12 Common Myths About Boiler Water Treatment

Are these pervasive water treatment myths silently wreaking havoc on your industrial boiler’s efficiency and performance? 

Or worse, are they shortening your industrial boiler’s lifespan, putting it at risk of breakdown or catastrophic failure? 

Much like the harmless yet widely believed myth that humans only use 10% of their brains, the world of industrial boilers is filled with seemingly harmless misconceptions—except these myths come with costly consequences. 

In this article, we debunk common myths about industrial boiler water treatment—so you can follow best practices to optimize your boiler’s performance, efficiency, and lifespan. 

Get ready to uncover truths that will empower you to manage your industrial boiler more effectively and safeguard its longevity. 

Myth 1: All Water is the Same

The Reality 

Water quality varies between municipalities and water sources. Prior to entering the boiler, feed water must be tested, then treated to remove impurities, such as minerals, dissolved gases, and organic material to reduce the potential for boiler scale, corrosion, and fouling. 

Myth 2: Chemical Water Treatment Can Solve All Problems

The Reality 

Chemical water treatment is critical to reduce the potential for scale, corrosion, and fouling to take place. However, it is just one part of a comprehensive water treatment program. To ensure efficient and safe boiler operation, you may need to include mechanical treatment (filtration, softening, deaeration)and must include: 

  • Regular monitoring and water testing 
  • Regular maintenance, inspection, and cleaning 

Myth 3: You Don’t Need Regular Water Testing

The Reality 

Feed water and boiler water quality can change due to various factors. Feed water can change seasonally. Operational and load changes, system leaks, and equipment malfunctions make regular boiler water testing necessary. Regular water testing and monitoring allows you to adjust your water treatment program as needed to optimize program costs and boiler efficiency. 

Myth 4: Softened Water is the Same as Demineralized Water

The Reality 

Softening removes calcium and magnesium ions from water but does not remove other dissolved ions, such as chlorides and sulfates. Demineralization removes all dissolved ions from the water. Softened water is often used for low-pressure boilers below 600 PSI while higher pressure systems commonly use higher purity water such as demineralized or reverse osmosis water.

Myth 5: Regular Boiler Blowdown is Not Necessary

The Reality 

Boiler blowdown is essential to control dissolved solids and solid particles in the boiler water. Blowdown frequency and volume varies depending on the water treatment program, boiler design, operation, and the quantity of unwanted particles in the feedwater. Blowdown rate is often determined by the total dissolved solids content and based on achieving the cycles of concentration limit outlined by your water treatment program. Failure to perform regular boiler blowdown can lead to scale, corrosion, and fouling. 

Myth 6: Scale Formation is Not a Big Deal

The Reality 

Scale formation on the boiler surfaces reduces heat transfer efficiency. It can lead to overheating of the boiler tubes, under-deposit corrosion, and even tube failure. Even a thin layer of scale can reduce a boiler’s efficiency, increase fuel consumption and operating costs. A 0.8 mm layer of scale can reduce boiler efficiency by 8%—resulting in higher fuel consumption and operating costs. 

Myth 7: pH Control is Not That Important

The Reality 

pH control is one parameter to prevent boiler corrosion. Below the recommended pH of your boiler water treatment program, corrosion of the boiler tubes and other components can occur. Above the recommended pH, scale, fouling, and solids carry over in the steam can take place. It’s important to maintain pH level within the recommended range to properly protect the boiler and optimize operation. 

Myth 8: Oxygen Scavengers are Not Necessary

The Reality 

Dissolved oxygen in the water can cause pitting corrosion in the boiler system. Mechanical deaeration removes most of the oxygen from the feed water. However, chemical oxygen scavengers are required to remove residual dissolved oxygen. Oxygen scavengers are essential to protect the boiler and its components from piting corrosion which results in irreversible damage to boiler tubes. 

Myth 9: Condensate Treatment is Not Important

The Reality 

Condensate contains dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide. Untreated, these cause corrosion in the condensate piping and feed water tank. In time, this can result in system contamination, valve malfunction, burst pipes and costly repairs. Condensate treatments include neutralizing amines, filming amines and oxygen scavengers. The condensate treatment program will depend on the steam end-use. 

Myth 10: All Boilers Require the Same Water Treatment

The Reality 

Different boilers have different requirements for water quality. Your water treatment program needs to be tailored to your make up water quality, boiler type, design, and use. Factors such as boiler pressure, temperature, and design affect water quality requirements. Your boiler water treatment program needs to be designed based on your boiler use too! Water treatment for a boiler used in a food processing plant is different from a boiler used for comfort heating in a commercial real estate tower. 

Myth 11: TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) is Not Important

The Reality 

High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) levels lead to scale formation in the boiler—reducing heat transfer and efficiency. Left unchecked, scale formation can increase operating costs and eventually lead to corrosion and boiler failure. While it is better to prevent scale, it can be removed with on-line descaling programs or acid cleaning. 

Myth 12: Only Large Boilers Require Water Treatment

The Reality 

All boilers, regardless of their size, require proper water treatment to ensure safe and efficient operation. A proper boiler water treatment program helps prevent scale, corrosion, and fouling. Even small boilers can suffer catastrophic failure from these problems if the water is not properly treated. 

Conclusion

Proper water treatment ensures efficient and safe operation of industrial boilers. Avoid these common boiler water treatment myths to optimize your boiler’s performance, reduce energy consumption, and extend its lifespan. 

Remember, a comprehensive water treatment program tailored to your boiler’s specific needs combined with regular water testing, monitoring and maintenance will help ensure your boiler operates efficiently and safely. 

When you’re ready, contact Guardian Chemicals to learn how you Create a Better Future and protect your boiler system with our custom water treatment programs. 

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