Water treatment

ICOM guide pushesICOM guide pushes proven technologies

ICOM’s focus on “proven” limescale technologies in its newly launched guide will prevent failures, says Chris Shelton, sales director at Sentinel Commercial

According to Chris everyone in the heating industry knows – or at least, should know – that limescale equals big problems. It is the major cause of engineering issues in commercial hot water systems and can result in energy wastage, poor system performance, potential health issues, the need for early replacement of system components and even complete system failure.


Everyone is aware of the issue, but limescale-induced problems still persist on a significant scale. Around 50% of all commercial hot water systems fail to receive effective treatment for the control of limescale. So, what’s been going wrong? The cause really is quite obvious: the historical absence of comprehensive, in- depth and independent guidance on precisely how to prevent limescale in commercial hot water systems. Indeed, hardness is barely mentioned by the Non- Domestic UK Building Services Compliance Guide to Part L, and there has been scarcely any other advice on the subject. Moreover, there is a total lack of industry quality standards for limescale control products. This has left specifiers, consulting engineers, maintenance engineers, and so on, with little choice but to try to piece together such information themselves, accepting incomplete (you can’t know what you don’t know) and potentially unreliable sources as a matter of course. Thankfully, there is now a great opportunity to change this situation following the launch of the new guide. This is the first guide of its kind and has been compiled in consultationwith a range of leading industry specialists after years of research. The aim is to provide an easy to use guide that can “be read and understood by those with no knowledge of the subject whatsoever” (not just water treatment bods). As a result, it covers just about every aspect of water quality that a user will need to protect a hot water system from limescale, ranging from system design and water quality testing to commissioning and maintenance.

While there are aspects of this content that may be familiar to those in the know, there is also important ‘new’ information which will make an enormous, positive contribution to the industry by preventing future system failures, most notably the guide’s recommendation of limescale control products. For example, the guide only recommends “proven” (independently tested and verified) limescale control technologies; water softeners, polyphosphate dosing and zinc electrolytic devices. For years, the non-existence of industry product quality standards to verify manufacturers’ claims has left the market free to run amok with unproven and often inadequate limescale control products. As a result, users have been forced to take a ‘trial and error’ approach to product selection, relying on either personal recommendations or manufacturers’ promises.

However, as the guide correctly highlights, “inappropriate… water treatment or conditioning can prove costly to rectify”. For there is not only the cost of dealingwith a scaled up system to take into account, but also the cost of installing a different type of limescale control solution – again, with little in the way of guarantees. By removing the guesswork and only recommending proven technologies, this ICOM guide will help users to put an end to a significant number of unnecessary failures. It may also offer a valuable alternative to those who have previously stuck with water softeners because of their reliable performance, despite there being other technologies that are perhaps being more suitable for their needs. For example, clients with waste water, energy andmaintenance reduction targets will now be able to choose an alternative ICOM-recommended technology, such as zinc electrolytic, with confidence.

he guide, ‘Water quality considerations of domestic hot water systems for commercial applications’, was launched by the Industrial and Commercial Energy Association (ICOM), last month.

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October 2018


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