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Feature Report: The Number One Problem in a Steam System: Water Hammer

By Kelly Paffel, Swagelok Company |

  Water hammer — a high-pressure surge or wave created by the kinetic energy of the moving liquid — is not only a system issue, but primarily a safety concern. Understanding the nature and severity of water hammer in a steam-and-condensate system will allow prevention of its destructive forces. A better understanding will also help with the introduction of preventative measures into system designs, steam system startups, maintenance and installations, which can contribute to personnel safety, reduce maintenance costs, and reduce system downtime. In its most severe form, water hammer can cause injuries or even fatalities. Unfortunately, 82% of the steam systems in North America are experiencing some type of water hammer. Many mistakenly believe that water hammer is an unavoidable and natural part of steam-and-condensate systems; this is entirely false. Water hammer is never normal, it is abnormal. If the system is properly designed and correctly operated, water hammer will not occur. It is possible for high-pressure steam systems to function without water hammer over a long operational life. Water hammer can occur in any steam or condensate line. Its effects can be more pronounced in heterogeneous or condensate bi-phase…
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