There are lots of different water conditioners on the market that deal with the issue of hard water and limescale buildup.
However, there’s currently no official benchmark or standard which these water conditioners must reach before being allowed to go on sale. It’s for this reason that it makes it very difficult for plumbers and installers to know which conditioner will benefit their customers most.
Hard water is basically rainwater that has trickled through limestone and taken on calcium minerals in the process. At this stage, the minerals are a solution, however if it is heated or subjected to a drop in pressure (as it is in the home), the minerals harden.
They then manifest in the form of limescale on taps, in sinks, the insides of pipework, boilers, heat pumps and other components of the heating system. If left untreated, then these deposits can lead to inefficiency of the heating system, higher fuel bills and eventually a complete breakdown of the components.
There are various options available, including a base exchange softener which replaces the calcium with sodium and stops the limescale from forming. These sodium (or salt) softeners work very well but they come with some large negatives. The salt levels need regularly topping up, the system is very expensive and often a new drinking water supply needs to be installed to compensate for the sodium in the water.
Another much cheaper option is the installation of a physical or ‘inline’ water conditioner, many of which release zinc into the water. The zinc provides something that the calcium deposits can attach themselves to whilst still in the water, rather than clinging onto pipes and heating components. Inline water conditioners are a cheap option that do a successful job. The downside is that in many cases, they might only last a couple of years before the zinc runs out and they need to be replaced.
Another, newer option is the usage of electronic water conditioners which often use radio waves to generate a composite in the water for the minerals to cling onto, similar to the way inline water conditioners use zinc.
Electronic water conditioners have the ability to treat the water upstream or downstream and provide great flexibility by being able to even to work where water is used infrequently or intermittently. Again, there is a downside, which is that, as the technology is relatively new, there are still some unknowns involving the best place to install the conditioners to ensure maximum signal coverage.
This kind of information needs to be made clear by the manufacturers and more training materials need to be provided to installers to ensure they are providing the best option and service to their customers.
There are several water conditioning options, and clearly it’s important to have something in place to protect your heating system from limescale. This is particularly important for those in the East and South of England, where hard water is most common.
Which option to choose is clearly dependent on the individual circumstances of the customers and it’s up to the plumbers and installers to make that call correctly.
Article by Benjamin Clarke
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