Steam system comes in all different sizes and layouts. However they are almost without exception, facing rising fuel prices and the need to reduce CO2 emissions. To aid this we have come up with 5 housekeeping tips.

1. Check your steam traps

A leaking steam trap could be losing you up to £2,000 GBP per year, and sites may have many traps leaking if they are not regularly checked. It is easy to check steam traps and should not interfere with production. It can either be done by on-site personnel or contracted out to one of the many specialists that offer this type of service. Once the survey has been done, always ensure that any faulty steam traps do actually get changed or overhauled.

2. Return all the condensate that is possible

Condensate is a very valuable part of the steam and condensate cycle which can be re-used in the steam and condensate cycle again. It contains about 25% of the useful energy from the original steam. Therefore it is wise to make sure that all the condensate that is possible is returned for re-use.  Do a survey of your condensate return system, are there condensate pumps that are faulty, with the condensate is being diverted down the drain? Are there any areas where condensate is not being recovered, but could be?

3. Check your insulation

The standing losses from poorly or unlagged pipework can be considerable. For example on a steam system with 24/7 operation, annual losses of up to £4,500 GBP can result from just 10m of un-lagged pipe (steam pressure at 10 barg). Therefore check that there is no pipework that is unlagged, and if there is lagging, that it is of the correct quality. New lagging is normally simple to fit.

4. Check for steam leaks

Live steam leaks are a significant and highly visible waste of energy, as well as being a possible health and safety risk. A steam leak results in the loss of both latent and sensible energy.

Steam leaks can sometimes be found at valve stems, unions, equipment connection flanges, and pipe joints. Regular inspection of a steam system to check for any leaks is to be recommended. Due to the energy of steam, leak paths tend to grow and get bigger if left unattended.

Once the leak has been identified, make so that the leak is solved as soon as possible.

5: Meter your steam use

If you don’t already, meter your steam usage. After all if you don’t measure it you can’t control or analyse where you are using it. Metering can also be a useful troubleshooting tool, from in the boiler house itself, to point of use. For example, a rise in fuel consumption without a corresponding rise in steam production can point to a previously unnoticed problem.