Several companies from a range of industries report reduced downtime and lower maintenance costs after installing automatic, self-cleaning water filters.

Fiberlux, Holmes, N.Y., a vinyl window systems manufacturer, keeps its closed-loop system clean by using two 1,300 gal/min, 8" self-cleaning automatic filters like this one.
Cool, clear water is the life force in manufacturing operations. It cools, cleans and can be counted on to run pure and steady -- unless it becomes contaminated with dirt and other pollutants. Then, it can gum up a system, impede operations and even impair the quality of the products being made.

Water filtration is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to solve equipment fouling and scaling problems caused by dirty water. Heat exchangers, molds, pipes, tubing, sensors, monitors and other parts become fouled when dirt particles in the water settle out on warm surfaces. Calcium and magnesium are the bonding elements that cement the dirt onto the equipment. Chemical analysis shows that the calcium and magnesium are less than 2 percent of the fouling material -- the rest is made up of airborne particles, rust, sand, biological organisms and other contaminants. Scale formation reduces the heat transfer rate and increases the water pressure drop through the heat exchanger and pipes. In fact, one study from the Carrier Corp., Syracuse, N.Y., has shown that 0.002" fouling will increase pumping needs by 20 percent.

Not all water filtration systems are alike. Carbon and sand filters require regular maintenance that can result in downtime and higher labor costs. A continuous-cleaning filter that requires no maintenance might be an alternative for your processing plant. As dirt particles collect on the screen, the line pressure at the filter outlet drops. When the pressure reaches a preset differential, the backwash cycle begins. Within seconds and without interrupting the main flow, vacuum nozzles aggressively suction the dirt from the inside of the screen. This inline full-flow automatic filter is one solution for cleaning dirty water and preventing unscheduled shutdowns for maintenance and cleaning.

Los Angeles-based Rehrig Pacific Co., a plastic crate maker, reduced its cleaning downtime by installing 500 gal/min, 4" automatic self-cleaning filters two years ago.
This automatic, self-cleaning filter is suitable for a range of applications. Rehrig Pacific Co., Los Angeles, a manufacturer of returnable plastic crates and pallets for handling and transporting food and beverage products, installed automatic filters two years ago. The company's Los Angeles plant was facing production problems caused by clogs in the water pipes used to cool the plastic during the manufacturing process. The cooling towers, which are located in the parking lot, were collecting dirt that was being carried inside the production plant by the water running through heat exchangers and condensers.

Production had to be stopped every other week for several hours to clean the lines. "One time, I lost a condenser when it got clogged with dirt, became impacted with ice and broke off," says Alfredo Romero, maintenance manager at Rehrig Pacific's Los Angeles plant. The downtime caused by frequent cleanings was taking a toll on the company's productivity.

Rehrig Pacific had one 4" automatic water filter installed in the tower. Results were positive, and the company purchased five more filters for the Los Angeles plant as well as additional filters for its plants in Georgia, Kansas and Texas. Romero says he no longer has to worry about dirty water clogging the lines, destroying valuable equipment and interrupting the production process.

Bruce Foods, New Iberia, La., a manufacturer of Cajun and Tex-Mex foods, solved its Wilson, N.C., plant's problem of impure recycled water that could stain its container by installing a 600 gal/min 6" automatic filter.
Another company in the plastics industry with different process constraints found similar success with an automatic water filter. A vinyl window systems manufacturer, Fiberlux in Holmes, N.Y., faces a unique challenge in that it does not discharge water to a municipal sewer system; instead, it operates a closed-loop system that continuously returns water back to the manufacturing process. When the company began having process problems in 2001, it blamed the water.

"We were using cartridge filters that were not providing adequate filtration," says project manager Bob Morrow. "We needed to be able to filter all the water going to the process, not just the sidestream water." For Fiberlux, water serves as both a cooling medium and the sealing agent in vacuum pumps. When the water picks up contaminants from the air, it causes frequent clogging and creates drag. This affects the quality of the finished product and forces production stoppages for cleaning.

Fiberlux solved the problem by installing two automatic, self-cleaning water filters. Morrow says that since the installation, the company's water clarity has improved. "Having 100 percent filtration of all the water going to the equipment has improved the quality of the finished product, and our processing problems related to contaminants in the water have gone away," Morrow says.

Automatic filters like this 150 gal/min, 3" model can be used inline without interrupting the main flow.
The filters are not limited to the plastics industry. Bruce Foods, New Iberia, La., manufactures Cajun and Tex-Mex foods from four locations within the United States. The company's Wilson, N.C., plant manufactures canned yams. During the canning process, the yams must be sterilized to 240oF (116oC) and then cooled to 105oF (41oC) using water that is pumped through the system at a rate of 800 to 1,000 gal/min. As part of Bruce Foods' water conservation program, the cooling water is recycled. Without filtration, the water would pick up dirt, dust and other impurities that could stain the exterior of the container. To solve this problem, the plant installed an automatic, self-cleaning water filter with a 100 micron screen, a size that is adequate to filter out the impurities without causing an excessive amount of backwashing.

No matter what type of processing application you have, automatic, self-cleaning water filters might be the way to help reduce downtime and labor by eliminating the need to clean and replace cartridges, bags, screens and spray nozzles. Rinsing lasts a few seconds and can use as little as two gallons of water, all without interrupting the main flow, to help increase your bottom line.