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Steam Trap Testing & Maintenance

When steam traps leak or fail, it can be extremely costly in terms of product quality, safety and energy loss. There are differences in the way particular steam traps work (for example, inverted bucket trap versus float and thermostatic trap). An Ultraprobe makes it easy to sense these differences and readily determine operating conditions while steam traps are on-line.

How Ultrasonic Leak Detection Works

Steam traps can either be defined as continuous (or modulating continuous) flow and “on-off” (hold-discharge-hold) types. UE Systems’ Ultraprobe series helps an inspector readily identify the trap operation in all types of environments.

Inspectors can choose from simple “point and shoot” analog instruments to sophisticated digital instruments with on-board non-contact infrared thermometers, sound analysis and data logging features. UE Systems unique frequency tuning feature enables users to literally tune into the trap sound and clearly identify leaking or blowing traps.

Leak Detection Method

Inspection methods vary depending on the type of steam trap. Therefore the primary rule is to know the details of your system, for example the way a specific trap may work under specific conditions (heavy load vs. light load). In order to determine trap condition such as leakage or blockage: touch upstream of the steam trap and reduce the sensitivity of the instrument until the intensity indicator reads about 50% of scale. If the instrument has frequency tuning, you may also use this feature to hear the trap sound quality more clearly. Simply tune the frequency (try 25 kHz) until the sound you would expect to hear becomes clear. It’s that simple.

Next, touch downstream of the steam trap and observe the intensity levels and sound patterns. A typical “on-off” trap should have a pattern of close-discharge-close. If the sound heard is a continuous rushing sound, it is most likely stuck open and wasting steam. If the sound level is low (as compared to similar traps under the same conditions), the trap is closed, blocked or not in service.

Ultrasonic steam trap inspection is considered a “positive” test in that an operator can instantly identify sound quality and intensity differentials and thereby determine operating condition accurately.

Our Energy Conservation Guide  includes compressed air and steam trap inspection information.

Typical Sound Samples: Energy / Steam

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