Sometimes it's hard to suspend disbelief enough to make an unbiased judgement about a product, particularly when it's from an industry with a history of charlatanry, if not outright chicanery. For instance, chemical-free water treatment—which most people associate with sticking a speaker magnet on a pipe under the kitchen sink. The systems I'm talking about, though, are industrial-sized... used for cooling towers, boilers in big buildings, even large fountains. There were a small handful of companies offering such non-chemical systems exhibiting at this year's Greenbuild. At least three of them use advanced magnetics for at least part of the system, and that's a giant hurdle for a lot (probably most) specifying engineers and prospective clients to get past. A couple years ago, Clearwater Systems submitted their pulsed-electromagnetic Dolphin system to be considered for GreenSpec. They had case studies—impressive ones from large multinational corporations—but it's not enough for us for manufacturers (or their clients) to just say something works. We want to understand and verify the science, particularly for a product like this. To our surprise, after spending entirely too much time chasing down both the rudiments and the details of things like cellular electroporation, methods of coagulation induction, and ways to do cold pasteurization, along with interviewing hydronic engineers, plant managers, and detractors from the chemical water treatment industry, there seemed to be merit left over when all was said and done. See the Environmental Building News product review, "Non-Chemical Water Treatment for Cooling Towers." Long story short, the Dolphin is listed in GreenSpec as a nonchemical alternative where water conditions are appropriate. At Greenbuild, I learned that Evapco, which manufactures evaporative condensers and cooling towers, has introduced a remarkably similar system. Seems like a company that makes evaporative cooling systems wouldn't involve itself with a component that could screw up its mainstay. A similar product listed in GreenSpec (approved on the heels of the Dolphin) that exhibited at Greenbuild is the Superior Water Conditioner system, which uses fixed magnets with overlapping, reversed poles to induce calcium carbonate to precipitate. It was helpful in our deliberations that it had already been found effective for scale control in an ASHRAE 2002 research project. These products are not appropriate for all conditions. They have to be engineered. They are not one-size-fits-all. A monitoring and maintenance package should be included. This is a developing industry; you have to do your homework and make your wisest choice—no different than going the chemical route.
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