Should You Invest In A Water Conditioner Or A Water Softener
For Hard Water Problems
Read on for our recommendation and a worrying health concern with one of these systems.
If your home is situated in a hard water area (60% of the UK landmass) you may have noticed a crusty whitish residue forming on taps and bathroom fixtures. This is basically limescale that is left behind after water evaporates. Over time, these deposits can build up in layers, be challenging to clean, and clog up and damage your boiler and kitchen appliances.
In this post, we’re looking at the differences between water conditioners and water softeners, two possible solutions to your limescale headaches. Both options are proven to work but require a big outlay of capital, so choosing the one that’s right for your needs is important.
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Layers Of Limescale Buildup Accumulated Over Time
A water softener will remove calcium and magnesium from your hard water supply through a process called ion exchange, eliminating the formation of limescale in the first place. As an added benefit, this will also reduce soap and detergent usage and means less of those stubborn soap scum stains you are fed up of cleaning.
But did you notice the mention of “ion exchange”? What exactly gets “exchanged” in this process? This will probably be the deciding factor for you in which system to fit – it was for me, to be honest.
Unfortunately, a water softener will replace the healthy mineral ions with not-so-healthy sodium ions, demanding a regular top-up of salt, a deep clean every year or so, and most likely a regular service by a professional.
The amount of sodium introduced into the softened water depends on the “hardness” of your incoming water supply. As a rough guide, 46 mg/l of sodium is introduced for every 100 mg/l of minerals removed. So, for example, the average softened water in Greater London will end up with an additional 138 milligrams/litre of sodium after processing.
More Salt Is Required For Higher Mineral Content
There are also some concerns about how much water is wasted during the “regeneration” cycle, where the unwanted minerals are flushed away into the drain. Some estimates say that 120 gallons are wasted for every 1000 gallons delivered.
Not to mention that your drinking water needs to travel through a plastic unit containing plastic resin beads (usually made from polystyrene) that perform the actual ion exchange. Too much plastic for my taste, I’m afraid.
Water Softener Installed Below A Kitchen Sink
Water Softener Inlet/Outlet Connections
Many water softener websites answer the question, “Can you drink water from a water softener?” with something like “Yes, but it depends. Most people can safely drink softened water with no ill effect”. I think I fall in the category of “most people,” but not sure. Here is one website that recommends water softeners but with the following disclaimer:
Water Softeners add salt to the water supply, and softened water is, therefore, unsuitable for babies or people with heart complaints who are on low-sodium diets.
But there might be a clever solution to this concern, one which a professional plumber can advise on. Perhaps a water softener can be fitted to supply the whole house except for the kitchen sink, meaning your drinking water arrives with the healthy minerals in place and no added sodium.
A cheap budget system for a small property can be purchased for around £350 but expect to pay around £5 per month for salt as a minimum. But your best bet would be to aim for a mid-priced system at around £650 for added reliability.
Adding Salt Blocks To A Water Softener
Let’s start by writing off gimmick electronic and magnetic “water conditioners” as they simply do not work, are not backed by the science of chemistry and lack independent test results.
Instead, I will focus on zinc-based electrolytic water conditioners with WRAS (Water Regulations Approval Scheme) approval, a more expensive product but proven to reduce limescale build-up.
These units work by introducing minute quantities of zinc ions into your home’s incoming water supply, altering how the hard mineral ions interact and combine with each other. Instead of forming limescale, they end up as something called “Aragonite,” a harmless non-sticky mineral that simply flushes through the system but still contains those healthy minerals required for strong bones.
And as far as maintenance goes, there isn’t any! Simply fit the unit and then forget about it until the expiry date, typically 5 to 10 years, depending on the manufacturer.
Apart from that, there is not much else to say; it’s just a pure metal cylinder containing high purity (99.9% plus) zinc that sits in the background and gets on with its job – no requirements for electricity, drainage or top-ups.
But where’s the proof that these things work, you ask? Well, here it is : ACP Functional Testing & Evaluation Report, the only independent study we could find on the effectiveness of water conditioners.
Installation Of An Aquabion Water Conditioner
ACP Electrolytic Water Conditioner Vs Other Types
My overriding deciding factor between the two products would have to be health-related, making the water conditioner a clear winner here. I mean, what is the point of eating low-salt crisps when you are drinking sodium enriched tap water!
Advanced Hydro ACP15 & ACP20 Water Conditioners
Aquabion S15 & S20 Water Conditioners
How A Water Softener Works
Water Conditioner Vs Water Softener
Is Softened Water Safe To Drink
Aquabion Vs Water Softener
Water Softener Cleaning Nightmare
Bypass Water Softener For Drinking Water
Regular Water Softener Maintenance