Tracking softener sales

Question: How many water softeners were sold in the U.S.A. last year?

Joe Wakefield

Answer: There are no hard and fast numbers available on this as much of the equipment used to make softeners is also used in other products such as iron filters, etc., and may be used for commercial/industrial systems for demineralization rather than residential softening. The Water Quality Association tracks a few products via manufacturers as indicators for the industry, among those related to softeners are tanks and valves.
WQA technical director Joe Harrison said that through October 2000, there were reported 849,000 valves of size 1-inch and under produced. For 13-inch and under pressure tanks, 1,008,000 were produced. Both of these sizes are typically used in home softeners. In 1999, there were 951,000 valves and 1,096,000 tanks produced for the year.
In general, Harrison said, he tells people when they ask that there are about 1 million softeners sold a year.
“This year, it looks like we’re a little ahead,” he added. “These numbers aren’t perfect, of course, because—like I said—some of these tanks aren’t used for softeners. There also are some people who aren’t reporting, but the major producers such as Fleck, Autotrol, Culligan and Erie are all in there.”

Concerning water recycling
Question: I’d like to ask you whether your company has a water recycling product for use in a dyeing factory. I mean that NaOH is used for reducing weight of polyester, then the wastewater mixing the polyester molecule and NaOH can be produced. So, is there equipment for extracting NaOH from that wastewater and to make the water reusable? Please let me know the relevant information or where I can find it.

Do Hye Kim
South Korea

Answer: We are a company that publishes a technical trade journal and does not manufacture any water treatment products. However, membrane technology will remove dissolved ionic and organic contaminants from wastewater supplies. A pilot test will be required, though, before a total system design can be developed. To do this, you would need to be able to provide a complete wastewater analysis along with flow rates and an idea of what can be done with the concentrated wastewater, i.e., how it can be disposed of afterward. You should look for a company that can provide such testing as well as design engineering services for applications such as this.

Softeners & the environment
Question: Does the discharge of salt or potassium used in water softeners have a degrading effect on the effluent discharge from a sewage treatment plant into our local stream?

Frank Reed

Answer: Water softener effluent has no deleterious effect on sewage treatment plant operation. If sewage is to be discharged into a local stream, there are very specific regulations that need to be studied. Keep in mind that the primary contaminant from a water softener is sodium chloride or possibly potassium chloride—and in very miniscule amounts. There are many other contributors of such brine additives to the municipal waste stream, not least of them other household products such as soaps, detergents and other cleaners or solvents. In addition, industrial facilities, restaurants, hospitals, schools and so forth contribute to this as well. And, in colder climates, you also have the additive effect of road salt to de-ice streets and highways. In combination, some believe there is a negative effect on the environment (of the sodium or chloride, not the potassium, which is believed to be beneficial to plant growth). Frequently, softeners have been singled out for bans or restrictions. The point-of-use/point-of-entry water treatment industry’s position on this is that—out of fairness—a comprehensive look needs to be taken as to all the contributors of sodium or chlorides to the waste stream and each should be required to make efforts to reduce their overall contribution before singling out softeners as an easy target. Keep in mind, the industry in compromise legislation in 1999 agreed to improve the salt efficiency of softeners significantly in a good faith effort to do its part to reduce the brine load on wastewater systems in California where water supplies are more critical and reuse more common. Currently, in Los Angeles, a campaign has been launched to encourage homeowners to not use softeners. This again focuses on symptoms rather than looking at a total cure. It will only prolong the need to look at the overall contributors and find a more comprehensive approach to the issue, one that is not restrictive of the consumer’s right to choose to improve the quality of water in their home. With outbreaks of Cryptosporidium and E. coli in municipal supplies and higher maximum contaminant levels set for everything from arsenic to radon in drinking water, this equipment offers the consumer not only the ability to improve taste, color and odor but offers them an added sense of assurance as to the safety of their drinking water. Unless all the brine factors are approached, an individual choosing not to use a softener isn’t going to have much impact on the environment. 

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