The Function and Types of Steam Traps

An Armstrong Steam Trap is a device that is used to discharge non-condensable gasses, in addition to condensate, without eliminating the steam necessary for the equipment’s specific application. Most steam traps are nothing more than a type of automatic valve that opens and closes or modulates automatically. The steam trap has three main functions: to discharge the condensate; to not release steam; and the discharge of air in addition to other non-condensable gasses.

The Basic Operation of the Steam Trap

In its most basic form, the steam trap is a type of disc or a short pipe nipple that has a small hole drilled though the part. It is always installed at the lowest point on your equipment for superior performance. While there are some basic types of steam traps, the most common ones that are seen today include the mechanically operated option or the thermostatically operated option.
In addition to understanding the operation of a steam trap, you must also understand the different options that are available and how they work, which include:

  • Mechanical Traps

This type of steam trap features a float that falls and rises in direct relation to the level of condensate and usually has a mechanical linkage that is attached that will open and close the valve. Most mechanical steam traps have an expected life of three years. Float traps and inverted bucket traps are the most common types of mechanical traps in use.

  • Temperature Traps

The temperature trap features a valve that is driven on and off the seat due to contraction or expansion that is caused by a difference in temperature. Bimetalic traps and thermostatic traps are common types of temperature steam traps.

  • Thermodynamic Traps

This type of steam trap works by responding to steam entering the part. As the steam comes in, the static pressure that is above the disk forces it to press against the seat of the valve. As the steam begins to condense, the existing pressure exerted against the disk will decrease and the trap will cycle.
Understanding the basic function of the steam trap, as well as the types and options available, will help you determine the best option for your factory, commercial space and equipment. If you purchase the wrong type of steam trap, it can lead to a poorly functioning piece of equipment, which leads to reduced productivity and sales and profits that falter.

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