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Wood Boiler Solutions llc

Non Pressurized "Open" Systems

Fact: There is lots of “stuff” in your water, especially well water (municipalities treat water to some varying degree in relation to our purposes, therefore problems are lessened with "city" water supplies), all which pose problems for your system. Examples: calcium (lime), iron, oxygen. That is why you treat the water. 
Fact: Without proper treatment of the water in your system you are allowing corrosion and scale deposition to destroy the metals and destroy the efficiency and longevity of your system. (Solution)
Fact: Formal water treatment in industry is in itself a billion dollar worldwide industry. Your outdoor wood boiler has the same basic treatment requirements in regard to properly and effectively using water as a medium for heat exchange as its larger industrial cousins. Same kinds of problems, same kind of medicine.
Fact:  Regardless of the metals used to construct your particular brand boiler they ALL need treatment EQUALLY. We are not going to debate the pros and cons of each metal or get involved in the “metal debate” that seems to be a big part of marketing in this industry. Buy your boiler from a reputable manufacturer and TREAT it right and you will be ahead in the end.
Fact: Water treatment is an ongoing preventative maintenance process, NOT a one time “dump a jug in and I’m done” process. You change the oil in your car periodically even if the dipstick says full don’t you?!
Fact: The universal solvent for treatment chemical is water. Not all products are equal in strength (or formulation--get to that later) so PAY ATTENTION to how much water can be treated by a certain amount of chemical when being a wise consumer. For example, assuming the same chemical formulation one product (Product A) might say to add one gallon of chemical for every 150 gallons of water in your stove. Another product (Product B) says to add one quart of chemical for every 150 gallons of water in your stove. Product B is four times stronger, meaning it contains less water. Shipping is too costly these days to buy a product that requires gallons of chemical to treat your stove. (Solution)
Fact: A test check of your chemical treatment level is best done on a regular schedule. We recommend for best results to check every month if you have the means to do so. Testing is cheap piece of mind. It is the ONLY way to know your system is protected properly. One annual check is adequate as a minimum. (Solution)
Fact: Doubling or more on your treatment product dosage is not going to do any more than recommended amounts, only cost you more. If you get a little more than you would have liked in the system don’t get worked up--just follow the recommended dosage in the first place. But on the other hand DON’T operate at levels lower than recommended with any product.
Fact: The metals in your system require an optimum water pH. This pH adjustment is an important part of the water treatment chemical that you add.  But pH alone is not a good indicator of system protection.   See page "What about pH?"
Fact: If you have an existing system that has been “neglected” by all means starting a good water treatment program will still pay off greatly. You don’t consider life over just because the doctor gives you the bad news about your high blood pressure. You can take corrective measures to increase your longevity, same for your boiler.
Fact: Your wood stove and the metal surfaces contained therein should be cleaned and passivated FIRST THING before putting a new stove in operation (Solution). Ever use a cast iron skillet without properly going through the process of “seasoning” it?   In industry “seasoning “ is referred to as passivation and it is critical for your best results. Besides the process of passivation, cleaning out all the greases, welding by-products, etc. will prevent this stuff from later combining with the “stuff “in your water, gunking up your system and possibly feeding corrosion enhancing biological growth.  Cleaning and passivation enhance the effectiveness of your chemical product.

Fact: Starting a new treatment program or starting treatment all together on an existing system should involve a thorough fresh water flush of the system followed by a complete passivation/clean cycle to get started on the right foot (Solution). If your system is scaled up, address that FIRST (Solution). Effective treatment is very difficult to accomplish through a barrier of crusty scale.
Fact: REMEMBER THAT scale is a lot easier to KEEP OFF than to TAKE OFF for these systems. You WILL know when your system is all scaled up when your heat output greatly falls off and system circulation is plugged up. Scale is a great insulator and will greatly affect heat transfer. You will also be upset when you are presented with the cost and time it will take to correct the problem. (Solution)
Fact: Spring is the proper time to test system water and observe system for sludge build-up, ie dirty water. Use common sense when observing system water.  If you observe heavy sludge or very dirty water when you open a bottom valve on the system (more than just a short burst which is typical) we recommend that you drain and flush the system rather than adding more chemical to correct the problem.    Adding layer upon layer of shingles to your roof may provide a temporary solution but eventually you have to start over.  Same for your stove.  A "sludge conditioner" is best used as a preventative measure as opposed to a reactive measure.  It will provide results but at some point it is best to start fresh.  Flushing the system with fresh water from a hose (high pressure even better if done carefully) with a chemical that aids in scouring out all the junk is a good idea when that time comes and then retreat your system (Solution). This is also the time to run a descaling product (Solution) through your system if needed to crack at and rid the system of deposits. REMEMBER the fact about scale above. This might need to be done every year, or done after multiple seasons. Gauge your frequency of descaling and flushing on 1) the quality of your fill water (if your house bath/kitchen fixtures lime up fast then your boiler will lime even faster) and 2) how often and how much new fill water you have to add to your system over the course of the season because of evaporative loss. Every addition of fill water is an addition of possible scale and sludge problems. The evaporated water leaves pure (steam) but the “stuff” remains in your boiler. If you have been following along you now realize why you NEED to drain the system at some point.   Basically there are two courses for the “stuff” to leave your boiler‘s water--down the drain (or wherever you dump it) or let it adhere to your boiler in the form of scale. If you annually add more than 10% of your total system volume (when full) to “make-up” for losses you will need to pay closer attention to scaling/sludge build-up and its prevention.  Filling with soft water is the BEST thing you can do to be proactive to conditions of scaling.  Soft water fill will eliminate the need to use descaling products ever in a majority of cases.
Fact: Calcium gets less soluble with an increase in temperature and to top that off, it then loves to stick to metal. Have you ever grown a rock in the bottom of your hot water heater ? Unfortunately corrosion loves to work extra hard under scale deposits. Scale also changes heat dynamics and stresses metals. KEEP THE SCALE OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM. (Solution)
Fact: A system that has undergone any form of descaling procedure will need immediate repassivation (Solution)and then proper addition of regular treatment (Solution).
Fact: Filling a limed/scaled boiler with acid will work to dissolve deposits, but without a working knowledge of how to do this properly you will also seriously jeopardize the metals. Acid is VERY dangerous to work with and to dispose of properly. Proactively addressing scale with a safe and more appropriate chemical is the better way to go. (Solution)

Fact: Filling your system with softened water from a resin-softener is extremely helpful in preventing scale but is NOT a substitution for chemical treatment by any means. Soft water does not stop corrosion (in fact WITHOUT TREATMENT IT CAN ACCELERATE IT) but does reduce lime scale build-up on your heat transfer metals. Properly treated softened water is the right choice for filling your boiler.  THIS SHOULD BE A PRIORITY! (Solution)
Fact: Not all formulations are equal in their ability to protect your systems. None, from a reputable source, are going to harm your system but some offer superior technology and therefore superior results. Some products out there are just hand me downs from industry and were not designed specifically for an outdoor wood stove. They may work to some degree but are you getting the most for your dollar? Bar soap will wash your hair but will it provide the best results? (Solution)
Fact: Nitrite is a common corrosion inhibitor ingredient in most wood stove water treatment chemicals because it works well with ferrous metals (iron, steel) and is EASY to test for. Nitrites are NOT the only chemical constituent by far in a good corrosion inhibitor formulation. Also, Nitrites are not going to retard scaling deposition and so on. Given this, many if not most formulations will have you test for Nitrites as a way to monitor and control chemical level. If you keep your Nitrite level within the recommended range you will be properly using and applying all facets of your treatment chemical to its full potential and benefit. (Solution)
Fact: The ability of your system to maintain an adequate chemical residual (or level) is dependent on MANY variables, including but not limited to: quality of your fill water, temperature, how often you have to add water to the system, age and condition of your system. Point is--add the recommended dosage but don’t consider your work done. Stay diligent in testing and maintaining proper levels, ADDING WHEN NECESSARY.
Fact: Summer is a CRITICAL but often ignored time of year for your investment. Corrosion doesn’t take a break just because you are done heating with the boiler. Draining a boiler and leaving it high and dry for the summer is not recommended procedure. Exposure to the atmosphere will greatly accelerate corrosion and pitting of the metal surfaces. Wet summer storage is recommended with proper chemical treatment to clean and prepare the system if you do drain and then keep correct chemical treatment levels (Solution). Proper lay up and treatment is VITAL with the cool storage water over summer. The colder the water, the more dissolved Oxygen it contains.   Oxygen means “RUST“. It is vital that you have enough treatment chemical (follow manufacturer’s recommendations) in your system at all times and this includes when it is not in use.  Another tip is to completely fill your boiler with chemically treated water to protect the system at and above the waterline.  In the fall return the water by draining to the normal operating level.
Fact: Biological growth (bacteria, algae, fungi) within a system is a SERIOUS, common, often overlooked source of corrosion.   System water will become dirty or cloudy in appearance (colored) when growth is present and these are signs that YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. These unwanted tenants and their life processes within your system will create accelerated conditions of corrosion. Being proactive to this is a lot easier than being reactive. Keep your system water clean and non-supportive of such growth. Glycol and petroleum products can be a food source for microbes, so keep these out and add an appropriate non-oxidizing biocide (chemical to kill growth without aiding corrosion) periodically along with fresh water replacement of the system water.

Fact: Chlorine bleach can kill the growth in your system but it is also VERY CORROSIVE and should not be used in your system except as a last resort and then flush, flush, flush, passivate, flush, and treat. Next, cross your fingers.
Fact: Certain bacteria will “eat” the Nitrites in water treatment chemicals so these bacteria will aggressively and prematurely deplete chemical levels within your system, jeopardizing your system.
Fact: Glycol antifreeze will GREATLY reduce your boiler efficiency (cost you 30% or more wood) and makes proper treatment a real pain and expense. Glycol alone only prevents system freezing--IT IS NOT A CORROSION INHIBITOR. Many glycol products may contain inhibitors but do not assume this and do not assume they are quality or application-appropriate inhibitors. Just as you need to flush the radiator on your car periodically, same holds true for your stove (many stove manufacturers recommend once a year) and when you flush you lose everything and have to DISPOSE of everything.  Given all this we do not recommend antifreeze for an open system but if you must then you must.   If you leave on vacation for a period of time in the winter an option you have is to run Lay-Up Solution 103 prior to leaving, dump the system completely and leave it dry in your absence, and when you return,refill system adding correct dosage of Treatment Solution 101.  Cost and hassle is far less than antifreeze in this type of system.
Fact: Automotive antifreeze IS NOT appropriately formulated AND NOT RECOMMENDED for your outdoor wood boiler.  Don't use it in your boiler!
Fact: Chemical should be stored properly.  Keep unused product in a cool place out of direct sunlight and direct heat.

Fact: The problems associated with improper or no treatment don’t necessarily appear overnight by any means. Preventative maintenance is geared toward longevity.
Fact: Proper WATER TREATMENT for your outdoor wood boiler IS CHEAP!! When you buy a $5000.00 car you spend $20.00 to $30.00 periodically for an oil change don‘t you? For the price of a few oil changes you can do things right for a similarly priced investment and your return will be much greater.
Fact: Someone will tell you that they don’t do any of this with their boiler and everything is fine. That person also drives a car with four bald tires that has the same spark plugs after 200,000 miles… General maintenance and taking care of your investments is what you make of it … No one is going to stop YOU from trying YOUR LUCK!

Information, Solutions and Quality Products for Outdoor Wood Boiler Owners