Wood boiler water treatment is critical to the proper maintenance of a wood-fired boiler heating system. If operated and maintained properly, a wood boiler is an economical and environmentally friendly alternative home heating source. Treating the boiler water to prevent corrosion and scale buildup will keep the system operating at maximum efficiency and will extend its useful life by many years.
Why Boiler Water Needs Treatment
Wood boiler water needs to be treated on a regular schedule to prevent corrosion, scale buildup and biological growth. Supply water from a well or a municipal water system contains impurities such as calcium and magnesium that can precipitate to form a layer of scale inside the boiler and other system parts. Scale buildup is a serious impediment to heat transfer and will reduce the efficiency of the system, resulting in wasted fuel and increased operating costs. Iron and steel parts inside the system will rust in the presence of water and oxygen. This corrosion will decrease the life of the system by causing leaks and failure of parts. Bacteria, fungi and algae can grow in untreated boiler water and accelerate corrosion.
Commercial Boiler Water Treatments
Wood boiler users should have their boiler water analyzed for pH and chemical composition in order to choose effective treatment plans for their systems. Commercial treatment products are available for every type of water chemistry. Products vary in concentration and application procedures, so users should read product-specific instructions and follow them carefully for the best results. Boiler water chemistry should be checked several times per year and the water should be treated as frequently as necessary.
New Boiler System Treatment
A treatment program should be started as soon as a new boiler is installed. It is easier to prevent scaling and corrosion in the first place than it is to try to eliminate them after they have started. The new system should be thoroughly cleaned and flushed with fresh water to remove any grease or other chemical residues left over from the manufacturing process. Then an appropriate treatment program designed for the specific chemistry of the supply water should be started when the boiler is put into service.
Watch for Biological Growth
Cloudy and discolored boiler water can be an indication of bacteria, algae or fungi in the water. Using chlorine bleach in the water will kill these organisms, but it is also highly corrosive. It is better to use a non-oxidizing biocide to keep the water clear. Antifreeze containing glycol can encourage biological growth in the system and also reduces the heat transfer ability of the water, so it is best to avoid use of antifreeze if possible.
Summer Wood Boiler Maintenance
Proper boiler water treatment during the summer when the boiler is not being used is just as important as treatment during cold weather. It is better to leave the boiler filled with treated water to prevent corrosion rather than draining it for the season. Leaving the boiler empty and exposed to the air encourages corrosion. Paying attention to summer maintenance will make starting the system up again in the fall simple and inexpensive.
- Photo Credit furnace image by sumos from Fotolia.com rust image by sasha from Fotolia.com
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