Scaling back time: prevention is better than cure

Aqua Cure's Richard Stephenson believes manufacturers and dealers should educate operators on scale prevention.Aqua Cure's Richard Stephenson believes manufacturers and dealers should educate operators on scale prevention.

Richard Stephenson, marketing manager at water purity specialist Aqua Cure, details how the catering equipment industry can help kitchen operators to reduce scaling on their appliances and avoid damage that could result in increased maintenance costs and shortened equipment lifespans:

It’s an oft repeated adage but thousands of commercial kitchen operators are not doing enough to prevent damage that could result in increased maintenance costs and shortened equipment lifespans.

Everyone knows what limescale is – it’s that unsightly deposit that builds up around taps and furs up kettles in hard water areas. But as suppliers and service agents to commercial kitchen operators, do we do enough to educate them on scale and the fact that it could be costing them a fortune?

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For a start, scale is extremely poor at conducting heat; a layer of scale on a heating element effectively acts to insulate it, dramatically reducing heat transfer. British Water calculates that every 1.6mm or 1/16” of scale in a heating system causes a 12% loss in heating efficiency, while The Carbon Trust states that “a 1mm layer of limescale will cause a 7% increase in energy input to the boiler to meet the same heat demand”. What’s more, it’s not always easy to find the cause of this lost efficiency: it could be an element in a sealed boiler or in an area on the piece of equipment where a cover has to be taken off to find it.

And it’s not just boilers that are adversely affected by scale either. Ice machines, warewashers and even steam ovens can be damaged by scale build up. Pipes and nozzles which have become blocked by scale reduce the flow of water, reducing performance and efficiency as pumps have to work longer and harder.

All this can reflect badly on supplied equipment and increase time at site during service calls. Also, given rising energy prices and a growing focus on energy conservation, it’s clear that this is an area where we can help operators make major efficiency savings and help save the planet at the same time.

So who does this apply to? Approximately 60% of consumers in the UK currently receive a hard water supply. You’ll probably already have an idea about how hard all your customers’ water is based on their geographical locations but generally a simple test kit is the best way to work out how hard feed water is.

There are two key technologies for preventing scale in potable (drinking water) supplies:
•    Introducing phosphate into the water. Phosphate is known as a scale inhibitor and locks scale-causing minerals into the water making it less likely to appear in the form of scale.
•    Passing some of the water through something called ion exchange resin. This literally exchanges the scale causing calcium molecules for sodium or hydrogen molecules.

Some filters such as Everpure’s Claris Ultra even combine both for a ‘best of both worlds’ approach.

Working out which of these solutions is best for customers can be tricky. As we’ve been telling our customers at Aqua Cure for some time, you need to tailor the solution – a blanket approach simply doesn’t work with such a complicated process. Factors that must be considered include flow rate, water hardness, application, budget and even water temperature. Once these have been determined, the right solution can be recommended. A wide range of systems are available, including whole kitchen solutions that can treat feed water destined for use with coffee machines, water boilers, ice machines, warewashers and steam ovens.

In a nutshell then? There are some serious savings to be made by preventing scale related damage to equipment, and as suppliers and service agents it’s our responsibility to educate operators and put scale control solutions in place.

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