Heat Loss in Steam Traps: Monitoring Equipment


Steam Trap Monitoring Equipment

When it comes to steam trap monitoring equipment, you have several options. Visual, Thermal, and Ultrasonic steam trap monitoring systems exist, each having their own positives and negatives. Is constant monitoring important to you? Would you like remote heat monitoring options? Which type will work best with any insulation you have installed? Making the right decision can ensure your systems run smoothly and effectively.

Three Classes of Steam Trap Monitoring Devices

Sight glasses are perhaps the most basic type of steam trap monitoring device. Sight glasses allow visibility into the operation of the trap by being placed just upstream of the trap. There, you can see how the steam trap is operating. Sight glasses need to allow water to pass, while not getting clogged by dirt and air pockets, and must be fitted to ensure they do no discharge steam.

Thermal meters monitor the steam trap through a variety of ways. From infrared, to heat bands, to remotely monitored temperatures. For example, in remotely monitored temperatures, a sensor is placed in the insulation blanket measuring “insulated ambient” temperature of the steam going into the trap, temperature of the trap and temperature of the fluid exiting the trap.

Ultrasonic listening devices respond to the sound of steam flowing through the traps. Any changes in the steam trap such as blockages or blowing live steam result in a change in the sound. This change is represented as a graph or as a change in the scale of the meter.


Choosing a Steam Trap Monitoring System

There are positives and negatives for these testing systems. The Sight glass, while the least expensive, is the least reliable. It can be useful once a problem has already been established, but it is not effective for advanced warning. It is also prone to breakage due to some tight locations

Thermal and Ultrasonic meters are sometimes more costly in the short term than visual ones, but can be used for remote heat loss monitoring, and can alert you to troubles with your system before they get out of hand.

Another factor to understand is how these monitors work with any insulation you have installed. The sight glass, for example, would be difficult to use if it’s under a layer of insulation. For Thermal or Ultrasonic monitors, the technical components displaying the functionality of your steam trap might be hidden by the insulation. For remote heat loss monitoring, a monitor that signals might have difficulties signaling through the insulation or be unable to monitor heat loss outside of the insulation. This is why it is important to have the wireless antenna on the outside of the insulation.

For these reasons, it is often prudent to research options that include both the insulation and the steam trap monitoring in one package. These are formulated so that both components, the insulation and the heat monitoring, can function optimally.

Deciding on a steam trap monitoring system requires a close assessment the needs of your equipment in conjunction with the cost benefits of implementing the monitoring system. Therefore careful consideration of your unique situation is necessary to make the best decision for you and your business.

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