Steam hot water and heating systems

Steam generation systems have been shown to account for 34 per cent of all energy used in production and process heating systems and can account for 17 per cent of total industrial energy use. Typically, energy improvements of 10 per cent or more can be achieved relatively easily through maintenance and low cost, straightforward improvements. The financial rewards of these are often immediate or have a very short payback period.

The cost of energy consumption in a steam system is almost the entirety of the system’s cost (based on data for boilers with a high rate of capacity utilisation over a 20-year life). It makes good business sense, therefore, to run an energy-efficient system.

Applying best practice procedures, the return on investment of a complete and integrated steam trap program is typically less than twelve months. Within a one-year period even a well maintained steam system can experience failure in up to 10 per cent of its traps. Up to 15 per cent energy savings can be achieved in steam generation systems by maintaining steam traps.

Good savings are available from insulating uninsulated heating equipment such as pipes and ovens and from good maintenance and upgrading of insulation. The example below demonstrates that lagging un-insulated steam pipes can result in operating energy savings of up to 90 per cent.

A 75mm diameter bare pipe transporting steam at a temperature of 150ºC above ambient temperature loses 640 Watts of power per metre of pipe. By insulating this pipe, the loss could be reduced to 64 Watts – a 90 per cent saving.

Case studies

Sustainability Victoria has a number of published case studies of businesses in all sectors that have taken action to improve resource efficiency, including improvements to steam, hot water and process heating system.

Useful resources

Sustainability Victoria’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice Guide to Steam hot water and process heating systems is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to improving energy efficiency in heating systems. This guide helps businesses determine the limitations of their existing systems and guides through the process towards finding the best solution in improving their existing system or designing a new system.

Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) has produced a series of excellent short videos on energy efficiency and optimisation for manufacturers which provide practical advice on reducing energy use and saving money. The ‘Boilers’ video is available online.

The Plastics & Chemicals Industries Association has produced a series of 5 Minute Guides to energy efficiency. see the Process Heating, Hot Water and Steam Systems guide.