Water Conditioners Explained

So what do Water Conditioners do:

The main goal of a water conditioner is to form scale, now why would we want to achieve that? When we form scale within the water we are creating small undissolved crystals (invisible to the human eye) within the water. When scale forms within the water it will pass through the system without attaching itself to the pipework and flow through the tap.

A common misconception of water conditioning is that the water will become "softened", this is in fact not the case as the overall goal is to keep the water wholesome (Drinkable) which means in essence that nothing is added or taken away (Except Electrolytic more details below). Softening is the process of removing calcium ions from the water not creating crystals. The magnetic water conditioning units are often referred to as physical water conditioners due to a force they are using on the ions within the water so in essence are physically moving the ions together.

So if the water is not softened then it means the calcium is still present within the water and can form on surfaces where evaporation can occur or where water is met at boiling point. So if the purpose of using your water conditioner is to remove scale from taps, sinks, showers etc. then you are best opting for a softener.

Why cant I use a Softener:

In most European countries the use of a softener is often prohibited on a drinking water supply and conditioning is the only option without adding or removing anything within the water.

Within the water that comes out of your taps there is a certain quantity of calcium which is good for you to drink whereas in softening the water replaces the calcium ions with sodium ions. It is not dangerous to drink soften water and in many cases will not have an affect on personal health unless you are on a critically controlled sodium diet for medical reasons.

Types of Water Conditioners:

There are a few different types of water conditioner available to you:

Magnetic: Usually clip on devices for smaller pipework and domestic usage, they will condition a very small percentage of the water for a short period of time. Essentially they will affect scale formation but with minimal effect.

Electrolytic: Non electrical devices primarily used for domestic applications. The method used here is by adding a trace of Zinc (or Iron) to the water supply. The unit has a sacrificial anode which will slowly wear down and will eventually run out and with this unit being non electrical it can be hard to tell how much Zinc it is adding to the water or when it has actually run out.

Electromagnetic: Using electromagnetic force to two ions together so they will form a crystal within the water and pass through the system without binding on the pipework or in the heat generation plant. This is most commonly found commercially as the units cost a vast quantity of money, most of these suppliers will require a water sample before suggesting the placement of the device.

Electro-Chemical: Cartridge based systems, often very large in size and always require a power source. This uses ceramic beads and heat to create the scale within the unit itself before releasing the created seed crystals into the pipes. Very commercial based system and not advised for domestic use.

Electrostatic: Claims that using static electricity created from the flow of water through the pipes will increase the production of seed crystals.

How do I know its working:

Unless you have an electron microscope lying around the house you cannot. The best method to find out is if there is a general improvement in the lifetime of the system as many people look for a unit once something has broken down already.

Should I install one in my house:

It depends what you are using it for, if it is a large domestic property with a heat generation plant then it would be the perfect environment for protecting your system. Or even in the central plant location of a flat block.

When it comes to smaller to medium scale domestic applications you will be best to install a water softener for protecting your equipment and run a separate untreated water feed to a tap (usually located in the kitchen).

If you are looking at getting rid of the scale left behind after a shower or on your basin (or that luxury marble you just imported) water conditioning will not have an effect due to this being an evaporative area and when water evaporates it leaves minerals behind. For the luxury feel also a water softener would be best.

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