Technical Q&A

Why are some heating contractors still not installing a filter on a hydronic system?

In the U.S. market, that’s come about because, for a long period of time, you’ve had heating systems working with furnaces or old steam boilers. These older systems have flow channels of up to an inch in diameter, so they’re less susceptible to component failure as a result of iron oxide in the system. When we moved to the more modern technology like condensing boilers — and, in particular, the ECM (electronically commutated motor) pump technology that will be compulsory by 2020 — it has caused a shift that all pump manufacturers are gearing up for. At this point, no matter what happens, it’s a done deal. So, it’s not the passing of that legislation that’s driving the market. It’s the fact the legislative review has already been done and, consequently, all of the manufacturers have changed to ECM technology to be ahead of that curve.

ECM pumps have a very low tolerance for magnetite. If the installer continues to install products the same way as he did before, he’ll encounter many, many callbacks due to system failures — not as a result of the products he’s installed, but as a result of failing to maintain system water quality.

There has also been a tendency to resort to some low-cost filter options, but they’re very ineffective. Where lower cost products may have worked on older equipment that didn’t require the degree of operational excellence that new equipment requires, contractors will find these solutions increasingly ineffective. Installing a barrier filter — or much worse, no filter at all — will only result in more equipment failures.

Filter manufacturers like ADEY are working on getting out the message to help educate the trade on these problems. We need to make the jump to get to the point where installing a high-quality magnetic filter is automatic. That’s the only way to maintain high-efficiency equipment, and to prevent system breakdowns.