Darcy Amamou April 1, 2013
Water hardness is something that a lot of people understand in basic terms, though often do not see its benefits, or drawbacks, past the obvious issues that regularly crop up. It is commonly believed that calcium and magnesium are nutritionally valuable, though both are a menace to household appliances — notably dishwashers and heaters, which can clog up with limescale.
As a result of these problems, people are now taking steps to treat hard water with clever water softening solutions. Interestingly, a lot of these individuals are starting to see many more benefits past the simple fact that their kettles work for much longer. Starting with the science behind this point, we discuss the many ways that soft water may meet your customers’ needs.
Reduction in service
Limescale elimination is potentially needed in all water-based appliances including central heating systems, hot water pipes, washing machines, dishwashers, coffee pots, shower heads and many more. The treatment of limescale goes back over thousands of years, but the first residential water softener was installed just over a hundred years ago. While it can form on both the cold and water side of a plumbing system, it most prevalently forms in and on the hottest parts of water heating appliances, as well as places where water pressure can suddenly drop, such as taps and shower heads. It is caused by the decomposition of soluble and temporary hardness — largely calcium and magnesium bicarbonate — to insoluble limescale, also commonly known as calcium carbonate (CaCo3).
Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to remove calcium as well as other hardness minerals such as magnesium. The hardness minerals are usually replaced with a highly soluble sodium or potassium ion, which will not cause scale buildup in a plumbing system.
A study at Battelle Memorial Institute discovered that all appliances in the trial would often demand extensive cleaning. For example, instantaneous gas water-heaters on hard water blocked completely nine times during the 15-year simulation. Given the expense of such systems, particularly in industrial applications, changing to soft water could be very beneficial indeed.
Lower energy consumption, carbon emissions and fuel costs
Have you ever taken a shower and found that you have to slowly increase the temperature to match the desired heat? Do you have to wait a long time for a hot tap to do its job? A contributing factor to this problem may be that limescale has a thermal conductivity that is 400 times lower than copper and 100 times lower than steel and so extra time is taken to heat water to the required temperature.
A New Mexico State University study tested 12 second-hand gas and electric water heaters from homes in the locale. Half were provided with hot water, while the rest were fitted with water softeners. The researchers found that energy usage by gas water heaters was 23.8 percent lower with water softeners and 17.8 percent for electric water heaters with the same technology.
Reduction in the use of soap, shampoo and detergent
One of the many things people often do not realize is how the use of soap or detergent in hard water is a lot less efficient. This is because cleaning products need to react with hardness ions present in the water and precipitate them as scum before it can do its duty. Of course, the harder the water is, the more work your soap or detergent needs to do.
This was backed by a Scientific Services Study, which looked into the effects of water hardness and detergent dose — as well as temperatures in regards to stain removal — by washing machines, dishwashers and other similar products. It concluded that a water softening procedure, once put in place, would dramatically improve the efficacy of these appliances. Stain removal efficacy in washing machines was rather amazingly found to be better with softened water, at the lowest temperature and detergent dosage, than hard water at the highest temperature and detergent dose.
Further, consumer concerns are usually higher in hard water areas, lacking more common praise for the softness of hair and the loss of problematic skin conditions that is found in areas using softer water. Epidemiological studies in Japan, the UK and Spain particularly address how the incidence rate of eczema can be directly related to the hardness of a water supply. This is widely believed to be due to the impact of residual soap scum on hair and skin after washing as well as its effects on bedding and clothing after washing.
Calcium carbonate has an extremely low solubility in water, though water softeners can offer a particularly positive effect on already-clogged pipes, appliances and boilers: The dissolution of existing scale. A number of tests have discovered that all existing scale can be removed from a home or business in as little as several months, while kettles only need a standard boiling schedule over six weeks to get back up to speed.
Detergent scum is a major problem for clothing’s longevity after it deposits itself in between the fibers of clothes and laundry during a typical washing cycle. There is also an increase in the rate of abrasion between fibers during the regular use under these circumstances. The negative effects of hard water were flagged in a YMCA laundry study, which addressed the life of a huge range of hotel laundry, including bed linen, towels, table cloths, cushion covers and so on. Measuring their outcomes over a five-year period, hard water and softened water were compared and it was safely concluded that all forms of laundry had an increase in lifespan, from the lowest number of 10 percent for dish towels, up to 39 percent for pillow slips.