Using $ 10.00 per million BTU's for natural gas, losses for steam traps and leaks can quickly amount to substantial dollars. You can use a ratio of your gas costs to adjust these estimates. When all issues are factored, a steam boiler in excellent condition will operate at about 75% fuel to steam efficiency (BTU's burned vs. BTU's delivered). Doing the math, this calculates to a steam energy cost of $ 13.33 per 1,000 lbs. Add another $ 2.00 for water and chemicals and the range is $ 15.33 per 1,000 lbs of steam.

For the sake of simplicity, lets assume $ 15.00 per thousand as an average. A steam loss of 100 lb/hr will cost you $ 1.50 per hour or $ 36.00 per day.

A leak caused by a 1/4" hole at 100 psig will blow 290 lb/hr. Cost per day is $ 104.40. If it costs you $ 400 in labor and shut down time to fix the leak, payback works out to less than 4 days.

A 1/2" Thermodynamic disc trap at 100 psig will blow about 80 lb/hr or $ 28.80 per day. If a new steam trap costs $ 300, payback is less than one month including labor to install the trap.

We can add to the list blowing roof vents, not insulated steam lines, condensate not returned, valves packing leaks, valves which do not hold, inefficient boiler operations, old boilers, oversized boilers and many other items to the list and the grand total amounts to large dollars.

Steam traps and steam leaks along with blowing roof vents are not low fruit, they are fruit on the ground. Fuel savings compared to equipment and labor costs to fix the problem can now be measured in days.

Be aware of folks peddling expensive test equipment to find blowing traps and leaks. A few companies are offering equipment in the $ 10,000 - $ 20,000 range which technically performs very well but would be hard to justify for plants with less than 1,000 traps and lots of manpower to keep a program in operation.

With a bit less than a $ 1000, you can purchase a battery operated vibration pen to detect leaks and a simple infrared gun to scan temperatures. A good trap is hot and quiet. A blowing trap is hot and makes lots of noise (vibration). A blocked trap is cold and quiet. You now understand 90% of steam trap testing with these three sentences.

The best trap program in most plants is a simple find, test, and fix (or replace) program. One person can cover a lot of ground in a few days and probably reduce your fuel bill 5-10% in a month if you have not checked traps in the past year or so.

For the $ 9000 you saved over fancy equipment, you can buy 30-50 traps and save money right now in your plant. We can provide either or both pieces of equipment along with training to get your own program underway.