How Does a Steam Generator Work?
It goes without saying that without steam there would be no steam bath. But where does the steam come from? How is it generated and what is required for efficient production of steam? This article will take a look at steam generators and everything that is needed to make steam.
Steam generators for residential use are electrical units that can be installed almost anywhere. They do not have to be close to the steam bath -- they can be situated up to 40 feet away. Their basic requirements are an electrical connection and a water supply. Some steam generators also require a drain.
Steam Generator Components
The steam generator unit consists of a tank for holding water, a connection for incoming water, and an outlet for the steam. There is an electrical element at the bottom of the water tank for heating the water, and the size and the electrical rating of this element is an factor in determining how much steam the unit can produce.
The water tank needs to be airtight in order to allow steam pressure to build up. Steam pressure can be a formidable force -- it can be used to power locomotives! In order to withstand the pressure of the steam buildup, the water tank needs to be very strong. They are usually made of welded steel.
As a safety precaution, the water tank needs to have a pressure release valve in case the steam pressure becomes too high. The safety valve is an absolute necessity. Exploding tanks can cause a great deal of damage and even death.
The incoming water supply can be either hot water or cold water. Feeding hot water into the steam generator allows the steam to build up more quickly, but many generators can use a cold water feed and still provide steam in a reasonable time.
To control the amount of the water in the tank, a water level probe is connected to a valve which turns the water on or off automatically. The valve is powered with electricity and uses a solenoid to control water flow.
Before the water passes through the solenoid valve, it first passes through a master shutoff valve. This is a simple mechanical valve and can be used to cut off the water supply to the steam generator when it needs to be serviced.
As the steam builds up, it passes through the outtake pipe which is connected to the steam bath. The steam passes through the steam heads which are controlled by either an on/off switch or a timer. The on/off switch causes the steam head to protrude from the wall of the steam bath, allowing steam to come out. Optional timers can be used to limit the amount of time that steam is generated and to turn off the steam generator automatically.
Despite the relative simplicity of the steam generator, it is important that it will be installed professionally. If steam pressure builds up unexpectedly and cannot be released through a properly connected release valve, a dangerous situation can result. A licensed plumber can do the work for you properly and guarantee a safe steam bath.
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