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    Steam traps are essential components in steam systems. This ensures efficient operation and prevents energy wastage. In this article, we’ll delve into what is steam traps. Exploring their functions, characteristics, applications, and working principles. From understanding how a steam trap works to uncovering its broad scope of use. For beginners and experts in the industry, the article tries for helpful guidance. 


    What are steam traps?

    A steam trap is designed to remove condensate and air from steam systems. The steam trap ensures that only dry steam is present in the system. Steam traps are vital devices for discharging condensates and non-condensable gases. They function as automatic valves that can open, close, or modulate.

    Functions of a Steam Trap:

    Air and Non-Condensable Gas Removal:

    • The steam trap must remove air and non-condensable gases from the linked pipe system.
    • Steam cannot access the primary processing system without an effective air removal mechanism. It results in unintended heat loss.

    Steam Isolation for Cost and Efficiency:

    • The steam trap ought to only function in the presence of steam. It enhances the steam system’s ability to operate well. 

    Condensate Removal for Heat Efficiency:

    • As steam loses its latent heat, it condensates. The steam trap must make sure that it is soon taken out.
    • Removing condensate prevents heat loss and minimizes the risk of water hammering.

    Basic Operations of steam trap:

    • Steam trap operation relies on differences in properties between steam and condensate.
    • It collects at the lowest position in the steam system due to the higher density of liquid condensate. 
    • Pressure affects how steam behaves, including density, latent heat, and saturation point.

    Types of Steam Traps:

    The three primary categories of steam traps are mechanical, thermodynamic, and thermostatic.

    Mechanical Traps:

    • Use mechanical properties of steam versus condensate for condensate removal.
    • Liquid’s higher density causes it to settle at the system’s bottom.
    • Mechanical linkage opens/closes the valve based on a bucket or float’s movement.
    • Examples: Inverted bucket traps and float traps.

    Thermostatic Traps:

    • Exploit temperature differences between steam and liquid phase for condensate removal.
    • Valve driven by expansion/contraction of element exposed to steam or condensate heat.
    • Requires temperature drop below saturation curve to open and remove condensate.
    • Element types: filled element, bellows, and bimetallic element.

    Thermodynamic Traps:

    • Operate based on dynamic principles of steam versus condensate and Bernoulli’s principle.
    • Condensate release through the orifice leads to increased speed and pressure drop.
    • The flash steam creates more pressure to close the valve (disc) or slow the discharge.
    • Main types: Disc traps, Impulse traps, Labyrinth traps, and Orifice (Venturi Nozzle) traps.
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    What are the Characteristics of Steam Traps?

    Zero Steam Leakage:

    • An ideal steam trap well drains condensate without releasing live steam.
    • Rapid response to steam flow prevents wastage.
    • Swift closure when detecting steam minimizes steam loss.

    Swift and Complete Condensate Removal:

    • A proficient steam trap well eliminates formed condensate.
    • Specific applications permit temporary condensate retention before discharge.
    • Most process heating systems need quick condensate removal to avoid device dirt. It helps to maintain product quality and production efficiency.

    Resilience to Startup Loads:

    • Due to the cold pipe and device surfaces, the condensate era is higher during system startup.
    • Process steam traps encounter elevated startup loads due to cold equipment surfaces.
    • Chosen traps should withstand both startup and running loads for optimal performance.

    Adequate Air Venting Capacity:

    • Non-condensable gases like air affect steam systems.
    • When the steam goes off, these gases fill the empty area. It can cause air pockets and corrosion.
    • Proper air venting during startup is critical to prevent process disruptions and corrosion.

    Back Pressure Resilience:

    • The variation in pressure across the steam trap affects how much steam can go off.
    • Back pressure impacts steam trap performance.
    • An effective process steam trap must function well against back pressure.

    What is the Scope of Application of Steam Traps? 

    Steam traps find application in various scenarios:

    Drip Application:

    • Located on steam delivery lines.
    • Steam traps help drain condensate from connecting lines like steam mains.
    • Steam traps remove condensate from vertical risers and loops on steam mains.
    • Steam traps are set up at the end of the terminal of steam mains to prevent water hammers.
    • Steam traps are set up at pressure-reducing valves to avoid water buildup and valve error.

    Process Application:

    • Used in storage tanks with heating coils that produce steam, radiators, and turbines.
    • Steam traps in drains/condensate discharge lines ensure efficient operation.
    • Steam separators also use steam traps, which remove water droplets from steam.
    • Applications of the industry include steaming ovens, laundries, dryers, and space heating. It uses steam traps to send heat very well.

    Tracing Application:

    • Steam tracing lines maintain process fluid temperature, freeze protection, and viscosity control.
    • A tiny bore pipe branch from the steam mains runs alongside the heated pipeline. This bore pipe promotes the transfer of heat.
    • Through a steam trap, the generated condensate passes to a condensate header.
    • Lines with jackets serve to send substances at high temperatures. It sends steam to the jacket, and the steam traps remove the condensation.

    The optimal length for steam tracing lines is between 70m and 100m.

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    What is the Working Principle of the Steam Trap? 

    Concept of a Steam Trap: 

    A steam trap works by using a disc contained within its body. It has a little drilled hole at the lowest position of the trap. Gravity causes steam condensate to accumulate at this point.

    Condensate Accumulation: 

    The bottom of the trap body often gathers a small volume of condensate. It compared to the steam that was present in the trap.

    Effective Steam Blocking: 

    The condensate continues to surround the drill hole. It serves as a defense against steam while promoting adequate condensate drainage.

    Mechanical and Thermostatic Operation: 

    Mechanical and thermostatic methods can able to operate steam traps. Both methods contribute to the efficient removal of condensate and non-condensable gases.

    Opening and Closing Mechanism: 

    These steam traps open when condensate and non-condensable gases must be gone. They immediately close after the condensate has been gone. This cycle occurs again when new steam condenses and prepares for drainage.

    Size Considerations: 

    Steam traps are the correct size for the line’s dimensions. Fluid drainage needs are critical for proper operation. Over sizing is a common practice, ensuring condensate discharge and steam blocking. But, oversized traps can lead to rapid wear, energy wastage, and potential issues.


    What are the Uses of Steam Traps?

    Steam traps perform crucial tasks in a variety of sectors. It makes sure that steam systems run without any issues. Let’s explore six critical uses:

    Energy Efficiency:

    Steam traps are crucial in maintaining energy efficiency in steam systems. They remove condensate (water formed by steam cooling) to prevent energy wastage.

    Preventing Water Hammer:

    Steam traps help prevent water hammer, a phenomenon caused by rapid condensate accumulation. Water hammers can damage pipes and equipment, but steam traps reduce this risk.

    Equipment Protection:

    Steam traps guard against equipment corrosion by fast-reducing condensate. It fails as a result of water accumulation.

    Process Optimization:

    Right-functioning steam traps maintain consistent steam quality for industrial processes. They prevent excess condensation from affecting product quality or process efficiency. 

    Reducing Maintenance Costs:

    Well-maintained steam traps prevent clogs and blockages, reducing the need for frequent repairs. This leads to improved system reliability.

    Environmental Impact:

    Efficient steam traps lower greenhouse gas emissions. It prevents steam loss and energy waste. This contributes to sustainability efforts and lowers the carbon footprint of steam-based operations.

    Essential Tips for an Efficient Steam Trap

    Condensate Management and Steam Retention:

    • The steam trap’s primary function is to discharge condensate while capturing steam.
    • It should strike a balance between these tasks for optimal performance.

    Energy Efficiency and Heat Conservation:

    • An efficient steam trap minimizes heat loss through its body.
    • Negligible steam consumption further enhances its energy efficiency.

    Effective Air Venting:

    • Adequate air venting is crucial for preventing steam temperature loss.
    • A well-designed steam trap ensures proper air venting, maintaining steam integrity.

    Pressure Considerations:

    • Condensate pressure within the trap must surpass vapor pressure to prevent steam flashing.
    • This safeguards the trap’s functionality and prevents operational issues.

    Robust Reliability:

    • Reliability is paramount in a steam trap’s design.
    • It should withstand external factors that could compromise its accuracy, including:Corrosion
    • Water hammering
    • Accumulation of dirt and debris


    Steam traps are essential tools that maximize the effectiveness of steam-based systems. It guarantees the controlled release of condensate while keeping helpful steam. Have many applications, dependability, and energy-saving benefits. Steam traps are essential to sustaining efficient operations in a variety of sectors. It must comprehend their characteristics and operating principles. To use their benefits and support sustainable energy practices.

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