Steam traps are installed in steam lines to drain condensate from the lines without allowing the escape of steam. There are many designs of steam traps for high and low pressure use.
In general, a steam trap consists of a valve and a device or arrangement that causes the valve to open and close as necessary to drain the condensate from piping without allowing the escape of steam. Steam traps are installed at low points in the system or machinery to be drained. Some types of steam traps that are used in DOE facilities are described in this chapter.
Ball Float Steam Trap
A ball float steam trap is illustrated in Figure 16. The valve of this trap is connected to the float in such a way that the valve opens when the float rises. When the trap is in operation, the steam and any water that may be mixed with it flows into the float chamber. The water, being heavier than the steam, falls to the bottom of the trap, causing the water level to rise. As the water level rises, it lifts the float; thus lifting the valve plug and opening the valve. The condensate drains out and the float moves down to a lower position, closing the valve before the condensate level gets low enough to allow steam to escape. The condensate that passes out of the trap is returned to the feed system.
Bucket Steam Trap
A bucket steam trap is illustrated in Figure 17. As condensate enters the trap body, the bucket floats. The valve is connected to the bucket in such a way that the valve closes as the bucket rises. As condensate continues to flow into the trap body, the valve remains closed until the bucket is full. When the bucket is full, it sinks and thus opens the valve. The valve remains open until enough condensate has passed out to allow the bucket to float, and closing the valve.
Thermostatic Steam Traps
There are several kinds of thermostatic steam traps in use. In general, these traps are more compact and have fewer moving parts than most mechanical steam traps.
Bellows-Type Steam Trap
A bellows-type steam trap is illustrated in Figure 18. The operation of this trap is controlled by the expansion of the vapor of a volatile liquid, which is enclosed in a bellows-type element. Steam enters the trap body and heats the volatile liquid in the sealed bellows, causing expansion of the bellows.
The valve is attached to the bellows in such a way that the valve closes when the bellows expands. The valve remains closed, trapping steam in the valve body. As the steam cools and condenses, the bellows cools and contracts, thereby opening the valve and allowing the condensate to drain.
Impulse Steam Trap
Impulse steam traps, illustrated in Figure 19, pass steam and condensate through a strainer before entering the trap. A circular baffle keeps the entering steam and condensate from impinging on the cylinder or on the disk. The impulse type of steam trap is dependent on the principle that hot water under pressure tends to flash into steam when the pressure is reduced.
The only moving part in the steam trap is the disk. A flange near the top of the disk acts as a piston. As demonstrated in Figure 19, the working surface above the flange is larger than the working surface below the flange.
A control orifice runs through the disk from top to bottom, which is considerably smaller at the top than at the bottom. The bottom part of the disk extends through and beyond the orifice in the seat. The upper part of the disk (including the flange) is inside a cylinder. The cylinder tapers inward, so the amount of clearance between the flange and the cylinder varies according to the position of the valve. When the valve is open, the clearance is greater than when the valve is closed. When the trap is first placed in service, pressure from the inlet (chamber A) acts against the underside of the flange and lifts the disk off the valve seat. Condensate is thus allowed to pass out through the orifice in the seat; and, at the same time, a small amount of condensate (called control flow) flows up past the flange and into chamber B. The control flow discharges through the control orifice, into the outlet side of the trap, and the pressure in chamber B remains lower than the pressure in chamber A. As the line warms up, the temperature of the condensate flowing through the trap increases.
The reverse taper of the cylinder varies the amount of flow around the flange until a balanced position is reached in which the total force exerted above the flange is equal to the total force exerted below the flange. It is important to note that there is still a pressure difference between chamber A and chamber B. The force is equalized because the effective area above the flange is larger than the effective area below the flange. The difference in working area is such that the valve maintains at an open, balanced, position when the pressure in chamber B is approximately 86% of the pressure in chamber A.
As the temperature of the condensate approaches its boiling point, some of the control flow going to chamber B flashes into steam as it enters the low pressure area. Because the steam has a much greater volume than the water from which it is generated, pressure builds up in the space above the flange (chamber B). When the pressure in this space is 86% of the inlet pressure (chamber A), the force exerted on the top of the flange pushes the entire disk downward and closes the valve. With the valve closed, the only flow through the trap is past the flange and through the control orifice. When the temperature of the condensate entering the trap drops slightly, condensate enters chamber B without flashing into steam. Pressure in chamber B is thus reduced to the point where the valve opens and allows condensate to flow through the orifice in the valve seat. The cycle is repeated continuously. With a normal condensate load, the valve opens and closes at frequent intervals, discharging a small amount of condensate at each opening. With a heavy condensate load, the valve remains open and allows a continuous discharge of condensate.
Orifice-Type Steam Trap
DOE facilities may use continuous-flow steam traps of the orifice type in some constant service steam systems, oil-heating steam systems, ventilation preheaters, and other systems or services in which condensate forms at a fairly constant rate. Orifice-type steam traps are not suitable for services in which the condensate formation is not continuous.
Although there are several variations of the orifice-type steam trap, each has one thing in common; it contains no moving parts. One or more restricted passageways or orifices allow condensate to trickle through, but do not allow steam to flow through. Some orifice-type steam traps have baffles in addition to orifices.
The following important information in this chapter is summarized below.
Steam Traps Summary
A steam trap consists of a valve and a device or arrangement that causes the valve to open and close as necessary to drain the condensate from the lines without allowing the escape of steam. Steam traps are installed at low points in the system or machinery to be drained.
The type of steam trap used depends primarily on its application. Types include ball float, bucket traps, thermostatic traps, bellows-type traps, impulse traps, and orificetype traps.
Impulse steam traps pass steam and condensate through a strainer before entering the trap. A circular baffle keeps the entering steam and condensate from impinging on the cylinder or on the disk. The impulse type of steam trap is dependent on the fact that hot water under pressure tends to flash into steam when the pressure is reduced.