Electric Water Heater (C) Daniel Friedman Hot Water Heater Tank Lime & Scale Prevention

  • SCALE PREVENTION, WATER HEATER - CONTENTS: Water heater noise troubleshooting, diagnosis, causes & repair. How to stop & prevent water heater rumbling, clanking, cracking, or other hot water heater noises. Scale formation in water heaters or geysers, and methods of prevention.
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Water heater or calorifier scale & lime prevention:

How to stop scale and lime formation in water heaters: here we explain how to Prevent Future Scale Deposits in Water Heater Tanks or on Electric Water Heater Electrodes - Scale formation in water heaters and methods of prevention.

We include discussion of rate of deposition of lime and scale in plumbing systems and of how to inspect, test, adjust, repair, and choose among types of hot water heaters.

Water heater synonyms for equipment discussed here incude: geyser (non-potable water), calorifier (potable water). Water heater tank synonyms: hot water tank, water heater tank, calorifier tank, geyser tank, water kettle, water cauldron, water pot, water copper, domestic hot water, or DHW.

The articles at this website will answer most questions about diagnosing and curing noisy domestic water heaters and about the procedure to remove mineral deposits, lime, water scale, silicates, sulfates, aluminates, or silt and sand from a water heater tank.

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Step 3: How to Prevent Future Scale Deposits in Water Heater Tanks or on Electric Water Heater Electrodes


Scale formation in water heaters and methods of prevention

At WATER HEATER SCALE DE-LIMING PROCEDURE we discussed how to remove existing scale and line from a water heater. Here we continue with water heater de-liming Step 3: advice on how to prevent scale and lime formation in or on water heating equipment.

Photo at left: Limescale deposits, SEM scanning electron microscopy micro-graph with a field of view of just 64 x 90 microns. Source: "Limescale" - Wikipedia, retrieved 11/13/2013 [Click to enlarge any photo or image]

Lime and scale in a hot water tank, caused by hard water as well as silicates, sulfates, and similar materials form water scale that coats the bottom of a hot water tank or the surface of the electrodes in an electric water heater, interfering with proper water heater operation, causing water heater noises, reduction in hot water quantity, increased water heater operating costs, and a shorter water heater life.

Silt and soil debris can also collect in a water heater tank where it can cause similar problems even if the water supply is not hard.

Silt and debris can be easily removed from a hot water tank by periodic flushing. In fact if your water heater is quite noisy, it will probably be easier to remove un-wanted mineral deposits from the water tank than it will be later if you wait until the heater is no longer making much noise (because the mineral layer has solidified). Install a sediment filter on the incoming water supply to avoid this problem in the first place.

But lime or water scale are more difficult to remove from (and easier to prevent in) a water heater: manually scraping the tank bottom through the drain opening or use of a de-limer chemical will be needed. Below we describe these procedures. Readers should also see our discussion of mineral clogging of water piping, water heaters, and tankless coils, organized

Other gas fired water heater noises are discussed

Lowering Hot Water Heater Temperature Will Significantly Reduce the Rate of Lime & Scale Formation in a Water Heater Tank

Rate of scale formation in water heaters (C) Daniel Friedman

The rate of deposition of scale inside of a water heater tank depends on

Water heated to higher temperatures deposits lime much faster than at lower temperatures. The Purdue University bulletin cited above charts the relationship between water temperature, total gallons of hot water used per day, and the annual quantity of lime deposition in a plumbing system. Our table below shows data for typical residential use of a hot water heater. At larger volumes of daily use the same relationship holds but the total quantity of lime deposited is much greater.

Pounds of Mineral Deposit in a Water Heater / Year
Water Temperature
Gallons per Day
Pounds of Lime
120 degF 300 0.85
120 degF 600 1.00
140 degF 300 2.00
140 degF 600 6.00
160degF 300 6.00
160 degF 600 18.00

Notes: Pounds of lime are estimated by interpolation from graph

Safety Warning: water temperatures above 120 deg.F. are scalding. If your water heater is going to be set at higher temperatures not only will you see a faster deposition of lime in the tank, for safety you should install a mixing valve at the water heater outlet or at every plumbing fixture that uses hot water.

Thanks to researcher Robyn Goldstein for the full citation of Scale formation in water heaters and methods of prevention", Purdue Bulletin No. 74.

Surprisingly, while scale formation in water heaters was found to be rapid at higher temperatures, the water heater thermal efficiency was not as significantly effected as the researchers anticipated. It was also interesting that scale formation in the heater was not uniform - because temperatures across a water heater and its parts are themselves not uniform.

What is important about this data is the dramatic reduction in scale and lime formation in water heaters when the temperature was reduced from 175 degF. down to 140 degF.

Considering that hot water is dangerously scalding even at 140 degF, only where scale formation is not a problem (low mineral content in the water source) and where a cold water mixing valve has been installed for safety, would it be reasonable to operate a residential water heater at high temperatures.

Back in 1940 Krappe reported that unlike high temperature residential heating boilers (heating water to 180-200 degF) where lime and scale formed rapidly in a tankless coil (TANKLESS COILS) ,

In a range boiler

or in a side-arm type water heater
see SIDE ARM COIL WATER HEATER attached to boilers, (and in separate water heaters heated to high temperatures), gas fired water heaters fitted with temperature controls that kept water below 140 degF. were often found to run for 8 years or longer with little or no scale formation problems.

The role of high temperature in water heater lime and scale formation also explains the rapid clogging of tankless coilsused for domestic hot water production. Residential heating boilers regularly operate at temperatures between 180 degF. and 200 degF., causing rapid scale formation where hard water is passing through the tankless coil.


Types of Water Heaters & Scale Formation

Krappe listed the following types of water heating devices in order of their tendency to "give service difficulty from scale formation"

  1. Furnace coils - tankless coils
  2. Water heaters not equipped with temperature limit controls
  3. Manual side-arm type water heaters
  4. Automatic side-arm type water heaters
  5. Instantaneous, or continuous-flow-type water heaters without a temperature limiting thermostat
  6. Instantaneous, or continuous-flow-type water heaters with a temperature limiting thermostat
  7. Automatic water heaters with internally heated tanks
  8. Automatic water heaters with externally heated tanks

Other Steps to Avoid Lime, Scale, and Silt Deposits in a Hot Water Tank

Electronic Scale Prevention Equipment for Plumbing Systems - research

Warning: Be sure to research these alternative methods for handling hard water and scale formation as some vendors may sell treatments that are ineffective and possibly harmful. Eg: electronic de-scaling may have an effect on copper and some other metal piping (Nogué 2000).

Research on using electronic scale prevention or scale removal equipment for plumbing systems and water calorifiers, heaters, geysers:

Magnetic Water De-Scaling for Plumbing Systems - Research

Watch out: do not confuse magnetic water purifiers and magnetic de-scaling methods. Magnetic water filters and purifiers: are junk science and are not a reliable means of assuring safe drinking water. Discussed in FILTERS for DRINKING WATER PURIFICATION

Abrasive Jet De-Scaling

How Mineral Deposits and Heating May Weaken a Water Heater Tank Bottom, Contributing to BLEVE Explosion

Water heater BLEVE Explosion - Daniel FriedmanWater heater tank explosions are rare thanks to the widespread requirement for and use of pressure and temperature relief safety valves.

The photo (left) shows a hole in the roof made when a water heater exploded, becoming a rocket that passed up through the building.

[Click to enlarge any image]

But if the safety valve has been damaged, modified, or even omitted (as we saw on our neighbor's water heater), that condition, combined with overheating can cause a water tank to explode, creating a BLEVE - boiling liquid vapor explosion that releases tremendous force and causing extreme damage to a building.

Because repeated heating of the water tank bottom may combine with other conditions (such as corrosion or excessive heating due to mineral deposits on the tank bottom) to produce a weak water heater tank bottom, that is the part more likely to fail in an overheat and overpressure condition.

A failure at the water tank bottom may explain why a BLEVE can produce a water tank explosion that behaves like a rocket, sending the water tank skyrocketing up through a building.

Why and how the calorifier coils are affected by scale and corrosion

Reader Question:

7 Jan 2015 Prabhu said

Could please suggest me why and how the calorifier coils get affected by scale and corrosion?

Also suggest to me some points to avoid these effects.Thanks



Let's separate calorifier scaling from calorifier corrosion.

Scaling is the formation of a hard mineral deposit on the internal surfaces of a water heating device. Scaling occurs because of the combination of a water supply that is high in mineral content (usually calcium and magnesium) and heat that causes minerals to precipitate out of the water and onto the heater surfaces forming scale. The article above addresses scale prevention.

Corrosion is the deterioration of (in this case) metal surfaces in a calorifier or piping surfaces, not scale deposition (though both can occur in a single system). Corrosion in water systems is a feature of water chemistry. Some water may have a high index of corrosivity.

Municipal water supplies are in most communities required by law to be maintained within acceptable limits of hardness (mineral content) and corrosiveness (corrosivity index). But property owners served by a private well bear that responsibility themselves.

Have your water tested for hardness and corrosivity - that can tell you what water treatment equipment may be needed.

8 January 2015 prabhu said:

Many thanks for your information. Upon your suggestion, the coils getting affected because of the water quality, right?



"Water quality" is a rather broad and vague term. The answer is yes but only by being more specific can we be useful The specific water qualities involved in tankless coil clogging are hardness and the specific qualities involved in corrosion include a corrosivity inde of the water along with possibly other chemicals in it.



Cures for Hard Water that Clogs Hot Water Tanks, Tankless Coils, and Plumbing Pipes

See WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS for suggestions about dealing with hard water in buildings. [Live link is given just below]


Continue reading at WATER HEATER SCALE DE-LIMING PROCEDURE or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS for suggestions about dealing with hard water in buildings.

Suggested citation for this web page

WATER HEATER SCALE PREVENTION at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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