You are here Home » Featured » Why Do Steam Traps Fail: Reasons, Factors Affecting, and Preventive Methods

Why Do Steam Traps Fail: Reasons, Factors Affecting, and Preventive Methods


Screenshot: Dec 15, 2022

The failure of steam traps can have serious implications for the operation, productivity, and safety of industrial systems. This article provides an in-depth analysis on why steam traps fail and the various factors that affect their reliability. 

We will also discuss some preventive methods that should be implemented to reduce the chances of a malfunction or breakdown. Understanding the reasons behind steam trap failure helps organizations take the necessary steps to ensure their systems remain safe and efficient.

This article will also discuss some of the common causes of steam trap failure including lack of maintenance, condensate contamination, incorrect selection of the type of steam trap, and incorrect installation. 

By understanding why steam traps fail and taking the appropriate preventive steps, companies can improve safety and productivity while minimizing repair and replacement costs.

Reasons for Steam Traps Failure

Incorrect Installation

Heat and energy losses resulting from incorrect steam trap installation are major reasons for failure. Incorrect steam trap sizing, improper orientation, wrong selection of the evaporator, and failing to isolate or drain condensate lines between traps are some common mistakes made during installation that can lead to steam trap malfunction. 

The inlet pressure of the steam trap should be lower than the upstream section pressure so as to ensure proper operation and functioning. Otherwise, the heat transfer efficiency is affected due to poor circulation leading to condensate accumulation. 

It is also important that dead legs are properly removed or blocked off in order to prevent water hammers and other related problems resulting from mechanical shock waves traveling through the system. 

Lack of Maintenance

Steam traps are integral components in many industrial systems, and failure to ensure proper maintenance can lead to costly and disruptive outages. 

Regular maintenance is crucial for steam trap operation, as not only does it prevent breakdowns and premature wear of parts, but also helps protect against safety hazards such as overheating or explosions caused by inadequate pressure control. 

Inspections should be conducted at least once a year in order to identify any problems that have developed over time. This includes checking all connections for difficulty in opening or shutting down, testing the accuracy of pressure readings, assessing valve performance, and lubricating moving parts as required. 

Condensate Contamination

One of the most common causes of steam trap failure is the contamination of condensate. If there are small particles or solid substances present in the steam, it can clog and impede the flow of condensate through the traps. 

Eventually, this will lead to a buildup of pressure behind the trap which results in its malfunctioning and ultimate failure. 

To prevent such issues from occurring, periodic inspections should be conducted to check for dirt accumulation or any form of blockage inside the pipes leading up to the steam trap. 

Additionally, filters may be installed upstream from the traps to ensure that only clean steam is reaching them and not causing any kind of strain on their functioning.

Incorrect Selection of the Type of Steam Trap

The selection of a steam trap is arguably the most important factor in determining its performance and service life. Frequently, the incorrect type of steam trap is placed for the wrong application. The end result is a shorter lifespan for the steam trap.

Factors Affecting Steam Trap Failure

There are a variety of factors that can affect the performance of a steam trap and lead to steam trap failure. Some of these include:

Quality of the Steam Trap

The quality of the steam trap is one of the most important factors for ensuring reliable operation. High-quality steam traps are designed to withstand higher pressures and temperatures, as well as exposure to corrosive elements.

Traps that are poorly designed or constructed from inferior materials are more likely to fail.

Pressure Differential

The difference in pressure between the inlet and outlet side of the steam trap must be maintained for it to function correctly. If the pressure differential is too large, then the condensate flow rate will be reduced and can lead to clogging or freezing of the valve.


Steam trap valves are designed to handle specific temperatures. If they are used in applications where they are exposed to higher temperatures than they were designed for then they can fail prematurely. 

Flow Rate

The amount of steam passing through the trap will also influence its performance and longevity. If the flow rate is too high then the valve may overheat, leading to a breakdown. 

On the other hand, if it is too low then condensate can build up and stop the valve from functioning correctly.

Operating Conditions of the Steam Trap

How the steam trap is operated can also influence its performance and durability. If it is not operated within its design limits, then this could lead to premature failure.

 In addition, if it is constantly overloaded or operated outside of its recommended range, it will have a shorter lifespan.

Maintenance of the Steam Trap

The maintenance of the steam trap is also important for ensuring its longevity. Continuous steam trap monitoring by Pulse Industrial, as well as inspections and preventive maintenance should be performed to ensure that the valves are working properly and not leaking. This includes readings, assessing valve performance, and lubricating moving parts as required.

Regularly cleaning the steam trap can also help prevent clogging and improve its overall performance. In addition, filters may be installed upstream from the traps to ensure that only clean steam is reaching them and not causing any kind of strain on their functioning.

By understanding these factors, you can help to prevent steam trap failure and ensure that your steam traps provide long-lasting performance.


Preventing failure in your steam traps is essential to maintaining efficient operations. By understanding the common issues, you can develop a plan to keep your traps working properly.

Regular maintenance and monitoring are key to preventing problems, and repairing or replacing traps that have failed is important to keeping your system running efficiently.

You may also like