Improper water treatment is the leading cause of tube damage and poor performance in a boiler system. In this month’s edition of Boiler Basics 101, we will discuss the consequences of introducing your boiler to hard water and the importance of utilizing a water softener.
If water is not treated properly before entering the boiler, scale will begin to form due to a chemical imbalance within the tubes. Scale is defined as concentrated minerals being precipitated when the water is evaporating in a boiler. The precipitated minerals consist of a mixture of calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminum, and silica, and are often referred to as “hard minerals”. Scale is detrimental in a boiler system because it acts as an insulator and prevents proper heat transfer. This can lead to decreased boiler efficiency, costly downtime, and even premature boiler failure. Eventually, scale build-up will cause boiler tubes to overheat and rupture.
To help prevent scale and deposit formation, make-up water should be circulated through a water softener before it is fed to the boiler. A water softener is an ion exchanger designed to remove positively charged ions from hard minerals (like magnesium, calcium, and iron) and replace them with negatively charged ions. The resin beads that are inside the resin tank are negatively charged by brine, which contains salt and potassium. As the water goes through the resin tank, the positively charged ions are chemically attracted to the negatively charged resin beads. The hard minerals then stick to the resin as the water runs through the tank, thus turning the water into “soft water”. This process frees the water from these minerals before entering the boiler and decreases the risk of tube scaling and irreversible damage.
Water softening is one of the main ways to increase boiler longevity and maintain boiler performance. Nationwide Boiler’s fleet of mobile boiler rooms, steam plants, and feedwater system trailers include duplex water softening systems to ensure optimum boiler performance. We also have skid-mounted and trailer-enclosed, stand-alone water softeners available for rent or for purchase. It’s important to know that when Nationwide Boiler delivers a rental unit, it is the customer’s responsibility to maintain and supervise the water treatment and chemistry of the water entering their rental boiler.
All boilers are subject to damage if proper water treatment procedures are not followed. This is an important consideration both during operation and when the boiler is idle. To avoid damage and costly repairs, monitor water chemistry routinely and ensure that you are supplying your boiler with soft water at all times.