Stopping Scale In a Humidifier

Stopping Scale In a Humidifier
Posted in: Reverse Osmosis
By Mark Timmons
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Stopping Scale In a Humidifier

Question:  I have a steam humidifier and it is constantly plugging up, and I have to clean the chamber all the time in the winter.  Is there anything I can do to help this?  Would a water softener help?  - Signed C.C. Answer: C.C., Steam humidifiers are unquestionably the best way to humidify your household (or business) air if you live in a climate where that is needed.   However, in 98% of the country, the water requires treatment and I do not mean a water softener.  The problem with steam humidifiers is that most water has some degree of mineralization in it. The minerals are calcium and magnesium, and when water is heated and evaporated by the stream humidifier it leaves the minerals behind.  After a few cycles, if the evaporation chamber contains 1/4 gallon of water, it has the minerals of 4 or 5 gallons (maybe more).  This creates big problems.  A water softener is not the answer because it works by exchanging the calcium and magnesium for sodium.  Instead of calcium and magnesium buildup, you will have sodium buildup. Solutions - on a Scale of 1-10:
  1. Polyphosphate - Some companies have filter cartridges that install on the inlet to the humidifier and "coat" the humidifier with a layer of sodiumhexametaphosphate which is supposed to help.   Bad Idea!  Rating: 1
  2. Salt-Free Water Conditioners - They don't take out the calcium and magnesium so the problem still persists.  Rating:  BIG ZERO!
  3. Deionization - You can use a DI cartridge  to remove all of the minerals, but it is very expensive.  It works extremely well, but costs 35 to 60 cents a gallon (depending upon water hardness).    On a scale of how well it works, it's a 10!  On cost, it's a 2.  Overall Rating: 5
  4. Reverse Osmosis - Unless you have more money than sense, reverse osmosis is the ONLY way to treat a humidifier economically.    Some people even put a DI cartridge after the Reverse Osmosis system to have absolutely pure water, but in most instances Reverse Osmosis removes 98% of the dissolved solids and allows the humidifier to work without the burden of all the hard minerals.
Conclusion:  If you don't have a reverse osmosis system on a steam humidifier... or any humidifier for that fact, you are doing a very bad thing! PUT A REVERSE OSMOSIS SYSTEM ON ANY HUMIDIFIER - YOU WILL BREATHE EASIER AND THE SYSTEM WILL LAST A THOUSAND TIMES LONGER!
January 14, 2012
Comments
Nancy
November 9, 2016 at 10:39 AM
Is distilled water safe to use in a humidifier? You
Mark Timmons
November 14, 2016 at 10:01 PM
Is hard water safe? No. Distilled water is better. Why not RO water?
Shelley B.
December 22, 2016 at 12:52 AM
With a small humidifier, is using reverse osmosis water from a system as good as using 'distilled' water ? Which is best or are they basically the same 'end result' ... I've read that distilled and RO are gone about in different ways and both have advantages and disadvantages, but for a portable humidifier is RO water just as good as distilled ?
Mark Timmons
December 22, 2016 at 8:14 AM
We have thousands of clients, both residential and commercial who use RO water for humidifiers... myself included. You should have a TDS meter, such as this: https://www.uswatersystems.com/tds-3-hm-digital-tds-meter-with-carrying-case.html That way you can check and see if the water quality is adequate. If the membrane is getting fouled the water quality will not be as good. Typically, I would like to see the RO water Total Dissolved Solids be lower thanh 30 for use in a humidifier.
Shelley B.
December 26, 2016 at 10:05 AM
Mark, thanks for your reply ! Where do you get a meter like that ? I will pass this info on to my son !
Shelley B.
December 26, 2016 at 10:16 AM
Oh sorry Mark ! Didn't realize the link you sent me is where you can purchase the meter ! Thanks so much for your help !!
Rob
February 1, 2017 at 2:16 PM
Our humidifier also runs on hard water and is constantly clogging . Does someone make an inline demineralizer for just the humidifier? Thanks!
Mark Timmons
February 5, 2017 at 12:04 PM
Yes, you can use something like this:https://www.uswatersystems.com/5-gpm-aquapurion-di-220-with-dual-2-5-x-10-di-filters.html but the odds are the cost will be 40 to 50 cents a gallon. This cuts the cost to about 5 cents a gallon: https://www.uswatersystems.com/galaxy-5-stage-reverse-osmosis-system-gx-5050.html
Parren McNeely
November 19, 2017 at 8:39 PM
I believe an automatic flushing timer (AFT) would minimize sodium build-up and be considerably more efficient than using reverse osmosis (RO) water. AFT would add roughly 1.5 ( 1-1/2) gal/day to water use by flushing humidifier at regular intervals whereas RO effluent would double-to-quadruple overall water consumption, depending on RO unit efficiency. (On the article's Scale of 1-10, I'd give it an 11 or 12 overall, since AFT is also so much more affordable than RO) I'd give RO a 7 for effectiveness, since its low pH water gradually erodes copper plumbing and possibly the humidifier heating element. But if using RO system, it should at least have a permeate pump to maximize unit efficiency. On cost, its about a 5 or 7 depending on whether or not it has a permeate pump. (Overall Rating: 6-to-7) Thank you everyone for the intriguing discussion, it has been most helpful in my research.
Mark Timmons
November 21, 2017 at 10:41 PM
Sounds like a lot of work when you can just install an RO system and NO a residential RO will not erode the copper or the element. That is misinformation.
Minoe
March 10, 2018 at 10:48 AM
There is a fundamental flaw in this article: RO water has very low conductivity and thus severely impedes the ability of an electric steam humidifier to operate. The process of boiling the water requires the water to conduct electricity between the electrodes in the steam vessel. RO water simply does not have enough conductivity to allow the water reach a boiling level in any reasonable amount of time... or ever. RO is great for a heated element style steam humidifier but not for an electrode style steam humidifier. YMMV
Mark Timmons
March 11, 2018 at 3:53 PM
The article was written quite a few years ago when heated elements were the rage! A blog is a living, breathing thing. We will likely update it.
JAMES GAMBIER
April 24, 2018 at 3:48 AM
have a Desert Spring drum type furnace humidifier it gets choked up with calcium in very short time of operation it is very hard to clean. do you recommend that I use a flow through humidifier I know it is easer to clean and maintain.
Mark Timmons
April 28, 2018 at 11:00 AM
I would use a humidifier that can use reverse osmosis water - I do and have ZERO ISSUES!
Tim
March 8, 2019 at 12:01 PM
In response to Minoe’s post, RO is not good in all heated element steam humidifiers either. In mine (EWC/Field Controls S2020), the water level detector requires conductivity through the water probe to detect if it is filled before heating. I’ve thought of adding an RO system to mine but it just won’t work. We have a sodium based water softener and the deposits are an issue, even though the S2020 automatically purges old water daily. As soon as I hear popping when the humidifier starts up, I know that it’s time to clean the heating element again because of caked deposits.
power pumice
November 15, 2019 at 5:34 PM
It's remarkable designed for me to have a site, which is useful designed for my know-how. thanks admin
spydie
December 15, 2019 at 2:06 AM
Why not use distilled water? You can't afford to buy it in the stores, but you can get distillers for your house. Wouldn't this be cheaper than plugging up the RO membrane with sodium?
Mark Timmons
December 22, 2019 at 6:08 PM
Sure, if you steal the distiller and have free electricity.
Kim
January 12, 2020 at 6:03 PM
I am looking at the Aprilaire 800 steam whole house humidifier. I wrote the company and they said to absolutely not use RO water with their system. They wrote "RO water is extremely reactive and can actually disintegrate our aluminum water panels as well as the electrodes inside our steam canisters". Can you suggest a whole house system that will work with RO water?
Mark Timmons
January 15, 2020 at 8:42 PM
I cannot say for sure that it will disintegrate the water panels or electrodes, but I will take their word for it. It used to be that steam humidifiers worked exceptionally well for years, but I know they say not to use RO water in them. I recently replaced mine with an Aprilaire power humidifier 700 series and feed it with RO water. It works great and costs less than the steam humidifier. I am no longer sold on steam.