You can find steam traps on radiators or most other kinds of steam-powered systems (including high-pressure industrial ones). In each case, the goal of a steam trap is to keep the appropriate amount of steam in the system while allowing condensate to escape. But there are several types of steam traps, and in order to be well versed in steam trap maintenance and installation, you’ll want to understand the differences between them. Here’s a rundown of the four major types of steam trap valves:
- Mechanical Steam Traps
Mechanical steam traps are relatively simple in concept. They use a float that will rise and fall based on the amount of condensate (liquid) in the system. A small chain or other mechanical link closes and opens the valve. So basically, when there’s too much liquid in the system, the float rises and pulls the valve open.
- Thermostatic Valves
Thermostatic traps are operated based on temperature. Normally, this works because certain materials will expand and contract more quickly or slowly when they are heated and cooled, allowing the valve to open or close as needed. The downside of these traps is that thermostatic valves sometimes don’t remove condensate from the system as soon as it forms, but instead waits for it to cool somewhat.
- Thermodynamic Traps
Thermodynamic steam traps operate based on how materials respond to the changing velocity of fluids. What does that actually look like? As steam enters the trap, the resulting pressure closes a disk over the valve. But as the steam condenses, the pressure lessens and allows the trap to open again. Thus thermodynamic valves essentially operate on a time cycle.
- Venturi Nozzle Systems
Venturi nozzle systems are very precisely engineered and a bit more difficult to understand, but they basically work in a series of staged steps. The condensate closes off the nozzle because it is denser than the steam, which allows the condensate to continually escape while preventing the steam from escaping.
Do you have anything to add about these different types of steam traps? Join the discussion in the comments below.