Something In The Water
A consistent and reliable supply of hot water is vital for any care home. Here, Chris Meir, sales director at Andrews Water Heaters, discusses how effective water treatment can prolong the life and performance of a hot water system.
Safeguarding the performance of the hot water system should be a top priority for any care establishment. With the health of potentially vulnerable residents dependent on good hygiene and sanitation, impaired operation of water heating equipment can have significant consequences. Not only does regular maintenance reduce the likelihood of breakdowns, ensuring essential facilities stay up and running, but also it helps water heaters to continue working at maximum efficiency.
Incidentally, one of the core hindrances for any system is often completely out of the end user’s control. This being the quality of mains water supplied to the premises, especially as almost 60 per cent of the UK’s water supply can be graded as ‘hard water’.
The key problem hard water causes is limescale, which forms due to a build-up of the naturally occurring high levels of calcium and magnesium minerals in the water supply. Water heaters and calorifiers are left at particular risk as limescale develops more rapidly in hot water. In fact, deposits can begin forming as soon as a water heater is first installed and commissioned.
When a water heater is supplied by hard water it will deposit limescale on system components, such as the heat exchanger, causing blockages in the system and potential equipment failure. At the same time, when it coats the heat exchanger it effectively provides a layer of insulation, impairing the efficiency of the heater. In fact, according to British Standards (BS) 8558, tests have shown that limescale can reduce the heater efficiency by up to 30 per cent. To combat these side effects, Andrews Water Heaters recommends treating system water when the hardness reaches 150 parts per million, or 7-10 by the Clark Degrees scale.
One recommendation is to fit an electrolytic scale inhibitor, which will ensure an instant and constant solution for water treatment. This device is attached at the point of supply to the water heater and typically utilises the ion exchange process where the high levels of calcium and magnesium salts in the water are replaced with sodium salts, softening the water. For care homes when fitting this device, it is important to remember that a dedicated drinking water supply must be fed to the building separately.
Another option is to fit a physical water conditioner, which works by using a magnetic field to alter the physical characteristics of the minerals in the feed water supply, preventing limescale from forming. Unlike a scale inhibitor, the feed water is not softened by this treatment, as the calcium and magnesium salts are not removed, nor is there any change to the chemical composition of the water itself.
Whichever solution is chosen, it is important to ensure that the water treatment device specified is compatible with the type of water heater installed. It is also crucial to consider maintenance access, the longevity of the treatment and the impact turbulent water flow may have on the performance of the device.
While limescale is the main factor to consider for a water heating system, silt and sludge can also collect inside a water storage tank and can cause similar problems regarding impaired system performance and added maintenance costs. The sludge can be easily removed from the hot water tank through periodic flushing of the system as part of a regular maintenance schedule. But to avoid it entering the system in the first place, it would be beneficial to fit a sediment filter at the point of entry for the incoming water supply.
We also suggest that water quality is routinely checked as part of the maintenance programme. The ongoing testing of water quality can highlight any issues early on, and will indicate if treatment has stopped working, helping to save money in the long run.
Purchasing high-quality equipment is only the first step to ensuring a reliable supply of hot water. To maintain their investment, maintenance managers – particularly those in hard water areas - should implement an effective water treatment programme to combat the damaging effects of sludge and limescale. Doing so will safeguard hygiene levels within care establishments, as well as driving down energy costs.
For further information please visit www.andrewswaterheaters.co.uk