Salt Free Water Softeners
By: Chuck, The Water Guy at Mainely Water L.L.C.
Originally posted January 2010 by Chuck Minott
Prelude: Everybody that wants a water softener would love to have a “Salt Free Water Softener:… Including me ! For that reason, folks are eager to believe what they want to hear. Therefore, they get ripped off ! What follows is my personal opinion on “Salt Free Water Softeners” developed through extensive research and many years of experience.
They Don’t Work ! That is my educated & highly experienced opinion. While there are many excellent water filtration appliances that do not use salt, I cannot include water softeners in that bunch. By definition, water softeners must remove hardness from the water. There are 3 common ways in which companies & manufacturers claim they are softening water without the use of salt…
1. Clamp a magnet to your water pipe… Sounds simple enough. They make lots of assertions about how the magnetic field changes or aligns the hardness in the water rendering it “soft”. I would certainly challenge that theory. Hardness is mostly dissolved rock. Calcium carbonates, bi-carbonates, etc. I’ve never seen magnets have much effect on rocks (unless the rocks are laced with iron). But let’s move on and imagine there is some effect. So we visualize all the little hardness ions all lined up in marching formation. Now what ? There is no mechanism in the magnet to remove anything. It is clamped to the outside of the pipe. It cannot do anything to change the hardness content of the water. Want proof ? Have the water analyzed. Use water before & after the magnet. You’ll find you’ve been ripped off. The results will be the same. But at least you have some very, very expensive magnets. Suggestion… get a real water softener or an appropriate filter for your water.
2. Wrap coils of wire around your pipe and apply electrical pulses to it. Guess what… this creates an electro- magnet. It costs a lot more than the magnet described in #1 (above). But the end result is exactly the same. Do a hardness test on your water… No Change ! These guys even advertise on national TV. Why? Because they know the 1st rule of scams. “There is a sucker born every day”. Now you have a very, very expensive electro-magnet that actually uses electricity while it’s doing nothing. Suggestion… get a real water softener or an appropriate filter for your water.
3. “Catalytic” Filter Media… This is a tank containing little granules that have been manufactured to convert hardness ions to a crystalline form. In the process of converting, the sharp edges of the crystals are rounded & smoothed reducing their scaling characteristic. Again, a hardness test will show that the water is not softened. However, this technique does have some merit. The water actually passes through the filter media. At least that makes it plausible that there could be an effect. There is some anecdotal evidence that they indeed reduce “scaling”. The scale is replaced by a light powder deposit. The only advantage seems to be it is easier for the home owner to keep clean. None of the other benefits of a water softener seem to be realized using this technology. No softer skin, no softer hair, no cleaner clothes, etc. In addition, even this limited effectiveness seems to be limited to water that is relatively soft to begin with. If the water is even moderately hard, there seems to be no practical improvement in the scaling qualities of the water. Suggestion… get a real water softener or an appropriate filter for your water.
Finally, contact a reputable independent water softener/filter company… check references. Ask every question you can think of before you buy a softener or filter. Go to the basement with them and ask about how the plumbing works. Ask about how the machine works. Look for signs that the company rep. may not know what he/she is talking about. If you see that “lack of knowledge”, find another company that gives you more confidence in their technical knowledge & skills. Good Luck !