BOSTON, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ — Amidst the ever present and growing energy crisis, lurks an even bigger culprit than your father’s old gas guzzler. Steam. According to American Plant Maintenance, steam is still a living necessity in a vast majority of U.S. hospitals, power plants and manufacturing facilities, and in spite of its environmentally “green” disposition, is also single handedly responsible for billions of dollars in fuel consumption every year.
The U.S. Department of energy reports that over 45% of all the fuel burned by U.S. manufacturers is consumed to make steam. Making energy losses associated with the inefficient use of steam critical not only to the companies involved but the U.S. economy as a whole.
Bill Doherty, Chief Engineer of American Plant Maintenance, Inc., an energy conservation corporation dedicated to the survey and repair of steam and compressed gas systems, claims the problem stems mainly from a lack of awareness and preventive maintenance.
“The biggest problem here is neglect,” says Doherty. “As long as they don’t see steam billowing from a pipe, and the equipment they’re powering works okay, they don’t concern themselves with the efficiency of their system, and that’s a costly mistake to make.” This mistake potentially cost one New England hospital in excess of $1M in energy losses over the course of 5 years. Money which could have been better spent on critical medical equipment or nursing staff.
Although $1M is a rare scenario, losses in the tens of thousands of dollars annually are very common. “We’ve seen annual losses range anywhere from $20K to $200K and in today’s economy those can be very critical amounts,” says Doherty.
Critical or not, they are also amounts that can usually be avoided or significantly reduced by conducting annual steam trap surveys and routine system maintenance. “Our services traditionally cost a fraction of the amounts being lost, and most of our surveys and repairs pay for themselves well within a year,” says Doherty. “So it really doesn’t make much sense financially, to just ignore these potential problems and assume everything’s fine.”
According to Doherty, the majority of calculated losses in a steam system are typically found in the systems steam traps, which are devices used to remove condensate (water) and other non-condensable gasses from the steam line. When these devices fail, they can either leak, or plug causing poor system performance and ultimately a large loss of energy. Annual surveys of the system can eventually result in maximum system efficiency and much less of an economic impact.