How to avoid steam trap failure

How to avoid steam trap failure with enhanced monitoring

Failed steam traps waste significant energy, money, and resources. To ensure proper function and longevity, it is crucial to keep steam traps well maintained. Yet in most environments, steam trap monitoring is still undertaken manually using thermal and ultrasound probes. Furthermore, long intervals between manual tests leaves room for error and doubt. In truth, diagnosing steam trap failure correctly requires a round the clock solution. In this article we discuss 3 costly problems caused by trap failure and how enhanced monitoring effectively avoids them.

Leaks can be properly pre-diagnosed

Steam traps leak for various reasons. Dirt can work its way into a trap and result in a plugged trap. Alternatively, if a steam trap fails open, the live steam will cause big losses from the system. For steam traps that are hidden away or hard to access, manual checks are often infrequent or missed, making it difficult to determine how long the leak has occurred and the cause.

In contrast, monitoring offers a way to spot leaking steam traps while leaks are still minor. The wireless steam trap sensor is a self-powered, solution that delivers an enhanced monitoring configuration. The combination of temperature and acoustic probes give a highly detailed profile of each steam trap. And because the wireless sensor harvests its own power, it is maintenance free – with no battery changes and analyses data more frequently.

Water hammer can be pinpointed before it starts

If condensate is not drained correctly from steam pipework it can lead to water hammer. Excessive condensate being driven at high speed by the steam has the potential to seriously damage pipes and equipment attached to the steam supply. Moreover, even at low levels, water hammer can be a significant source of long-term reliability problems. In this scenario, rapid alerts of water hammer are crucial to fixing the problem.

Enhanced monitoring in the adjacent pipework and throughout the system creates a digital visualisation of your steam process. By seeing your steam system, you can track which steam traps are operating properly and where unforeseen interactions are occurring. Specifically, this allows engineers to pinpoint the source of the issue. Furthermore, enhanced monitoring will notify the engineer if any anomalies occur in the system that could lead to condensate build-up.

Trap failure can be reduced using targeted monitoring by trap type

Failures in traps can be difficult to detect and correctly diagnose without enough understanding of the type and properties of the steam trap. Consequently, the type of trap is an important indicator. Automating manual testing of traps is simple, but if the type of trap is not considered, information isn’t complete. Reliable results are only found when the monitor can be explicitly configured with the type of trap in use.

Every trap will have specified (as designed) a behaviour model and a corresponding real-world performance envelope. Therefore, enhanced monitoring permits one to be mapped onto the other, building up a picture of the real-world performance of the device. Furthermore, highly targeted, resource-efficient monitoring can detect rapid changes in performance that can be indicative of localised or remote failure. In conclusion, using enhanced monitoring configured with the trap type is crucial to truly diagnose trap failure and to prevent it in advance.

DCO Systems offer an enhanced steam trap monitoring solution that is proven. Engineers gain the ability to monitor more components in combination, understand the system as a whole and configure parameters based on trap type. These features of DCO’s enhanced monitoring allow engineers to avoid problems that lead to leaks, water hammer and failed closed traps. To get started with DCO’s affordable monitoring tools, go to our contact page or email us at

DCO's steam trap monitoring solutions can unearth mechanical failures and leaks within a steam network

Technical Note: 'Remote steam trap monitoring techniques' provides insight into the challenges faced by sites using a mix of different types of steam traps onsite. Whether from a single manufacturer or several this will often include a mix of different mechanical trap types onsite. Mechanical traps are naturally subject to wear usually leading to several distinct types of failure; up to 10% of the mechanical traps on a site may fail each year. READ MORE

DCO Systems can remotely monitor inaccessible steam infrastructure

Case study: 'Monitoring inaccessible steam infrastructures' details a major urban UK hospital site with an extensive steam network that is heavily used and sometimes inaccessible with steam passing through kilometres of underground pipework. Monitoring and maintaining that infrastructure is vital to the efficient and safe operation of a hospital on which patients rely, but access for manual measurement is hazardous and time-consuming. READ MORE

Steam Valve 500

Report: 'An in-depth look into monitoring for steam applications' examines common monitoring techniques for commercial and industrial steam users and reviews the issues with those traditional methods. We then explore an alternative strategy, combining those established methods with technology available through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and facilitated by easily deployable, cost-effective sensing devices. READ MORE

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