam Best Practices and Steam Training Committees.



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
July/Aug
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me