For areas where water hardness levels exceed 200 ppm, fitting a WRAS approved scale reducer is best practice and a necessity for optimum boiler protection. However, fitting a scale reducer without twisting the pipe or applying additional stress can often be a difficult task. Gavin McLeod, Product Manager at Fernox looks at how to overcome this issue and what to consider when selecting a high quality scale reducer.

Some of the most densely populated areas of the UK, such as London and Newcastle are within hard water regions. In fact, according to British Water, the majority of England is subjected to water hardness levels that exceed 200 parts per million (ppm).

The ‘hardness’ of the water delivered to a home depends entirely on its geographical location as the local geology and rock formations will affect the chemical make-up of the water supply. This is due to groundwater coming into contact with the layers of rock beneath the soil. As the groundwater runs over the stone it absorbs calcium and creates ‘hard water’.

Containing between 200 and 300mg of calcium carbonate per litre, hard water inevitably leads to the formation of limescale within water systems and household appliances, such as washing machines, dishwashers and kettles. Even though the presence of limescale within a heating system is not as visually apparent to the average homeowner as it is in everyday kitchen appliances, its existence is just as prominent and potentially harmful.

Installers will no doubt be aware that limescale deposits can cause blockages in pipework, reducing system efficiency. This forces the boiler to work harder to achieve the desired temperature and can lead to fluctuating heat flows, cold spots in radiators and the premature failure of vital system components. Excessive limescale can also be the source of noise pollution in the home known as ‘kettling’. As scale deposits restrict and directly affect the water flow within the heat exchanger, water gets trapped and begins to overheat, creating steam and a rumbling sound as the boiler struggles to start up. Fundamentally, the presence of limescale in a boiler reduces its lifespan and is one of the main causes of spiralling fuel bills for the homeowner.

This is why Part L of the Building Regulations states that where mains hard water exceeds 200 ppm the feed water to water heaters and the hot water circuit of combination boilers must be treated to reduce the rate of limescale build-up.

In such cases a Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) approved scale reducer must be installed as part of a comprehensive protection strategy to help extend the lifecycle of the boiler and to reduce the adverse effects of hard water on a central heating system’s efficiency.

There are two main types of scale reducer on the market. Magnetic scale reducers prevent the build-up of scale using magnetic principles, acting as a water conditioner. These devices offer single appliance protection and are ideal for shower heads and kettles, and ensures that should any scale reform – it is far easier to remove.

Electrolytic scale reducers offer whole house protection by altering the structure of the salts that form into limescale, causing the particles to cluster together rather than attach to the pipework and key components of the heating system.

Don’t put pressure on the pipework

There are a multitude of scale reducers out there that can fit onto plastic, copper and brass 15 mm and 22 mm pipework. However, due to the difficulty of installation, many of these products cause unnecessary strain and wear and tear on the pipework.

Scale reducers that are designed with compression fittings in particular can be especially difficult to install without twisting the pipework. This is because the majority of these products are designed without a spanner leverage point by which installers can counter the torque needed to tighten the compression nut and olive.

However, the Fernox magnetic and electrolytic compression fitting scale reducers are optimally designed to allow installers to quickly and safely use one spanner on the leverage point and another to tighten the nut. This procedure ensures installers are taking every precaution to avoid putting additional pressure on the pipe and any torsion – which could compromise the integrity and safety of the system.

For ultimate flexibility onsite, Fernox Scale Reducers are also available with push-fit connections. Designed with simplicity in mind, there is no need for additional tools or a non-return valve to be utilised in the installation process. Installers simply push the device into place – meaning there is no risk to the pipework.

Reliability and durability

Another important factor to consider is the robust quality of the scale reducer . Reputable manufacturers should continuously test products in far more volatile conditions than those typically found in-situ on a central heating system to ensure they can withstand the required temperatures and pressures.

For example, at its new  dedicated product laboratory, Fernox has carried out continuous simulation testing on all of its scale reducers. At the laboratory the temperature of the water flowing through these devices fluctuates between -5 (needs the degree symbol) and 85°C, whereas on a typical heating system the water would only be operating at a temperature between 5 (needs degree symbol) and 82°C. In addition, the maximum water pressure found in a domestic heating system would be in the region of 2 – 2.5 bar, 3 bar at the absolute maximum. However Fernox has tested the pressure cycle between 2 – 10 bar. The units have been subjected to more than 300,000 pressure cycles with zero leaks or failures to date. As a result, Fernox has placed a 10-year warranty on its  scale reducer range.

An all-round approach

To ensure the efficiency and longevity of any heating system, extra protection can be achieved by using Fernox Protector F1, which guards against further corrosion and scale in mixed metal central heating systems. Fernox has also created a revolutionary product, which takes the market leading formula of Protector F1 and combines it with a unique blend of chemical dispersants to continuously protect against the formulation of limescale and sludge as well as actively lifting and delivering contaminants to an in-line system filter for effective removal. A high-performance filtration device, such as the new Fernox TF1 Omega Filter, should also be considered to provide the ultimate in system protection and efficiency.

A professional finish

Magnetic and Electrolytic Scale Reducers should be installed when appropriate as part of a comprehensive protection strategy to help extend the lifecycle of the boiler and reduce the hostile effects of hard water on a central heating system’s efficiency. However, it is important installers recognise that as some of these devices are troublesome to install and designed without a spanner leverage point they may accidentally cause unnecessary damage to the pipework. It is therefore paramount that professional installers select trusted WRAS approved scale reducers from reputable manufacturers, which offer ultimate flexibility onsite and importantly – easy, safe and damage-free installation.