If you live in an area that has hard water, then you are probably familiar with the issue of limescale. Hard water is water that runs through limestone and chalk and accumulates a high mineral content in the process.
While these minerals, normally made up of calcium and magnesium, are often good for human health, they can cause issues in many metal components such as those used in heating systems. As the water runs through, the minerals in the water can deposit and cling to the metal surfaces, which often results in a restricted water flow, due to the build up of scale or ‘limescale’.
Approximately 15 million homes in the UK are affected by hard water and build up of scale is well known to seriously reduce the life expectancy of boilers, heat pumps and pipework, much in the same way as internal corrosion within your heating system
According to research by The Carbon Trust, just a 1mm build-up of scale can increase energy usage by 7%. The Carbon Trust say that scale can build-up to a thickness of 2-3mm in just a couple of years, so it’s clear to see the impact this issue can have on increased energy bills.
Hard water, its associated problems and the solutions are now taken very seriously by all parties in the energy and building industries and they all recommend using some kind of scale protection, with some estimates suggesting scale protection can increase boiler life by as much as 40%.
There are several options available for treating scale build-up, such as water softeners, which helps to provide calcium-free water by the introduction of a salt-based solution. This is quite an expensive solution, because of the space required and high running costs and, as a result, this option has not yet proved particularly popular in the UK. If costs can be brought down, this can become a popular way of treating scale build up in the future.
A much more affordable option are the implementation of water conditioners. These do not remove the minerals as water softeners do, but they change the chemical make-up of the minerals in order to stop them clinging to the sides of heat transfer surfaces. There are several different water conditioners available on the market, but the most powerful, with the ability to treat a whole house is the electronic water conditioner.
Electronic water conditioners are not too expensive to buy and have fitted, and can sit on the water mains doing their job with minimal running costs. These low running costs and ease of installation have made it a very popular way to deal with hard water and scale build up.
Current building regulations now specify that some sort of scale protection must be fitted in any new houses in areas with hard water, showing how important the building industry takes this issue. For those with older houses in hard water areas, who need to retro-fit a water conditioning solution, the long term savings to be made should be enough to motivate homeowners to look into this issue further.
Article by Benjamin Clarke
• Video - Why adding inhibitor is beneficial to your heating system 19th Feb 2015
• How to maximise your heating system's energy efficiency 23rd Dec 2014
• Why it's time to upgrade your radiators if they're over 15 years old 13th Aug 2015