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Best Practices for Routine Hydronic System Maintenance

Goodway Technologies, a provider of industrial maintenance solutions, noted that one of the hidden threats facility managers face when overseeing maintenance of a hydronic heating and cooling system is the impact scale has on the bottom line. HVAC systems make up a large portion of annual energy expenses. The presence of scale can cause a surge in energy consumption, shorten the life of the equipment and have a significant impact on operational costs.

Scale is a natural occurrence, so it is not a question of if it will affect a building's HVAC system, but when it will happen. Scale is a type of fouling caused by minerals within a water source that can fall out of suspension and develop an insulation layer on the surfaces on any equipment that utilizes water as a heating or cooling media. Contrary to common belief, water treatment alone will not stop fouling due to scale deposits.

"Imagine wearing a winter jacket on a 90° day and your body trying to get cool. This should help you understand what that insulating scale barrier is doing to your equipment," said Tim Fregeau, Director of Technical Sales and Business Development at Goodway Technologies. "Making an investment in routine maintenance and cleanings will pay off in the long run."

How Does Scale Impact Your Equipment?

Scale can develop on any equipment's internal surfaces that utilize water as a heating or cooling media. Scale acts as an insulation barrier against proper heating or cooling transfer, resulting in a significant loss of efficiency.

Efficiency is the number one priority for most facilities. Even the smallest amount of scale can have a dramatic effect on the efficiency of an HVAC system. For example, once scale forms on boiler surfaces, both fuel and efficiency losses quickly ramp up. According to the Department of Energy, even "normal" scale levels at 1/32" thickness produced by low-pressure applications leads to a two percent fuel loss. Those operating costs will continue to grow if the scale is ignored.

In addition to increased operating costs, scale causes systems to work harder to achieve the level of heating or cooling transfer they require. This causes excess wear and tear on the HVAC system, forcing it to work harder than it needs to complete a normal task. It can also lead to equipment replacement or more expensive repairs, such as under-deposit corrosion that eats into the base of the metal on equipment.

In production environments, like plastic extrusion, scale can cause serious implications. A plastic part manufacturer had scale in an extruder that affected the equipment's ability to provide proper cooling. The result was slower cycle times and an increase in part rejections due to deformities. Because the cooling passages were not free from scale, there was a reduction in parts per hour, which resulted in lower profitability. Utilizing Goodway solutions, the customer was able to quickly return their systems to optimal operating efficiency.

Best Practices for Addressing Scale

For those who are responsible for maintaining hydronic systems for heating, cooling or production environments, Goodway offers the following best practices for addressing scale:

  • Consider chemical descaling. Chemical descaling is an effective clean-in-place solution that does not require disassembling equipment. During a chemical cleaning, descaling solutions are circulated through the water passages of equipment. The base ingredients in the chemical descaling solution penetrate the scale deposits and dissolve them into a liquid suspension.
  • Conduct visual inspections. While performing annual maintenance is crucial, it is also beneficial to perform ongoing visual inspections to be on the lookout for any signs of scale.
  • Monitor for evidence-based assessments. Regular monitoring of flue gas temperature can indicate a problem. If the temperature rises when boiler load and excess air are held constant, scale is the likely culprit. Other reasons to consider a chemical clean include one or more system failures due to corrosion, or if you replace a significant amount (more than 10%) of the boiler tubing.
  • Measure the impact. Take the time to evaluate the impact of descaling. Compare energy bills prior to and after the descaling. It is always good to share cost-savings and positive impact on the bottom line, so make sure to highlight your successes in improving efficiencies.

Sometimes scale just is not what it seems. The different types of scale that affect one facility could be completely different from the scale found plaguing equipment in another facility. Scale can include a variety of minerals that require a customized approach to cleaning. A good recommendation is to perform testing to ensure that the descaling solution will effectively remove the scale to eliminate additional costs and resources. Consulting with a professional can help identify the most effective method, product and procedure for removing scale.

Goodway offers free, online descaling calculators that help companies and facility managers see the potential cost savings when using Goodway's scale removal systems and ScaleBreak descaling solutions.

Authored by Goodway Technologies

For more information contact:

Goodway Technologies Corporation

420 West Avenue

Stamford, CT 06902-6384

800-333-7467 / 203-359-4708

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