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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),


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