Your Questions on Glycol Answered

It may only be the end of September, but if you have heating or cooling loops, it’s time to start thinking about winterizing them.  One of the most common precautions taken in colder climates is the adding glycol to the system.  We wanted to get the scoop on what glycol is, why it works, and what else we can do to ensure our water treatment systems are properly protected when the cold weather starts to descend upon us.  So, we went to State Chemical Solution’s Water Treatment Business Development Manager, Scott Bauman for answers.

  1. What is glycol?
    Glycol is an anti-freeze commonly used in heating loops that are subjected to freezing weather and some cooling loops that are shut down in winter and have piping exposed to the outside.
     
  2. Are there different types of glycol?
    There are two types of glycol.Ethylene glycol performs better but is toxic to humans and animals.Unfortunately it is also sweet smelling and tasting.Typically it is fluorescent pink in color.  

    The second type is propylene glycol.It is less toxic but also less affective.This is the preferred glycol used in businesses concerned with safety such as schools, churches or food plants.Visually it is usually a fluorescent yellow or green.
     

  3. Why is glycol used at all in heating and cooling systems if it is toxic?
    Glycol is added to water systems because it is effective in reducing the freezing point and minimizing the risk that pipes will freeze and be damaged.
     
  4. Does glycol affect the efficiency of heating systems?
    Yes, glycol does affect the efficiency of heating systems because it does not transfer heat as well as plain water.
     
  5. Do I need to have a water treatment program for my heating and cooling system if I use glycol?
    The use of uninhibited glycol REQUIRES the addition of a corrosion protection program.
     
  6. Do I need to have a water treatment program for my heating and cooling system if I use a glycol with an inhibitor?
    Yes, even if your glycol has an inhibitor you will want to treat your water.Glycol breaks down over time and becomes corrosive to metals.The inhibitors themselves are also broken down through this process leaving the metal in your system unprotected.
     
  7. Are there any factors that may increase the rate at which inhibitors break down? 
    Yes, the presence of oxygen, elevated temperatures, iron and corrosion by-products all increase the rate of break down.
     
  8. How do I decide which water treatment program is appropriate for my glycol treated system?
    When we discuss the chemical to be applied, you’ll need to know the amount of water going through the heating/cooling system and the components.Higher volume systems may need a Nitrite/ Molybdate based chemical while lower volume systems will be safe with just a nitrite based corrosion protection.You will also need to know if there are aluminum components.If there are aluminum parts, you’ll need a product that includes Silicate.