Many building owners and maintenance personnel are all too familiar with the troubles of scale. But, just what is it? Scale is an incrustation of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that forms on imperfections on heating elements or within plumbing systems. It is primarily composed of calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+) and bicarbonate (HCO3). Scale deposits grow over time and are highly insoluble, making scale extremely difficult to remove once formed and often leading to costly remediation efforts.
There are a number of issues associated with the growth of scale. First, as scale forms over time, it reduces the inner diameter of pipes and elbows, ultimately leading to restrictions in flow rate and pressure loss problems in systems. Second, scale often becomes encrusted on internal moving parts of valves & components, affecting their intended purpose or worse, causing safety failures. Lastly, in a boiler or hot water tank, heating elements can become coated with scale, reducing system efficiency and increasing operating costs for end users.
The most common approach to dealing with scale was the installation of a water softener. The never-ending consumable cost of salt, required for system regeneration, is expensive and must be considered in the overall cost equation. Although effective in dealing with most scale, water softeners come with some significant drawbacks including:
• Harmful chloride discharge that negatively impacts the environment
• The removal of beneficial minerals (calcium & magnesium) from drinking water
• A backwashing and regeneration process that wastes water
• Large floor space requirements for operation and storage of salt bags
Hard scale build up on exterior of copper pipe in plumbing system.
This temperature and pressure relief valve has become clogged with the accumulation of hard scale, which can lead to potentially dangerous conditions.