To run at maximum efficiency and avoid loss of heat energy, steam systems require properly tested and designed insulation like the kind in place at Baxter Medical Center and Miramichi Regional Hospital. But when facility and maintenance managers need to inspect or service a traditional-fiberglass-wrapped component, they typically remove the insulation by tearing it off. That means managers have to completely replace the insulation, which often doesn’t happen, if they want to recover joints and valves to prevent the loss of heat.
Heat energy radiates from these uninsulated components. And loss of heat energy creates several issues, the most obvious being increased energy costs as machines consume more fuel to make up for lost energy. This often means burning more fossil fuels and increasing an employer’s carbon emissions.
Loss of heat energy in a steam system also reduces the system’s overall efficiency, as steam needs to maintain a high temperature to stay “dry,” or to prevent it from condensing.
“How do you keep steam from becoming wet? You keep the temperature elevated,” said Joe Lauria, chief operations officer for Shannon Global Energy Solutions. “If you have uninsulated fittings, you’re losing heat energy. That lowers the temperature of the steam and creates water droplets in the steam that impact the performance of the system.”
Those water droplets, in a high pressure environment like a steam system, can also damage the piping over time. And that, in turn, spells more work for maintenance managers to keep components and the entire system functioning. If facility managers don’t spot these trouble areas (or postpone addressing them), the neglect reduces the overall service life of the system.
“It’s not just a matter of saving energy, it’s saving material and reducing maintenance on your other products,” added Lauria. “As the cost of steel, chrome and nickel increase, anyone would want to make their existing components last longer, which means a savings.”
Buying a properly tested and designed system of reusable insulation blankets stops the loss of heat energy and slashes maintenance costs. Quality reusable insulation also maximizes the efficiency of a steam system by preventing “wet” steam.