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Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Steam systems are dependable and resilient and sometimes lull users into a false sense of security…

Why Automate Inspections

I have been working in the manufacturing sector a long time and, when talking to plant managers, inevitably the topic of automation comes up. Is it a good thing? Of course it is, but where does it stop? It is immeasurably helpful in situations where the environment is harsh or dangerous, it is a relief when it can manage jobs that are tedious and repetitive. It is worth the cost for tasks that require a precision that is impossible for a human operator. But if the task needs the ability to react to changing conditions, when it has a complex set of actions that require freedom of movement and flexible decision making automation just doesn’t have the wherewithal to manage those processes.

I would argue that inspections generally fall into that category. There are too many variables to program into a machine. Inspectors are like superheroes, they crawl under things, they tap and prod and twist and go where others fear to tread. They have the know-how to use many types of diagnostic tools plus the experience to “just know” that something is not right. The problem with inspections is their data is obsolete the moment it is created. An inspector checks a heat pump to see that the thermostat gauge is working, the hoses are connected and that it doesn’t have any cracks or kinks, that filter is clean, the reverse valve is operational, no liquids are leaking out etc and moves on. As soon as he/she is out of hearing range the thermostat dies and the whole thing shuts down. It’s even worse for steam traps because they are inside heavy steel pipes and it requires an ultrasound wand placed on the trap at the outside to determine whether or not they are functioning.

Even workers standing right beside the trap have no clue whether or not it is operational.

Why Automate Inspections

So how do you decide how often to do inspections? Typically, different types of machinery have set inspection guidelines based on a number of characteristics including Failure Developing Period (FDP), pass/fail rate, duration and frequency of use, danger to user (for example equipment used to lift persons is required to be done more frequently), cost and complexity of inspection, certification requirements and various other criteria. For example, OSHA requires that each piece of heavy equipment pass inspection before every use. Other aspects of the guideline may include the method of inspection.

In the case of steam trap inspections the need is clear.

  1. You can’t see or hear a failure (you need special equipment to test)

  2. Failure rates are high (from 5 to 25%)

  3. Energy losses are significant from failures

  4. The cost of energy is high - both financially and in environmental detriment

  5. There are many traps in every steam system (anywhere from 50 to 1000)

It makes so much sense to automate steam trap inspections. Having the traps monitored constantly by a plug and play solution that costs very little to install and maintain that sends failure alerts via email is brilliant. Hmmm that sounds familiar?! I look forward to the day that plant managers, union leaders, CFO’s, CEO’s and everyone in between can focus on strategy and productivity and workplace culture and other more important topics. All with the comfort of knowing that all the machinery supporting the business is running smoothly and if anything goes wrong the right person will know instantly and can do what is necessary to remedy the situation.

Case Study Mining Company


Case Study Mining Company

A mining company has steam to power many processes including a tank farm, autoclave and heating. They have experienced a number of cold (closed) failures which caused titanium coils to blow. Not only are the coils very expensive to replace but since they are so remote it takes time and more money to get replacement coils to the site.

While waiting for replacements production can not continue so the whole site sits idle.

Each titanium coil costs upwards of $500, but the real cost is safety and reliability


Installing Pulse Steam Trap Monitors on all steam traps enabled the mining operation to get advance warning and turn system off before the pressure builds enough to blow the titanium coils. A new steam trap is very cost effective and swapping it out takes a minimal amount of time and effort. Cold failures are quite rare but they actually represent a more dangerous failure - a worker in the area could potentially be injured. Monitoring traps using temperature and sound allows all types of traps and all types of failures to be detected in time to be repaired.

“We experience less down time and I am relieved to not put workers at risk anymore.”


  • Titanium coils are very expensive - getting advance warning that pressure levels are increasing to a point where they would cause failures means the coils last much longer

  • Workers are safe and don’t have long periods of inactivity due to system shut downs

  • LoRaWAN technology is another essential element in these scenarios as equipment is very remote

  • Inspections are also much more difficult to arrange due to accessibility challenges, inspections are required much less frequently with automated monitoring devices

  • Both closed and open failures on dozens of different types of equipment are caught and repaired over the course of many months not just annually with inspections

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Case Study Hospital


Case Study Hospital

A large hospital in Canada uses steam in a variety of unique ways. They heat their building with it but also use it to sterilize instruments. They need to be very careful with the use of chemicals and yet need the highest degree of cleanliness on these tools. Steam is a brilliant and efficient answer.

They are constantly being asked to cut costs and find more efficient ways of operating. They had a competitive solution in place but they only put monitors on 5% of their traps, leaving many un-monitored with potential for long term failures and unnecessary energy costs.

Solution is cost effective, easily transferable and flexible enough to fit a multitude of uses


Pulse was able to put monitors on all steam traps in the hospital and, even with the cost of replacement of existing monitors, saw a huge reduction in energy costs which made them realize a return in investment in a very short while. The hospital has a wide variety of pipe sizes which was not a problem for Pulse whose monitors have the flexibility to fit on all sizes of pipes.

Email alerts are sent to multiple operations and maintenance personnel who work different shifts and locations. They don’t need to have to access a central monitor to quickly and easily assess failures and alerts. A few months after the initial install a wing was restructured, it was a simple matter to move and add monitors into the system.

“We are under intense scrutiny after the pandemic to be sterile and cost effective - steam gives us both”


  • Fits all sizes of pipes

  • System went from 5% to 90% of traps monitored at all times

  • They realized instant ROI from the project

  • Scaleable and easily transferable monitors offer flexibility of installation

  • Steam for heating and sterilization is now operating at peak efficiency enabling hospital to funnel savings into additional services

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