Due to the wide array of industrial uses and performance advantages of using steam, steam is an indispensable means of delivering energy in the manufacturing sector. As a result, steam accounts for a significant amount of industrial energy consumption. In 2006, U.S. manufacturers used about 4,762 trillion Btu of steam energy, representing approximately 40% of the total energy used in industrial process applications for product output[1].

While there are many different ways to improve steam system energy consumption, energy performance in steam systems is most effectively optimized when a systems approach that analyzes both the supply and demand sides of the system and how they interact, is used.

Top Ten Energy Efficiency Measures for Steam Systems

  1. Inspect and repair steam traps
  2. Insulate steam distribution and condensate return lines and cover heated, open vessels
  3. Install a condensing economizer
  4. Use feedwater economizers for waste heat recovery
  5. Minimize boiler blowdown
  6. Recover heat from boiler blowdown
  7. Replace pressure-reducing valves with backpressure turbogenerators
  8. Use low-grade waste steam to power absorption chillers
  9. Upgrade boilers with energy-efficient burners
  10. Improve boiler’s combustion efficiency 

You can read related TIP SHEETS AND PUBLICATIONS to improve performance and save energy, accumulated over time by the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office.

Learn more with the STEAM SYSTEM INFO CARD, explore additional resources specific to Better Plants partners, and connect with the steam system-subject matter expert below.

[1] Manufacturing Energy and Carbon Footprint (for Chemical Manufacturing, Forest Products, Petroleum Refining), prepared for AMO by Energetics, Inc., December 2010,; and Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey Data, U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (2010 Data Release),



Learn about innovative, replicable steam-solutions and best practices implemented by Better Plants Challenge partners.

Bentley Mills: Boiler Control System Upgrades

Bentley Mills uses a large quantity of steam throughout its manufacturing process chain. In 2014, Bentley Mills began implementing a project to upgrade the control system for one of its largest natural gas-fired boilers (Boiler #1) at its facility in the City of Industry, Los Angeles.

Celanese Corporation: Large Chemical Plant Improves Energy and Environmental Performance with Boiler Upgrade

In March 2015, Celanese successfully completed a $160 million boiler replacement project at a facility replacing coal-fired boilers with natural gas-fired boilers that were compliant with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters (Boiler MACT) rule. In alignment with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Better Plants Challenge partnership, Celanese implemented the replacement project with energy efficient boilers instead of simply replacing the existing boiler fleet with boilers of similar capacity.  


The steam sourcebook was developed for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO). AMO undertook this project as a series of sourcebook publications. Other topics in this series include: compressed air systems, pumping systems, fan systems, process heating, and motor and drive systems.

Improving Steam System Performance: A Sourcebook for Industry (Second Edition)

This sourcebook is designed to provide steam system users with a reference that describes the basic steam system components, outlines opportunities for energy and performance improvements, and discusses the benefits of a systems approach in identifying and implementing these improvement opportunities.


Access free software tools to help assess your steam system.

Steam System Modeler

The Steam System Modeler allows you to create up to a 3-pressure-header basic model of your current steam system. A second model can then be created by adjusting a series of characteristics simulating technical or input changes. This allows you to see how each component and adjustment impacts the others and what changes may be most beneficial to increasing the overall efficiency and stability of the system. An interactive diagram is provided for each model and includes comprehensive steam properties and operational details for clarity and ease of use.


Pre-In-Plant Training Webinar (Steam)

This pre-In-Plant Training webinar for the Better Plants Program covers how to find energy savings in steam systems.


Subject Matter Expert - Thomas Wenning

Thomas Wenning is a program manager for industrial energy efficiency at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). As a member of ORNL’s Energy and Transportation Science Division, he manages ORNL’s domestic and international industrial energy efficiency technology assistance and deployment activities. He also supports the DOE’s Better Buildings, Better Plants program and the Federal Energy Management Program by providing industrial sites with technical assistance activities, energy assessments and training, and energy management guidance. Tom also manages the student activities for the US DOE’s Industrial Assessment Center program. He has led numerous international industrial energy efficiency workshops, trainings, and assessments on behalf of the US DOE. Tom is a registered Professional Engineer, a Certified Practitioner in Energy Management Systems, an SEP-Performance Verifier, and a DOE Qualified Specialist in the areas of steam, pumps, and fans.

You can reach Tom with steam-related questions at