The Cost of Water Treatment and the Consequences of Poorly Treated and Untreated Boiler, Cooling, and Closed-Loop Water

Are You Overlooking Your Facility’s Most Critical Assets? 

What if the silent threat of scale, corrosion, and microbiological growth was undermining your efficiency, safety, and bottom line? 

These unseen costs could be draining your budget. From skyrocketing energy bills to unexpected equipment failures, the price of poorly treated water in boilers, cooling towers, and closed loops is steep. 
Protecting your investment is crucial. In this article, we identify the consequences of poorly treated water, and the costs of doing it right with effective water treatment programs. With proactive management, you can safeguard your systems and unlock remarkable savings. 

Water treatment isn’t a cost, it’s an investment. Dive into our comprehensive guide to learn why investing in your water systems is a strategic move you can’t afford to overlook. 

Why You Need Water Treatment

Corrosion, scale, and microbiological growth are the three primary challenges in water systems. Left unchecked, the efficiency, safety, and longevity of your boilers, cooling towers, and closed-loop heating and cooling systems is put at risk. 

Consider these facts: 

  • Just 1 mm of scale can reduce your heat transfer efficiency by 50% resulting in increased fuel and electricity costs. 
  • Corrosion can eat your system from the inside-out, reducing it’s life and resulting in costly repairs or replacement. 
  • Microbiological growth can result in health and safety risks. In cooling towers, legionella exposure can result in a fatal form of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease. 
  • Well-designed water treatment programs minimize bleed and blowdown. The result, reduced water consumption, reduced water costs, and a lower environmental impact. 


Poorly treated or untreated water leads to scale buildup, corrosion, and biological contamination. All these result in: 

  • increased energy consumption 
  • Increased water consumption 
  • and a shorter lifespan for your equipment 


And lead to: 

  • Higher energy costs 
  • Higher water costs 
  • Potential unplanned downtime 
  • Equipment failure 
  • Health and Safety risks 
  • Compliance violations 


An investment in an effective water treatment program enhances your system’s efficiency and extends system life, preventing costly failures and unplanned downtime—leading to substantial cost savings. 

The Cost of Scale and Corrosion

Without proper treatment, scale builds up and insulates heat transfer surfaces, leading to a dramatic drop in efficiency and increased energy costs. Energy costs increase because scale acts as an insulator, holding the heat or cold in—and preventing proper heat transfer. An often-overlooked contributor to increased energy costs is the increase in pump power due to flow restrictions caused by scale. 

Graph showing the effect of calcium carbonate scale on heat transfer efficiency by varying thickness for boilers, cooling towers, and closed loops.


Corrosion by-products can also build up reducing heat transfer and increasing energy costs, but the real cost of corrosion is the risk of catastrophic equipment failure and costly repairs. That’s because corrosion left unchecked destroys your system from within. 

The Cost of Biological Fouling and Microbiological Growth

If not properly managed, water systems are natural breeding grounds for harmful microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, and algae. Without proper water treatment, microorganisms can heavily contaminate your system, form biofilms, cause under-deposit corrosion and system blockages. 
Worse, unchecked microbiological growth creates health hazards like Legionella outbreaks, putting not just your system, but your building’s occupants at risk. Legionella is most prevalent in cooling tower systems but often found in other water systems too. 

The Hidden Cost of Energy Inefficiency in Boilers and Cooling Systems

Neglecting water treatment in boilers and cooling towers isn’t just a maintenance issue; it’s a direct hit to your energy bills. Poorly maintained systems work harder and are far less efficient, leading to significant energy wastage and higher operating costs. 

Boilers: The Price of Scale and Sludge Accumulation

Scale and sludge from untreated or poorly treated water insulate heat transfer surfaces and reduce efficiency. For every millimeter of scale, fuel consumption increases by a staggering percentage, driving up natural gas and electricity costs. The more energy boilers consume, the more your facility’s operational budget inflates, turning minor neglect into a major expense. Worse, scaled boilers are more likely to fail.

Learn more about common boiler water treatment myths that reduce your boiler lifespan and increase operating costs—and commonly used inhibitors for boiler treatment to prevent these problems.

Cooling Towers: Combatting Energy Drains

Scale, sediment, and biofilms reduce cooling efficiency, forcing the system to work harder and consume more energy. This increases electricity usage and strains the system, potentially leading to more frequent breakdowns and maintenance calls.

Proper water treatment and cooling tower maintenance helps prevent these problems and reduce your operating costs.

Closed Loops: The Overlooked Energy Consumers

Closed loop systems, though not directly exposed to air and contaminants like open systems, still need effective water treatment. Corrosion within these systems can lead to poor heat transfer and circulation issues, indirectly increasing energy use as pumps and heaters are forced to work harder to achieve the same result. A proper water treatment program including effective filtration will enhance your closed loop system lifespan and efficiency.

Learn more about closed loop chemical water treatment and maintenance and what influences your closed loop operating and water treatment costs.

Proactive Water Treatment Prevents Hidden Costs

Proactive Water Treatment, regular water testing, and maintenance for boilers, cooling towers, and closed loops are critical to maintaining energy efficiency. By preventing scale, corrosion, and bio-fouling you ensure systems operate within their designed efficiency range, minimize energy use and reduce overall operating costs.  

Understanding Water Treatment Costs: An Essential Guide

Understanding the costs involved in water treatment is key for any facility manager. These costs include spending on chemicals, equipment, and labour. While these expenses might seem substantial upfront, they are minimal compared to your total operational costs and generate significant savings. 

Investing in a high-quality water treatment program leads to substantial financial returns over time. 

An effective water management program is an investment that: 

  • enhances your system’s efficiency and longevity 
  • results in energy and maintenance savings 
  • and prevents early equipment failure and replacement 

Water treatment costs represent just 2-4% of your total operating cost for steam boilers and cooling systems, but help you operate at the lowest operating cost. 

steam boiler and cooling system operating costs including water treatment

“We have saved so much in repairs by ensuring we are using the proper chemicals to get the best results.”

To keep water treatment costs in check, it’s crucial to select the right water treatment supplier, perform regular water testing, and ensure your staff is well-trained. 

By integrating these insights into your water management strategy, you can protect and optimize your heating and cooling systems to operate efficiently at the lowest operating cost. 

Secure Your Facility's Future with Guardian Chemicals

Water treatment is an investment that helps you guard against inefficiency, compliance failures, and safety hazards. This crucial aspect is too significant to ignore—poorly treated systems suffer operational setbacks, escalating expenses from unplanned maintenance and energy costs, and severe health risks. 

At Guardian Chemicals, our industry experts optimize your system treatment for maximum efficiency and reliability. Our water treatment programs:

  • reduce energy consumption
  • reduce downtime, repairs, and maintenance
  • reduce health & safety risks
  • reduce water consumption and environmental impact
  • and extend system life. 

The success of your water treatment program depends on a holistic approach. From the moment water enters the building until it leaves, water needs to be properly managed and treated to ensure the longevity of your systems. 

We “get it.” We’re obsessed with protecting your systems and helping you achieve the lowest total operational costs. The right equipment and treatment combined with remote monitoring and predictive data analytics ensure reliable, predictable results. 

Contact our Industry Experts to learn how you Create a Better Future with water treatment Chemistry Done Better! 

Table of Contents

FAQ: The Real Cost of Water Treatment and the Hidden Costs of Poorly Treated or Untreated Boiler, Cooling Tower and Closed Loops

What is the Cost of a Water Treatment Program?

Effective water treatment program costs vary by the system (whether a boiler, cooling tower, or closed loop) and size. All systems require ongoing chemical treatment, water testing, and maintenance. Some systems will benefit from automation equipment. 

Water treatment costs represent just 2-4% of your total operating cost for steam boilers and cooling systems, but help you achieve the lowest operating costs. 

How Do Poorly Treated or Untreated Systems Impact Facility Operational Costs?

Poorly treated or untreated systems, suffer from significant increases in resource use due to scale and corrosion deposits. Water, electricity, and natural gas add significant costs to facility operations.

Consider this, 64% of a cooling tower operating cost is electricity, and fuel accounts for 76% of boiler operating costs. In poorly treated systems these costs can skyrocket due to poor heat transfer. 

Poorly treated or untreated systems are more likely to break down and require repair or costly equipment replacement. Unplanned downtime disrupts operation. 

What are the Hidden Costs of Poorly Treated or Untreated Water Systems?

Beyond visible repairs, untreated systems can lead to health hazards, such as Legionella outbreaks, potentially resulting in legal liabilities. Unplanned downtime also disrupts operations, affecting productivity and revenue. And, poor treatment could result in costly equipment replacement! 

Can Effective Water Treatment Result in Net Savings for Facilities?

Effective treatment minimizes energy use, repairs, and optimizes water use—leading to substantial net savings. Combined with regular system maintenance, effective water treatment also prevents costly breakdowns and ensures systems operate at peak efficiency. 
At Guardian Chemicals, our service representatives optimize your system treatment for maximum efficiency and reliability. Our water treatment programs: reduce energy consumption; reduce downtime, repairs, and maintenance; reduce health & safety risks; reduce water consumption and environmental impact; and extend system life.

What Key Factors Influence the Cost of Water Treatment Solutions?

Water quality, system complexity, and facility size have a direct effect on chemical treatment costs for your boiler, cooling tower, or closed loop. Customized solutions tailored to specific needs can optimize expenditures and enhance system performance.

What Steps Can Facilities Take to Avoid the Hidden Costs of Poor Water Treatment?

Implement an effective water treatment program using high-quality chemicals, regular monitoring and water testing, and maintenance. Train staff on water treatment best practices including water testing, acceptable parameters, and proper dosage to mitigate hidden costs.

What Specific Financial Risks Are Associated with Neglecting Water Treatment in Cooling Towers and Boilers?

Ignoring treatment can lead to catastrophic system failures, significant repair or replacement expenses, and potential regulatory fines for non-compliance with safety standards. In the case of Legionella outbreaks, financial risk is increased due to reputational damage and potential lawsuits.

What are the Average Long-Term Savings Associated with Preventing Scale and Corrosion?

Long-term savings will vary by facility size and equipment type, however reductions in energy and maintenance costs are common. Well-maintained systems require fewer repairs and last longer, contributing to overall operational savings.

How Does Scale Formation Affect Boiler Efficiency and Costs?

Scale acts as an insulator, reducing heat transfer efficiency in boilers and forcing them to use more fuel. Heat transfer losses depend on scale thickness and typeJust 1 mm of scale can reduce your heat transfer efficiency by 50% resulting in increased fuel and electricity costs.

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