Water softeners: effective alternatives to salt
The water distributed by the water companies does not have the same hardness throughout the country. Water that is too hard – more than 30° f (French degrees) – will give rise to limescale deposits in pipes, around taps and in certain appliances (boilers, etc.) that use hot water. If your water is too hard, it can sometimes be useful to install a water softener.
So what you should do first is find out how hard the water is in your home: either through your water distribution company or with the help of a tester found in DIY stores. Often the hardness of the water is better than you might think. In a study conducted by Test Purchase in 2015, one in four families (out of a total of 31) who already had a water softener showed that the water was actually sufficiently soft anyway without a softener, so there was no need for it….
Salt and alternatives
If you choose a water softener for your tap water, the question is: which one to buy? Well, roughly speaking, we can distinguish two types:
the most common are the models with ion exchange, where the hard water circulates in a reservoir filled with resin. With this technique, which uses salt, the hardness of the water is reduced; waterverzachter
with the second type, the water is treated in such a way that the lime does not settle in the system. The initial hardness of the water does not change. Various techniques are used to avoid limescale deposits;
The first salt-based type has proven its effectiveness for a long time. Such a device reduces the hardness of the water with an ion exchanger on resin beads: the calcium and magnesium ions present in the water are replaced by sodium ions. However, this resin must be renewed regularly by rinsing with plenty of water and adding regeneration salt.
This type of water softener costs quite a lot: € 1 000 to € 2 500 and more, including installation. Moreover, you have to count on € 200 to 400 per year for the salt and maintenance. Finally, such a water softener with salt is quite extensive, takes up a lot of space and consumes a lot of water per regeneration.
If the lime remains floating
In recent years, new techniques have appeared on the market to combat limescale. Unlike the water softener “with salt”, none of these alternative systems really removes limescale from the water. The water thus retains the same hardness when it comes out of the tap. However, these techniques do claim to prevent calcium and magnesium ions from clumping in the water using physical or industriele reiniging processes; the lime remains floating in the stream of water and no longer settles.
We have already been able to test some systems using these new techniques for their ability to prevent limescale formation (and we will test others in the future). Initial results already show that today there are three worthy alternatives to conventional salt water softeners: CO2 injection systems, polyphosphates and pellets are just as effective against limescale formation as salt systems, and the latter two are also cheaper. The granular system we tested costs about € 400; the water softener with polyphosphates even costs less than € 150. The water softener with CO2 injection costs about € 2 000.
Don’t be hasty.
First of all, ask yourself if you really need a water softener. Carry out an analysis of the hardness of the tap water or ask your water company. If only your water heater is a problem. There you can limit the risks of limescale deposits by setting the temperature of the hot water below 60°C.
If you are eventually considering a water softener, take the time to compare the various options.
If possible, install the softener only in the hot water circuit.