Water Treatment

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What is Water Treatment & What is its function?

Properly treated water preserves boiler life and efficiency.

The water in your boiler may look clear, but on a microscopic level it is filled with dissolved solids including silt, sediment, minerals, and other impurities. Even though these particles are small, the heat of the boiler causes them to concentrate and collect as steam is produced. That can lead to scaling, foaming, and other conditions that affect efficiency and safety.

Water treatment is used to control, capture, and remove these particles to preserve peak efficiency and extend the life of your boiler.

Proper water treatment can also remove excess oxygen from feed water before it enters the boiler, preventing it from eating away at tank and fire tube surfaces.

Different Types of Water Treatment Equipment & How to Choose

To maintain proper quality, feed water has to be softened by adding chemicals that react with the dissolved solids to remove them from suspension. This softened water must then be purged of excess oxygen to avoid internal boiler corrosion. 

The amount and type of chemicals and deaeration your feed water needs depend on the quality of the water coming in from the main line. 

Water analysis is used to help establish a baseline for the quality of your water supply, and help you monitor the condition of the water as you treat it on an ongoing basis.

Sample Coolers cool small amounts of boiler water before it is analyzed. Cooling the water makes analysis safer. Cooled samples are also more accurate, because no water is lost to steam before the sample can be measured. 

Chemicals are mixed into the water to improve its quality. They react with the existing dissolved solids to draw them out of suspension, so they can be removed with regular blowdowns. 

Chemical Pumps are used to add the proper chemical mixtures to the feedwater. In automated systems, they are used to adjust water quality on an ongoing basis.

Deaerators heat up feed water before it enters the boiler to release dissolved oxygen.

The Role Water Treatment Plays in a Boiler

The water in your boiler is extremely hot, which encourages chemical reactions in the dissolved solids that causes them to clump together. These larger solid particles then collect on fire tubes and other boiler surfaces and harden into a substance called scale. As the scale builds up, it begins to act as an insulator, preventing heat from transferring to water properly. 

Since the heat can’t transfer as efficiently, your boiler has to use more fuel to compensate. But scaling can also affect the safety of your boiler, as well. If heat can’t transfer to the water efficiently, it ends up hanging around in the fire tubes, causing them to overheat. That can lead to metal stress that causes weak spots and cracks. 

Water quality also involves the amount of suspended oxygen in the water. The more oxygen there is, the faster it will eat away at the interior surfaces of the boiler. 

Another factor to consider with water quality is conductivity. The more dissolved solids, the more electricity the boiler water is able to conduct. Higher conductivity contributes to corrosion by accelerating the chemical reactions that cause corrosion and scale. Keeping conductivity under control prolongs boiler life. 

What are the effects of Untreated Water?

Improperly treated water is harmful to your boiler and your fuel costs. It causes scale buildup, which harms efficiency and can damage fire tubes. Untreated water can also release excess oxygen into the boiler, corroding metal surfaces.Untreated water may also have higher conductivity, which accelerates harmful reactions in the water and shortens boiler life.

Things to Consider about water treatment:

  • Water sample quality is measured in terms of Total Dissolved Solids, which is the quantity of unwanted impurities suspended in the water. 
  • Conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids are related, and each can amplify the effects of the other.

Helpful Resources

Relevant WARE Videos on Water Treatment

Explore over 750+ explanatory videos on boilers and boiler systems on our Youtube channel. Our videos can help you quickly grasp complex boiler topics. Watch more here!

Relevant WARE Blog Articles on Water Treatment

What to Know About Feedwater

How Conductivity Can Affect the Level in the Boiler's Sight Glass

Having Issues with Your System? Check These Common Boiler Issues First

How to Prevent Rust and Scale Build-Up in Your Firetube Boiler

Our informative and educational blog content can help you gain a deeper understanding of the boiler room. Read more here!

Technical Documents

Rental Contingency Plan

Water Treatment FAQ

How often should I treat the water in my boiler?

Water treatment is an ongoing process of analysis and adjustment. It should be tested at least once per boiler operator shift. Testing should be performed more frequently if the main water supply is of inconsistent quality.

Can water quality be automated?

Absolutely. WARE sells a variety of water quality automation systems that take readings, add chemicals, and deaerate as needed to preserve water quality.

Does filtration affect the quality of my water, too?

Filtration can be highly effective at removing dissolved solids, but depending on the quality of the water supply, enough solids can remain in suspension to cause damage and loss of boiler performance.