Selecting theproper type ofsteam trap is animportant elementin steam systems.
There are many types of steam traps eachhaving its unique characteristics and systembenefits. Hoffman Specialty offers thermostat-ic, thermodisc, float and thermostatic, andbucket traps which are the most commonlyused types. Deciding which type of trap to useis sometimes confusing and, in many cases,more than one type can be used. The follow-ing is intended to point out system conditionsthat may be encountered and the characteris-tics of each type of trap.Within steam systems, important considera-tions must be taken into account. These con-siderations include venting of air duringstart-up; variations of system pressures andcondensing loads; operating pressure andsystem load; continuous or intermittent opera-tion of system; usage of dry or wet returnlines; and overall probability of water hammer.
At start-up all steam piping, coils, drums, tracerlines, or steam spaces contain air. This airmust be vented before steam can enter.Usually the steam trap must be capable ofventing the air during this start-up period. Asteam heating system will cycle many timesduring a day. Fast venting of air is necessaryto obtain fast distribution of steam for goodheat balance. A steam line used in processmay only be shut down once a year for repairand venting of air may not be a major con-cern.
When a modulating steam regulator is used,such as on a heat exchanger, to maintain aconstant temperature over a wide range offlow rates and varying inlet temperatures, thecondensate load and differential pressureacross the trap will change. When the conden-sate load varies, the steam trap must becapable of handling a wide range of condi-tions at constantly changing differential pres-sures across the trap.
Differential Pressure Across Trap
When a trap drains into a dry gravity returnline, the pressure at the trap discharge is nor-mally at O psig. When a trap drains into a wetreturn line or if the trap must lift condensateto an overhead return line, there will normallybe a positive pressure at the trap discharge.To assure condensate drainage, there mustbe a positive differential pressure across thetrap under all load conditions.
When a trap drains high temperature conden-sate into a wet return, flashing may occur.When the high temperature condensate atsaturation temperature discharges into alower pressure area, this flashing causessteam pockets to occur in the piping, andwhen the latent heat in the steam pocket isreleased, the pocket implodes causing waterhammer. Floats and bellows can be damagedby water hammer conditions.When traps drain into wet return lines, acheck valve should be installed after the trapto prevent backflow. The check valve alsoreduces shock forces transmitted to the trapdue to water hammer. Where possible, wetreturns should be avoided.
The design of the equipment being drained isan important element in the selection of thetrap. Some equipment will permit the conden-sate to back up. When this occurs the steamand condensate will mix and create waterhammer ahead of the trap. A shell and tubeheat exchanger has tube supports in theshell. If condensate backs up in the heatexchanger shell, steam flowing around thetube supports mixes into the condensate andcauses steam pockets to occur in the conden-sate. When these steam pockets give up theirlatent heat, they implode and water hammeroccurs, the water hammer often damages theheat exchanger tube bundle. The trap selec-tion for these types of conditions must com-pletely drain condensate at saturationtemperature under all load conditions.Steam mains should be trapped to remove allcondensate at saturation temperature. Whencondensate backs up in a steam main, steamflow through the condensate can cause waterhammer. This is most likely to occur at expan-sion loops and near elbows in the steammain.Applications such as tracer lines or verticalunit heaters do not mix steam and conden-sate. In a tracer line, as the steam condens-es, it flows to the end of the tracer line. Backup of condensate ahead of the trap does notcause water hammer. Steam does not passthrough condensate.Vertical unit heaters normally have a steammanifold across the top. As the steam con-denses in the vertical tubes, it drains into abottom condensate manifold. Because steamdoes not pass through the condensate, waterhammer should not occur.