Central sterilization was experiencing chronic wet packs and green spotting in the three year-old steam sterilizers. Very expensive rework, lab tests, instrument arrangement testing could not solve the problem. New regulators seemed to help a little, but not much...
We found good pressure delivery, but poor steam quality. Like any hospital, there was old piping and new changes as the building expanded and sterilizer technology upgraded.
Tracing the piping from the steam main found the problem. Above the ceiling was a mezzanine leading to the old filter location. Workers could change the filters without having to gown up and enter the sterile areas. This piping was holding water. The steam inlet to the units was also modified to eliminate water in bronze piping that was causing spots.
Now the spots are gone and reprocessing cost due to wet packs is greatly reduced.
An all stainless steel humidification system feeds "clean steam" to 12 air handlers. Chronic water hammer, humidifier spitting and poor humidity control were the problems. The level control on the clean steam generators would overfill as well.
The contractor had tried everything, including new traps on the humidifiers and re-tilting the distribution tubes but nothing seemed to seem to help. We found the clean steam boiler outlet piping was configured so that condensate would drain back into the unit. Combine that with a boiler header draining issue, and the symptoms became all related to the same problem.
Fixing the drianage issue solved the hammer and humidifier spitting. No more wet ducts and lost lab hours. Modifying the boiler outlet solved the level control issues, no more middle-of-the-night alarm calls and shutdowns.
A large "walk-in size" sterilizer was experiencing wet steam during the summer months. Water would soak the upper "master-packaged" product boxes making them un-shippable. Heavy scrap costs and upset delivery schedules were major problems, and downtime to attempt corrective action was a further drag on sales and expenses.
Summer operation was the key to understanding this problem. The plant heating system would be shut down, and a set of small local package boilers would carry the sterilizer load. While the boilers had enough capacity, the instantaneous steam load caused the pressure in the shorter piping length to drop. Just like suddenly removing a car radiator cap, the water in the units would "boil over" and send water into the sterilizer.
A steam valve with a back-pressure controller solved the problem. No more wet boxes, lost product, and late orders.
Troubleshooting Steam Systems
This boiler was throwing mineral-laden water into the distribution system, and all the adjacent drain valves plugged.
To learn why a boiler might do this, ask for our "Troubleshooting Steam Systems" article, or ask about a training class in your facility.
Eliminate Steam Problems.
Thermo Diagnostics will work with your facility engineers to eliminate steam problems. This saves cost, time, effort and reduces staff complaints. Reduced "reprocessing" will improve productivity, service, and morale. The net result will be increased efficiency and quality of facility management.
How is Steam Quality Testing related to Wet Pack Troubleshooting?
ST-79 and EN-285 procedures develop data and we test according to those procedures. What makes us different is we also test the rest of the valves, insulation, boiler piping and water supply that can impact steam quality.
You rely on the system to deliver steam that is clean, dry, and sterile... ...how do you figure out what's causing the problems? That's our job.
Independent, Confidential, Experienced.
We are not affiliated with any sterilizer or humidifier manufacturer.
Our audit staff average 30 years experience with steam in hospitals and life sciences.