New steam traps slash energy costs at Sussex hospital

St Richard's Hospital laundry improves performance by replacing mechanical steam traps

New steam traps are helping to reduce emissions and cut energy costs at St Richards Hospital

A Sussex hospital trust has installed steam traps in its laundry department in an effort to save more than £14,000 a year, reduce maintenance, and significantly cut carbon emissions.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust is using Thermal Energy international’s GEM venture orifice steam traps in its recently-redeveloped laundry complex at St Richard’s Hospital, which handles more than 70,000 items a week. Steam is the primary source of energy in the unit, powering washers, irons, collators and dryers.

The previous mechanical steam traps were causing water vapour losses through evaporation from the hot well, in addition to poor condensate returns. This led to Richard Harris, the trust’s head of engineering and estates standards, investigating new technologies.

”We considered chemical treatment, but decided to also explore the GEM traps as we were also finding that a significant proportion of the laundry’s steam traps were failing,” he said. “As they come with a 10-year guarantee, we thought this might prove the solution.”

Thermal Energy International carried out a survey of the laundry’s steam traps using an infrared thermometer. This found that more than 26% of the mechanical traps had failed partially open, which was causing problems within the system. From these findings, the company was able to calculate that, by replacing the mechanical traps with the GEM venturi design, St Richard’s Hospital would be able to save more than £14,000 in energy and maintenance per year, providing a short-term payback of less than two years.

“Over a 10-year period the hospital has the potential to save £155,000on gas alone based on present costs”, said Harris. “In addition, as the GEM traps do not fail, we will save money on downtime and replacement costs. A further added bonus is that the traps only have to be cleaned once a year.”

The GEM traps are also helping the hospital to reduce its carbon emissions in line with the trust’s Carbon Management Plan , which commits to a 16% reduction in emissions between 2010 and 2013 and to making energy savings of £844,000 over the same three-year period. Under the Government’s CRC Carbon Reduction Scheme, large energy users, such as hospitals, will this year have to start buying allowances for each tonne of carbon dioxide at a rate of £12 per tonne per annum. As a consequence, participants successful in reducing energy consumption will not only save money on energy bills, but will also need to purchase fewer allowances.

Instead of utilising a valve mechanism to close off steam, the GEM steam traps use the venturi orifice design to effectively drain condensate from the steam system. In addition, they have no moving parts to wedge open or fail and require only minimal maintenance and no spares, testing or monitoring equipment.

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