Laboratory Expects to Save Six Figures by Installing Wireless Sensors at its Steam Lines

December 1, 2010
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By collecting and monitoring data from 30 sensors at five steam trap locations, the team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory expects to demonstrate significant savings.


Laboratory Expects to Save Six Figures by Installing Wireless Sensors at its Steam Lines By installing wireless sensors and replacing faulty traps along the 12 miles of steam lines at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), officials expect to save as much as $675,000 per year. With 1,600 steam traps, which normally open slightly to discharge condensed steam with a negligible loss of live steam, the problem occurs when a trap fails and that failure goes undetected and unrepaired, said Teja Kuruganti, a member of the computational sciences and engineering division at the laboratory.

Manual inspections of each trap is a daunting and sometimes dangerous, but by collecting and monitoring data initially from 30 sensors at five steam trap locations, the team of researchers expects to demonstrate significant savings.

Steam is used at ORNL, industrial sites and universities throughout the nation for heating and cooling buildings. A Department of Energy study published in 2005, “Steam Trap Performance Assessment,” identified faulty steam traps as a major source of energy waste at industrial sites.

Working with Johnson Controls, ORNL has already repaired or replaced any faulty traps, and is considering expanding the wireless sensor system by installing hundreds of sensors.

“The installation of wireless sensors throughout much of the steam system can give us an early warning of component failures or impending failures,” said Wayne Parker of ORNL’s utilities division.

The sensors will monitor steam flow and temperature. The project will use the ORNL-developed Sensorpedia technology for standards-based information visualization.

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