The GSA tests products in its buildings with the intent of finding products that perform well while being better for the environment than their conventional counterparts.
Scaling, caused by hard water, is a major problem for buildings. According to the GSA, 85 percent of the US has hard water. The GSA tested a catalytic hard water scale preventer for 18 months under the supervision of Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
The test building — a Salt Lake City courthouse — suffered from serious scaling in its water heater resulting in the need to regularly replace heating elements every six weeks. Additionally, the scale buildup on the elements was so bad the heater could not be switched off at weekends because it took so long for water to heat up on Mondays.
The test showed that after installing the catalytic treatment device, electric heating elements lasted 18 months (instead of six weeks) without needing changing and the elements even then showed no sign of significant scale buildup.
As there was no scaling, power to the boilers could now be switched off on Fridays and back on Mondays because the water was now able to rapidly heat.
The scale preventer was simply plumbed into the feed water pipe leading to the boiler and needed no power supply. Its effect was to reduce running costs and save energy as well as having the environmental benefit of zero discharge of chemicals. Payback occurred in less than two years.