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Water Treatment


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  #21  
Old 01-15-2014, 05:34:32 PM
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Jim,
Any thoughts, pros, cons, on using Reverse Osmossis water in a boiler? Would it have any cleaning effects on a scaled up boiler? Downside sure would be cost.

Thanks,
Dave
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  #22  
Old 01-16-2014, 05:54:46 AM
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Dave, Great Question
Reverse osmosis can be thought of as a mechanical filter that is so tight, even the water has a difficult time getting through.

The typical first stage of a small residential system that would fit under a sink or mount on a basement or utility room wall is a fine dirt filter, typically 0.5 micron.

The second stage is a carbon filter. This captures chlorine, pesticides, solvents and oils.

These first two filters are typically replaceable standard sized cartridges, 2 1/4" diameter by 9 7/8" long. Be sure the replacement carbon filter is either a solid block ( with a center passage ) or a Granular Activated Carbon ( GAC ) packed cylinder. What you DON'T want is a thin layer of carbon in between a pair of thin pleated fiber layers. This will not do the job.

The heart of the system is the Reverse Osmosis Membrane. It is inside a different looking housing with one 1/4" tubing inlet and two 1/4" outlets. One outlet is the concentrated Reject water, which is a constant flush of most of the salts and minerals. The other outlet is the Product. This has had about 90 - 95 % of the nasties removed, but still has about 5 % remaining. Think of it as a pre-blowdown. Get the bad stuff, including corrosive salts, out of the water before you put it into the boiler.

There is a little valve after this membrane housing, that senses the product water backpressure. When it gets to about 15 PSI, it shuts off the inlet to the RO, and shuts the system down.

The residential systems typically have a miniature captive air storage tank. This holds about 2 gallons of product water under pressure.

The final stage is another carbon filter. This is because the RO product water has no taste of it's own, and a consumer might detect the taste of the poly tubing or vinyl bladder in the storage tank.

The typical $ 200 residential system will produce 15 to 25 gallons per 24 hour day of RO product water. The key for our needs is to have a larger covered storage tank, like one or more 375 gallon plastic tote skid tanks. Be sure to was it out well and keep direct sunlight from hitting the tank. A toilet tank float valve can be used to shut off the delivery from the RO unit and automatically shut the system down by holding backpressure against the shutoff valve.

I have used commercial / industrial sized RO systems to supply tourist railroad operations, 25,000 Gallons per day.

If the water is hard, more than 7 grains per gallon, it is better to soften the water before feeding it to the RO unit.
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Last edited by Jim Conte; 01-16-2014 at 10:33:01 PM. Reason: add schematic link
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  #23  
Old 01-16-2014, 12:28:34 PM
GreasyIron GreasyIron is offline
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Default Re: Water Treatment

I'm a "kitchen chemist" at best, and Jim please correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the RO usage be applicable only if further chemical treatment is used?

It seems that a pH7 would be potentially more acidic than straight from the ground. Especially if slightly "hard," wouldn't hardness would be less damaging than lowering the pH?

Likely a chemically poor analogy, but I wonder too if water that pure wouldn't have just as much affinity to absorb iron ions as scale ions. What says the chemical experts?
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:10:09 PM
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Greasy Iron,
A reverse osmosis unit does not lower the pH of the water.
A reverse osmosis unit removes 90 to 95 % of the Dissolved Solids.
Yes, the pH of water is caused by the balance of what is dissolved in the water,
but removing 90 % of the dissolved stuff doesn't necessarily shift the pH.
What it does, and distilling does the same thing, is make it easier to shift the pH of the water.
Along with a higher amount of dissolved solids comes a buffering,
that is like the difference between a flagpole ( low buffering ) and a pyramid ( high buffering ).
The flagpole is easier to bend or knock over than the pyramid. How's that for kitchen chemistry ?

Not picking on you, G.I., I'm just on a roll...

The dissolved solids ' cycles up ', becomes concentrated in any boiler.
Typically, when the Total Dissolved Solids ( TDS ) reaches 1,500 to 2,000 in a boiler,
the mechanical condition of the foam filling the steam space starts to occur.
This is the cause of carryover, wet steam to the engine.
By lowering the TDS to start with, the tendency to foam and carryover, and the need for blowdown is reduced.
The proper treatment, properly used, as described by users in previous posts,
will not only clean and protect a boiler, but will control the tendency for foaming and carryover.
This means better operation at higher power and also protects the steam motor from abrasion and unnecessary wear.

As far as further treatment being " necessary " or desireable,
I will repeat earlier statements, which have been scientifically proven many years ago and are general engineering practice:

Iron and steel corrode least when the water pH is between 9.5 and 11.5.

Using neutral water, around 7, or anything below pH 8.4, is like adding acid to your boiler.

Scale holds concentrated corrosive salts, oxygen and moisture in contact with boiler metal, even when supposedly ' dry '.

Scale is thermal insulation, it blocks heat transfer and water circulation.
Boiler metal operates hundreds of degrees F higher when scaled compared to clean.


Maybe some haven't made up their mind yet. Maybe some just want to fire up the old engine and be a big shot.
A well known mechanic and restorer in the hobby said to me a few years ago, as he was leaning on his rusted-out truck fender;

" There is no such thing as chlorides. You just made that up to sell your potion. "

IMHO, at the risk of making some enemies, ( there are too many for me to count, and I never cared anyway )
I'll ask anyone and everyone, are you just going to play with that old engine and not care what happens,
or are you going to somewhat care for that historical artifact ?

Hard water scale is " less damaging " than pH 7 water ? Which is less lethal, a machine gun or machete ?
Why have either, why play Russian Roulette with your boiler.
In this day and age, the solutions are too easy and inexpensive to not consider taking care of your boiler properly.
We're talking $ 1.25 per hundred gallons for a boiler fill and $ 1.25 per Thousand gallons of soft makeup water.
At double that dose and cost for hard water, it is still the best bargain in the steam hobby.

Yeah, Yeah, I know, go to any steam show and the vast majority are not treating their boiler...or not talking about it.
A thinking person or a follow-the-crowd sheeple ? Are any stubborn folks that you know of ?
Some have suggested that folks are in this hobby because they are 100 years behind the times,
and not accepting of any change or anything modern.
I don't believe that, they accept modern lubricants and materials, tangible things they can see and touch.
Maybe, water chemistry is too technical ? Nah, there are machinists and welders who wrap their minds around things.
It's all too theoretical and intangible, atoms and ions, molecules, dissolved stuff we can't see, so it doesn't matter.
Possibly the effects take too long to appear. " It will last until I'm gone, that's all I care about." Probably, this is it !

If someone is using ' whatever ' water and not treating to preserve their boiler, is that caring for and preserving it ?

Possibly, some figure their boiler is going to fall apart eventually, what is the difference if it goes sooner rather than later ?

How much will it cost for scientifically accepted and proven water treatment to keep that boiler safe and performing well ?

How much is it going to cost to repair or replace that boiler ?
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Last edited by Jim Conte; 01-16-2014 at 11:05:51 PM.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:52:54 PM
GreasyIron GreasyIron is offline
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Picking on? I asked to be corrected, so I can't complain if I get what I asked for!

I follow the solids buffering water; that is why I imagined the scenario of a higher pH water [say 8.5 with solids] coming around the 7 after RO. That does ignore who knows what percent of water sources with completely different scenarios though.

Neat analogy on the flagpole and pyramid!

I certainly understand solid concentrations rising as steam is used too. So it make sense to control it with one or more methods.

What I don't understand - barring an extreme hardness, back to your flagpole analogy - why anyone would go through the trouble of RO then not bring the pH into boiler friendly ranges?

Corollarily, and again barring extreme water conditions or extra purity concerns [scale boilers perhaps], why not use your product and skip the RO?

Not trying to bring out the infomercial in you Jim, but then it looks like I just attempted to do it for you!
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  #26  
Old 01-16-2014, 11:53:22 PM
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Greasy Iron,
I must be on a Bus Driver's Holiday.
I spent all day dealing with boilers and water chemistry,
then get on 'Stak and go for a bus ride ...

Gotta Love It

R.O. is just one of many tools in the toolbox.
In many cases, the TDS is low enough so that the standard treatments work fine.

In the high population density Snow and Ice country,
the increased use of road salts and especially Magnesium Chloride Brines ( formula Mg Cl 2 )
has been raising havoc with boiler fireboxes and tubes. It is the hot topic.
Probably not so much in the low population density Dakotas and far West.
R.O. is the best technology for reducing the Chloride ( from salts ) concentration.
Otherwise, no pre-treatment and extra chemical, or softening and reduced dose chemical treatment are the regular methods.

It really is impossible to have a technical discussion on boiler preservation without sounding somewhat infomercial.
It is the last frontier to be conquered in the hobby.
I have often commented that boiler preservation is 98 % educating the people and 2 % water treatment.
I have found that to be the case in industry and in the hobby.
People really do want to do the right thing.
The industrial motivations are clear; keep the production equipment working reliably and at reasonable cost.

In the Hobbies, there are a lot of Old Engineers Tales and suspicions of Snake Oil Salesmen about.
I think that is because the science and technology has been only partly and poorly understood,
and some geared-for-industrial water treatments have been tried and failed because they do not meet
the special needs of Traction and Locomotive type applications with cold feedwater, dip the drafting hose in the creek water.
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Old 01-17-2014, 12:38:38 PM
Jeff Smith Jeff Smith is offline
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Default Re: Water Treatment

There are many new members now and they may not know what scale, TDS, etc., and all the other terms of water are. Please consider defining those terms for those folks, maybe in this thread or a new one that can be pulled up every time a new person joins.
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Old 01-17-2014, 07:51:28 PM
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Jeff,
Here is a start, from National Board; http://www.nationalboard.org/SiteDoc...ors/NB-410.pdf

Acid - any chemical compound containing hydrogen that dissociates to produce hydrogen ions when dissolved in water. Capable of neutralizing hydroxides or bases to produce salts.

Alkali - any chemical compound of a basic nature that dissociates to produce hydroxyl ions when dissolved in water. Capable of neutralizing acids to produce salts.

Alkalinity – the state of being alkaline; the degree or quantity of alkaline present. In water it represents the carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides, and occasionally the borates, silicates and phosphates as determined by titration with standard acid and generally expressed as calcium carbonate in parts per million.

Amines – a class of organic compounds that may be considered as derived from ammonia by replacing one or more of the hydrogen ions with organic radicals. They are basic in character and neutralize acids. Those used in water treatment are volatile and are used to maintain a suitable pH in steam and condensate lines.

Base – a compound that reacts with an acid to form a salt, as ammonia, calcium hydroxide, or certain nitrogen-containing organic compounds.

Blowdown/Blowoff – the water removed under pressure from the boiler through the drain to eliminate sediment and reduce total solids. Surface blowoffs remove solids from the boiler’s surface while bottom blow downs remove solids from the bottom of the boiler.

Buffer – a chemical that tends to stabilize the pH of a solution preventing any large change on the addition of moderate amounts of acid or alkalis.

Catalyst – a substance that by its presence accelerates a chemical reaction without itself entering into the reaction.

Chelating – the property of a chemical when dissolved in water that keeps the hard water salts in solution and thus prevents the formation of scale.

Colloid – a fine dispersion in water that does not settle out but that is not a true solution. Protective colloids have the ability of holding other finely divided particles in suspension.

Condensate –the water formed by the cooling and condensing of steam.

Dispersant – a substance added to water to prevent the precipitation and agglomeration (clustering) of solid scale; generally a protective colloid.

Grains per gallon (gpg) – a measure used to denote the quality of a substance present in water (1 gpg = 17.1 ppm).

Hydrazine – a strong reducing agent used as an oxygen scavenger.

Hydroxide – a chemical compound containing the hydroxyl group ( OH― ). The hydroxides of metals are usually bases and those of nonmetals are usually acids; can be either organic or inorganic.

Hydroxyl or Hydroxy – a chemical prefix indicating an OH― group in an organic compound.

Inhibitor – a compound that slows down or stops an undesired chemical reaction such as corrosion or oxidation.

Makeup – water added from outside the boiler water system to the condensate.

Muriatic acid – commercial hydrochloric acid.

Neutralize – the counteraction of acidity with an alkali or of alkalinity with an acid to
form salts.

Orthophosphate – a form of phosphate that that precipitates rather than sequesters (removes) hard water salts.

Parts per million (ppm) – the most commonly used method of expressing the quantity of a substance present in water; more convenient to use than percent due to the relatively small quantities involved.

pH – a scale used to measure the quantity of acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The scale runs from 1 (strong acid) to 14 (strong alkali) with 7 (distilled water) as the neutral point.

Phosphate – a generic term for any compound containing a phosphate group.

Polymerization – the union of a considerable number of simple molecules, called monomers, to form a giant molecule, known as a polymer, having the same chemical composition.

Polyphosphate – a form of phosphate that sequesters (removes) rather than precipitates hard water salts.

Precipitation – the formation and settling out of solid particles in a solution.

Sequestering – the property of a chemical when dissolved in water that keeps the hard water salts in solution and thus prevents the formation of scale. Generally applied
to inorganic compounds such as sodium tripolyphosphate or sodium hexmetaphoshate.

Titration – a method for determining volumetrically the concentration of a desired substance in solution and strength until the chemical reaction is completed as
shown by a change in color of a suitable indicator.

Zeolite – originally a group of natural minerals capable of removing calcium and magnesium ions from water and replacing them with sodium. The term has been broadened to include synthetic resins that similarly soften water by ion exchange.
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:09:40 PM
GreasyIron GreasyIron is offline
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Road salts, now I see.

They put plenty of salt on the roads around here, but paved roads being less dense than farther east, we don't hear too much about run-off.

Hope you enjoyed the 'bus ride!"
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Old 01-18-2014, 11:07:57 AM
T James Ives T James Ives is offline
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Default Re: Water Treatment

Thank you all for your time in posting all these answers.
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