We Built a Better Bear Trap

We Built a Better Bear Trap

When a thermostatic steam trap fails, it lets steam pass through the radiator and into the return lines. That’s bad news because when a two-pipe steam system’s supply and return lines approach the same pressure, the air will stop moving out of the radiators. You know what happens then? Your customers wind up with cold radiators and high fuel bills. And it only takes a couple of defective traps to ruin the steam distribution (and the fuel budget!) of an entire building.Most thermostatic radiator traps fail from metal fatigue and water hammer. The metal fatigue part is easy to understand, especially when you consider the corrosive nature of condensate and the fact that in a typical steam heating system, each radiator trap will open and close about 175,000 times a year. Add a bit of violent water hammer to the mix, and you can see why so many traps die an early death.

But since the traps don’t all fail on the same day, the building owner usually doesn’t make the connection between his broken traps (which he might not even know about!), his discomfort, and his high fuel bills.


This is where the opportunity lies. Smart contractors help the building owner make that connection. They show him how to solve both of his problems at the same time. Smart contractors know how to find business where others see only gloom.

Hundreds of smart contractors over the past year or so have been buying Hoffman Specialty’s new Bear Trap right here at this counter. You see, the folks at Hoffman developed the Bear Trap specifically to resist wear and water hammer (in fact, its performance inspired its name). The Hoffman people built its element and seat from stainless steel and encased it in a water hammer-resistant cage that’s designed to take a serious beating.

Before offering it to the trade, they put a bunch of Bear Traps on a test rack in their Chicago plant and cycled them open and closed every few seconds with a few pounds of steam pressure, lots of air and plenty of brackish condensate. They also hit them with water hammer because they knew that’s exactly what would happen in the field. This went on day and night for years.

So far, they’ve cycled these traps open and closed more than ten million times, under real-world conditions, and they’re still working. Imagine that. Ten million cycles, and they’re still working!

The folks at Hoffman are scratching their heads right now, not sure if they’ll ever be able to kill these tough little traps. But we have a feeling they’ll keep trying, and we promise to keep you posted on their progress.

Now, here’s the point. Most ordinary steam trap elements last about three years. That’s it. Because of this, most manufacturers warrant their traps for a single year.

We decided to do things differently. We’re so sure of the Bear Trap. (because of Hoffman’s exhaustive engineering, and what we’ve seen on that test rack of theirs), that we’ve decided to triple the warranty most of the other guys offer.

How does this sound to you? We’ll cover you for three full years on the Bear Trap. That’s far beyond your warranty to your customer, and we think it’s one heck of a selling point when you’re talking to a building owner, don’t you? It’s nice to have an edge for a change, isn’t it.

But maybe you need more convincing, so here: We offer the Bear Trap in an angle, a vertical and even a swivel pattern (all with interchangeable long or short nipples) so you’ll be able to easily replace those old “left- and right-hand” offerings from Warren Webster, Dunham, and just about all of the manufacturers from the old days. We also figured out a way to make Bear Trap’s “Dura-Stat” element fit perfectly inside a Sarco, a Dunham- Bush and even a Barnes and Jones thermostatic radiator trap, so now you have a way to upgrade all those common brands of failed steam traps with tough, long-lasting Bear Trap elements. And you won’t have to touch any ancient system piping to get the job done.

Reprinted from CounterPoint April 1994, Vol. 1, Issue 2