Why scale is a problem and how to fight it

Electronic water treatment devices can help decrease scale in milk production and residential water heaters.

The results after 45 days of treatment. All images courtesy of Scalewatcher
The results after 45 days of treatment. All images courtesy of Scalewatcher

Scale buildup is more than a simple nuisance. It can prohibit equipment from functioning and heating/cooling as it should. It can also become a protective environment for bacteria and their breeding grounds. When using chemicals to battle high bacteria counts, survivor instincts take over for the bacteria, and they migrate within the scale walls and are protected from the chemicals. The scale becomes their fortress.

This happens throughout water lines and within water equipment such as boilers, water heaters, chillers, heat exchangers, cooling towers and condensers. When scale builds up, it provides refuge to bacteria and fouls equipment, making it less energy efficient. This results in more downtime and higher maintenance costs. The two examples in this article explain how electronic or physical water treatment devices may help prevent scale buildup for water dealers’ clients without salt or chemicals.

New Cmnie Installed 2 298x300Condenser coil scale in a milk production facility

Recently, Sancor, a factory in Argentina specializing in milk-based products, purchased a physical conditioning unit specifically to treat one of its condensers, which repeatedly experienced scale buildup, forced shutdowns for maintenance and created lost production time.

When the buildup occurred, the condenser coil became the problem. A thick layer of scale developed. To treat it, the compressor was shut down, and caustic chemicals were used to remove the scale.

Understanding that it had a problem, Sancor decided to stop using the chemicals and go green by installing a physical conditioning unit that preceded the condenser. Sancor operators allowed the condenser to be used for 10 months before opening it to inspect the coil. They found that scale was broken down and in the process of being totally removed. No chemicals were used to break down the scale, and no downtime was required to clean the condenser.

Sancor’s operators were pleased with the diminished and almost removed scale. As a result, they plan to place these units before each of their condensers and are discussing full-plant installations for all their water needs. By eliminating the scale buildup, they saved energy and water, and they received the additional benefit of a natural lowering of bacterial counts and less chemical usage to combat bacteria and remove the scale.

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Results after 45 days of treatment.

Electric hot water heaters & scale

An electric hot water heater is a huge asset to homeowners. When they open the tap and hot water flows, all is right with the world. However, when they turn on the tap for hot water and begin to hear clamoring and clanking from the basement or only receive lukewarm water, scale buildup on the elements is probably  to blame.

When this occurs, many homeowners break down and purchase a new water heater, or they take the time to drain the tank, flush out what they can, turn up the heat on the elements and cross their fingers that they will be able to get a few more months of hot water out of their water heater. If they were to pull the heating elements, they may find buildup on the heater.

This scaling impedes heat transfer to the water and is a bacterial breeding ground. In this case, scaling fouls the heating elements and causes water heaters to fail prematurely. Even with a conventional salt softener, homeowners may still find scale accumulation on the heating elements because the high temperature of the elements may cause calcium to precipitate and adhere to the element.

The scale on these elements will continue to accumulate even after the water heater has been flushed. For each ¼ inch of scale buildup, a water heater uses 40 percent more energy to heat the water. That is money wasted on energy as the elements work harder for less hot water. Turning up the heat to homeowner’s elements will likely speed up complete failure because the higher heat increases the scale buildup.

Conversely, an electronic water treatment device works specifically on the scale buildup. When a physical treatment unit was installed on the incoming water line before the hot water heater, the device began to break down the calcium buildup, not only in the water lines but also within the hot water heater. Within 20 days of installation, the water heater was drained, and the elements were pulled.

After 45 days of treatment, the water heater was drained again, and the elements were pulled. Not only was the scale broken down, but the elements were also working properly and heating the water as designed. No gurgling sounds emanated, and the temperature did not need to be turned up. Most important, no more scaling was occurring.

The electronic treatment device requires no plumbing and no special tools, and it can be installed in 20 minutes. Water feels and acts as if it has been run through a conventional salt system without the slimy feeling that salt conditioned water may have. As another side effect, homeowners can save on cleaning products because their water will seem wetter and will rinse more thoroughly.


Pam McDowell has been the sales office manager for Scalewatcher North America Inc. since 2005. Scalewatcher North America Inc. manufactures and distributes 28 models of electronic water treatment devices throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America. Residential, commercial and industrial applications may benefit from Scalewatcher’s patented water treatment devices. For more information, visit scalewatcher.com, contact Pam McDowell at sales@scalewatcher.com or call 800-504-8577 for an authorized Scalewatcher dealer.

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