Importance of Prepping Your Steam System for Winter


Plants and factories must prioritize winterization of their steam systems to prepare for freezing temperatures. These steps help protect your system, prevent condensate-related issues and decrease the risk of costly downtime. Learn how to prepare a steam system for cold weather this winter, including common issues among steam traps and the benefits of preparing well ahead of time.

Common Problem Areas for Your Steam System

There are a few issues that are common in colder months, including:

  • Lack of insulation: Insulation maintains the surface temperature of pipes and equipment. With no insulation, heat loss and lower temperature in the steam system can create condensate.
  • Frozen pipes: Condensate that cools can freeze up in the pipes. The blockage prevents the condensate from draining.
  • Condensate strainer blockage: Increased particle and debris buildup can block the condensate strainer. This blockage prevents flow in the system, increases condensate and could cause the steam trap to freeze up.
  • Corrosion: When the condensate dissolves, it releases gases such as carbon dioxide and oxygen. These gases react with the metal and steel pipes, resulting in corrosion and potential steam system erosion.
  • Water hammer: An increase in condensate causes high pressure, which can cause the water to flow into the interior of the piping and create banging sounds.

Consequences of Skipping Steam System Winterization

Failing to properly prepare steam traps for winter can result in consequences that affect a plant’s operations, such as:

  • Frozen condensate can cause the pipe to expand and potentially crack or burst, which could cause injuries.
  • The buildup of condensate and non-condensable gases cools the steam system.
  • Corrosion can cause thinning of the metal and steel pipes.
  • Water hammering can damage pipes.
  • Increased damage and thinning can lead to leaks.
  • Factories can experience unexpected costs due to repairs and loss of productivity during downtime.
  • Problems due to a lack of winterization can lead to lower worker productivity and service output.
  • A breakdown in one section can affect the entire system.
  • A steam trap that’s operating under less than ideal conditions can result in poor steam quality.

How to Prepare Steam Systems for Winter

Follow this guide to implement winterization for steam systems and keep your factory or plant on track this winter.

Perform Regular Inspections

Conducting inspections on a regular basis ensures that issues are caught before they lead to malfunctions and system failure. Create a checklist of equipment to inspect, including pumps, pressure valves and strainers. It’s important to examine these components for any leaks, wear, damage, cracks or debris and residue.

Conduct Maintenance and Cleaning

During the inspections, list any issues with the steam traps, system or equipment, then address those issues and make any repairs promptly.

Proper maintenance before winter limits the need for costly replacements and downtime throughout the year. During the inspections, list any issues with the steam traps, system or equipment, then address those issues and make any repairs promptly.

Complete the following steps as part of a steam system maintenance and cleaning checklist:

  • Test the system’s performance to make necessary adjustments and improvements. For the best performance, repair and resolve any issues as early as possible.
  • Clean the pipes and remove any dirt, debris and particles to ensure the system performs in peak condition.
  • Remove any residue that has formed a blockage.
  • Clear the lines by removing air and non-condensable gases that cause pressure and cool the steam system.

Insulate Pipes and Steam Traps

Insulation covers the surface area of the steam trap, maintaining the required heat to ensure proper flow. One example is removable insulation blankets and covers. These solutions reduce energy waste and keep the boiler running efficiently. It’s important to insulate the pipes, valves and relevant steam traps.

In some manufacturing factories and process plants, the steam pipes are located on the exterior of the building. Exposure to the elements means the surface must be covered to prevent heat loss, energy waste and condensation. Common exterior insulation materials include aluminum, plastic and sheet metal.

Install Steam Tracing Systems

Heat or steam tracing is another way that factories can prep their steam system for freezing weather. This method involves an external heat source placed on the surface of the pipeline. The heat source can be either electricity or steam. It maintains the heat and flow of the process pipe to ensure flow and reduce the chance of frozen condensate.

Drain Condensate

Since condensate in the steam system is at risk of freezing up, drain the condensate when necessary. It’s also essential to drain steam systems not in use to prevent long-term damage.

The steam trap is used to remove condensate from the steam system. The best practice is to place the steam trap at the lowest point of the steam system, where condensate accumulates. Consider adding a steam system pump to assist in removing condensate. It repumps the condensate, allowing for reuse in the boiler or other locations.

Call the Experts to Complete Surveys

Clients can acquire the assistance of an expert to survey their steam system. Reliable experts can check leaks, damage and equipment such as steam traps. They can also provide advice and solutions to help plant managers make the necessary improvements to their operations.

Benefits of Preparing Your Steam System for Cold Weather

Proper winterization of a steam system provides multiple advantages:

  • High performance: Well-maintained steam systems can operate at a higher level.
  • Maintains heat: Insulation and heat tracing systems assist in preserving heat.
  • Increases productivity: Reduced downtime equals greater productivity within the steam system and among workers.
  • Save costs: Proper maintenance can minimize the costs of replacing essential equipment and conducting repairs.
  • Energy saving: The maintained heat can increase energy efficiency and lower energy costs.
  • Maximizes safety: Increase employees’ safety by reducing risks such as ruptures and leaks.
  • Increases life span: Plant managers can improve their steam system’s life span by detecting and fixing issues.

Contact MSEC for Steam Specialties and More

MSEC stocks steam specialties that help factories and plants maintain their steam systems. MSEC supplies steam traps that discharge condensate within a steam system. Valve regulators assist in regulating the pressure in the pipe that can cause damage and impede productivity.

The MSEC team offers custom options that align with each customer’s unique applications. They partner with industry-leading brands to ensure clients receive top-quality, trusted products. MSEC also performs surveys to inspect the steam system and offer cost-effective adjustments.

MSEC serves clients that require dependable steam specialties to reduce operational costs and streamline efficiency. Complete the contact form today to learn more about how MSEC can help enhance industrial or commercial operations.

Contact MSEC for Steam Specialties and More

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