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The Water Softener: What, Why, and How?

One of the leading causes of poor boiler performance is improper water treatment.  Improper water treatment, or not treating your boiler water at all, can cause irreversible boiler tube damage called scaling. To avoid scaling, boiler water should be circulated through a water softener before it is fed to the boiler. A water softener removes hard water minerals, like calcium and magnesium, which can cause scaling and damage in the boiler tubes. Acting as an insulator, scale deposits can prevent proper heat transfer, decrease boiler efficiency, and lead to costly downtime and even premature boiler failure. 

The Chemical Process – Ion Exchange

Hard water contains positively charged ions, like magnesium, calcium, and iron. An ion exchange in the water softener removes the positively charged ions from the water through the use of resin beads. 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 magnesium, calcium, and iron are chemically attracted to the negative charge of the resin beads, sticking to the resin as the water runs through the tank. This process removes majority of the “hard” minerals from the water, creating “soft” water. 

The Cleaning Process – Regeneration

Regeneration cycles are required to clean the resin beads, allowing the system to continually remove hardness from the water supply. The regeneration process, which can take roughly one to two hours, consists of flushing out the solids, drawing brine from the brine tank, and recharging the resin beads. If your softener only has one resin tank, the boiler will be supplied with hard water during the regeneration process. In a system with two tanks, the standby resin tank will become operational during regeneration of the first tank to continue the flow of soft water to the boiler.

The Bottom Line – Soft Water Supply

It is important to supply your boiler with soft water at all times to avoid damage and costly repairs. Water softening, when combined with a reliable water treatment chemical program and blowdown schedule, can lead to many years of reliable boiler system performance.

Nationwide Boiler has installed duplex water softening systems in all of our mobile boiler rooms, mobile steam plants, and mobile feedwater systems to ensure optimal boiler performance 24/7. We also have larger skid-mounted, stand-alone water softeners available for rent or for purchase. For more information on products and services available, visit our website at www.nationwideboiler.com.

 

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