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What is a Steam Trap?

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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A steam trap is an instrument utilized to eliminate water and non-condensable gases from steam lines. Steam traps serve three key responsibilities: maintaining a low level of steam consumption, getting rid of water as it forms, and eradicating air and non-condensable gases. Typical steam traps are simply valves that operate automatically, opening, closing, and regulating as necessary to ensure the three functions are performed without incident.

There are four different types of steam traps. They are mechanical, temperature, thermodynamic, and venturi. While each of these types operates on the basic foundation of an automatic valve, they are constructed differently from one another—and different types are better suited to different devices.

A mechanical steam trap has a floating instrument that keeps constant measure of steam levels. The float rises and falls according to the degree of condensation, triggering the valve to open and close as necessary. An inverted bucket steam trap, which resembles an upside-down bucket, and a ball float steam trap, which contains a sizable ball as the floating device, are two examples of mechanical traps.

Temperature steam traps function in a slightly different way. The temperature level causes the air in the steam tank to increase or contract. This movement automatically turns the valve off or on. A thermostatic steam trap falls in this category; these types of temperature traps contain a thermostatic vent that releases air and non-condensable gases from the steam chamber.

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A thermodynamic steam trap operates on the tank's response to the flow of fluids and steam as they move through the chamber. When steam moves into the valve area, a natural force is created that moves a special thermodynamic steam disk against the valve, shutting it off or turning it on as necessary to control the steam. These types of traps operate even if only a small amount of steam is in the chamber, which can cause a significant amount of wear and tear on the trap itself.

Venturi steam traps, sometimes referred to as orifice traps, are uniquely constructed, but effective. They contain a venturi valve, which designed to restrict the flow of a liquid or gas by passing it through a constricted area of the tubing. The unusual shape of the valve causes the steam to build up and dissipate by the time it reaches the low-pressure chamber of the valve. As a result, very low levels of steam are emitted from the tank.

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