The damage caused by an unmanaged steam source

Here we investigate what happens when you introduce an unmanaged steam source into a contained environment.

In The Home
Go into your laundry or bathroom and look up, what do you see? You can bet if the steam isn’t plumbed correctly then your going to be looking at roof rot of mold and fungus. This rot then may cause roof leaks and potentially pest problems.

Apartment Situation
Ever lived in an apartment block with a bathroom or laundry with a leaky roof. It’s caused by water from the apartment above you right? Well not always! Did you know that steam from your dryer and shower are also likely to have contributed to this leak.
Steam is known to weaken concrete. The steam cycling on and off can cause cracks, these cracks allow moisture to penetrate deeper and deeper, eventually breaking down the materials integrity and rendering the structure vulnerable.
Total Strata claims in 2013-2015 from steam damage alone to apartments in Sunshine Coast were estimated to be around 120 million (AUD).

We clearly need a fix for this problem, but whatever the fix, we require the plumbed system to act as a heat and moisture sink. Without it, our laundry and bathrooms will continue to be degraded by this process.

Latent Heat

Condensation is the gas to liquid exothermic phase change of water. During the condensation of steam to water latent heat is released. This heat is absorbed by the laundries surrounding materials that are exposed to the steam, this in the first instance is most likely the surface of the walls and ceiling.

The latent heat required for the vaporisation of water is 2257 kJ/kg. This explains why the electrical input to an electric kettle is at least 2KW.

The latent heat of condensation of water in the temperature range from −25 °C to 40 °C is approximated by the following empirical cubic function:

L_water(T) = (2500.8 – 2.36 T + 0.0016 T2 – 0.00006 T3) {J/g}

where the temperature T is taken to be the numerical value in °C

What we derive from this is that the surface that is exposed to this steam absorbs alot of heat energy.

Moisture Store

Any condensation that doesn’t escape from the laundry and bathroom becomes trapped there. Thus becoming a moisture store of the repeated condensation. Over time the moisture penetrates the ceiling, walls, floor, furniture/fittings/fixtures, where it rots organic materials such as wood and gyprock and oxidises metal. The warm moist conditions accelerate bacterial growth, and as a result mould and fungus are also commonly found.

What you can do about it

The popular solution is the use of an induction fan. Induction fans draw the internal air stream from the laundry out through a ceiling duct where it exits from a roof vent, the steam source is rejected into ambient air where it cools and disperses.
For more information on this subject see the following page, it contains handy tips on how to avoid this situation, and what can be done to minimise the impact.
We recommend the 24 Hour Emergency Plumbers Sunshine Coast, they can help with installation of laundry and steam emitting appliances, they do professional repair, they can even help during the design phase of a new house or apartment block.