How Should Steam Coils Be Designed??

Standard Steam Coil

Of all of  the various types of coils, steam coils operate in the most complicated ways. They are, in effect, a product of the system and controls around the coil. If not installed correctly, steam coils simply won’t work properly.

Overview:

The object of any steam coil is to have steam enter the coil as steam and exit as condensate. In a perfect scenario, the BTU load on the coil turns steam into condensate just before it’s ready to exit the coil. Under real world conditions however, condensate usually begins to form inside the tubes almost immediately. Especially when dealing with low-pressure systems, you have to find a way to evacuate the condensate from the steam coil.

Coil Pitch

A good coil manufacturer will internally pitch the steam coil within the coil casing to force the condensate toward the outlet connection. This pitch is usually 1/8 “ per lineal foot of coil.

Coil Length

If you require steam to travel 144” and make multiple passes through the coil, then, simply put, your system will not work properly. Condensate forms too early, and it cannot escape the coil. Because of this, coils cannot be too long. A better strategy is to break one long coil into two smaller coils side by side, while feeding from both sides.

Tube Diameter:

Steam Distributing coils often have to be 1  1/8 ” diameter tubes. If the BTU load on a coil is really large, then as a result, you will generate many more Lbs./hour of condensate. If the tube diameter is too small, then the condensate, which needs to evacuate, has no place to go.

Traps:

Traps are required on steam coil systems. The traps should be “float & thermostatic” type traps and be located 18 “ below the condensate connection on the steam coil. Without this, the condensate just sits in the system without any place to go.

Vacuum Breakers

Vacuum Breakers are often installed in coil systems to remove any excess condensate that may remain within the coil.

Insulated Piping:

There is no such thing as a “Condensate” Heating coil, built as a steam coil. IT DOESN’T WORK.  However, and this happens an astounding amount of times, due to the long distances the steam has to travel from the boiler to the coil, many times, the steam will enter the coil as condensate due to the piping not being insulated.

Anything that makes condensate lay in a coil is harmful to both the steam coil and the system. You will get a “water hammer” when the system is turned on and the incoming steam just blasts against the condensate. Worse than the loud and annoying sound that produces is the fact that it just destroys the steam coil. The brazing was never designed for “water hammer”.  Also, the coils do not heat properly. Have you ever seen a long coil and run your hand down its length only to feel that the entering steam end of the coil is hot but the far end is cold? More times than not, this means that condensate is laying in the coil and not allowing the steam to properly travel the length of the coil.

Steam Coils require a real expertise to design & build. We at Capital Coil have a long history in solving coil problems and building steam coils so that they work correctly the first time. Give us a call for your next job – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

RELATED POSTS

Different Types of Steam Coils?

Frozen Steam Coils: How Do You Prevent This?

Steam Distributing (Non-Freeze) Coils: The Accidental Coils


Steam Distributing (Non-Freeze) Coils: The Accidental Coils

Steam Distributing CoilsWere you aware that Steam Distributing coils or “Non-Freeze” steam coils were essentially discovered by accident? First, it must be mentioned that there is no such thing as a 100% “Non-Freeze” steam coil because under the right conditions, any coil can freeze. As such, Capital Coil tries to steer clear of the term “Non-Freeze” because it is a mischaracterization. Steam Distributing Coils is the correct terminology that Capital Coil uses when speaking about steam coils that see entering air temperatures under 32* F. Trapped condensate in the tubes and/or headers, coupled with entering air temperatures below 32*F over the face of the coil, creates a situation with a near-100% certainty that your steam coil will freeze. Because of this, there is no magical solution to fully eliminate freezing your coil, which again is why Capital Coil does not use the term “Non-Freeze”.

Steam turns to condensate little by little as it travels through the coil. Lower pressure steam turns to condensate faster than higher pressure steam!! The longer the tube length in the coil, the earlier the condensate is formed, and the longer it has to travel through the tubes. One very important fact to always remember is that too much condensate in a steam coil IS NEVER A GOOD THING…under any circumstances! Because of this requirement, everything is designed to ensure the removal of all condensate from the coil. Systems are heavily designed with float & thermostatic traps, vacuum breakers, and placement of piping to help get rid of any remaining condensate.

Another headache that occurs when condensate freezes is that it creates a “water-hammer”. A “water-hammer” can best be described as a loud banging noise as the steam is coming into contact with the condensate in the coil. It does not allow the steam to be evenly distributed across the face of the coil…again not a good thing!

At the inception of the HVAC industry, steam coils were originally designed to be shorter in length because there was not a good way to evacuate condensate. In an effort to make steam coils longer in length, the concept of a steam coil containing a tube within a tube was invented. The steam feeds only the inner tubes, which travels the entire of the length of the outer-tube. Holes are placed every 12” with the inner tube releasing condensate to the outer-tube. The idea is that the condensate is slowly and evenly “distributed” across the entire length of the coil. Heating is also evenly applied across the coil’s face, and if the casing is pitched at a downward angle, condensate cannot remain trapped. It was later discovered as an added bonus that under most circumstances these coils will not freeze. So while the concept was never designed or intended to become known as “Non-Freeze”, they are now used in almost all projects dealing with air temperatures below 32*F. Please keep in mind that you will still need all of the other steam protective devices in the system, including the freeze-stat, but all in all, it is much more difficult to freeze coils today than it was 30-40 years ago. Necessity may be “the mother of invention” but this great concept was discovered accidently.

Capital Coil is available for all of your coil-related trivia needs, so please don’t hesitate to reach out whenever we can be of assistance.

RELATED POSTS

Different Types of Steam Coils?

Frozen Steam Coils: How Do You Prevent This?

Commercial Steam Coils: Lengths & Controls

Steam Distributing Coils