Replacing Worn-Out Steam Traps

Properly functioning steam traps are very important in a building’s heating system. For this reason, it is crucial to get your steam traps checked whenever you suspect a malfunction. This will enable you to get the problem fixed early, so that you can offset maintenance costs.

In order to understand how steam trap malfunctions come about, let us look at a brief history of building heating systems.

Before radiators were invented, apartment buildings used to fire boilers using coal. These types of heaters used to run constantly without interruption. To counteract the effects of excess heat and promote better circulation of air, most apartment residents would leave their windows open. Later on, oil-based heating systems were introduced. However, most apartments could not make the switch to modern heaters since the necessary technologies were still not available.

Eventually natural gas replaced oil as a medium for heating systems. Under this system, steam is passed through one pipe to push out air while water drains in the second pipe, known as a return line, and collects in the basement.

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How Do Steam Trap Problems Arise?

Steam trap problems usually occur when a heating system is unable to keep steam out of the return line. Often, steam traps become dysfunctional and ineffective after 3 years of continuous operation.

Once a steam trap is damaged, it gets stuck in an open or closed position. As a result, it becomes almost impossible to pass steam through the pipe. This creates a heat imbalance in the heating system, which may lead to serious damage if not remedied early enough. So what should you do if you discover faulty steam traps in your heating system?

How to Fix a Steam Trap Problem

In most cases, steam trap problems can be fixed by resetting the heating system. To achieve this, you only need to check the orifice plates. Orifice plates are small, bottle-cap-size plates that have a hole in the middle. When they are properly calibrated for a heating system, they can eliminate the need for radiator traps. One of the key advantages of orifice plates is that they are highly durable. You will barely need to replace them once they are properly installed.

More importantly, you are advised to reset your unit regularly to optimize its performance, and to comply with the local laws, which require all buildings to submit the results of the systems and energy audit once after every 10 years. Typically, an expert will check your building’s steam traps and assess whether they are working properly. Resetting your orifice plates, therefore, will ensure that your heating system is performing in compliance with the local regulations.

Bottom line:

Fixing a faulty steam trap does not have to be a costly project. As a matter of fact, most steam trap malfunctions can be fixed simply by installing new orifice plates. Moreover, in order to ensure that your steam trap meets the standards placed by the local authorities, you are advised to only engage the services of a licensed technician.