By Charles Wysocki
“CHEMICAL softening, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis, when used for the control of hardness, could potentially be replaced by NON-CHEMICAL WATER CONDITIONING TECHNOLOGY.”
The above statement came from the U.S. Department of Energy in 1998—so why is there still a stigma in the United States over these type of units? There has been a lot of talk about scale inhibitors and their place in the industry for many years—maybe too much talk—but why does the U.S. not see the benefits? The following may give some explanation.
Scale inhibitors are not the be-all and end-all of protection against scale—but can anyone name a product that is? Is there one that doesn’t come with its own disadvantages—whether these are cost implications, maintenance, hygiene or even environmental concerns?
As I sit on a train enduring a seven-hour journey from southern Poland to the north, I contemplate the various comments I have received in over 20 countries I visited over the past few years and always come back to the same question: why does the U.S. not see the benefits when others do?
Is it a mental block against understanding the technology? Is it something that has been thrust upon the population at an early age or is it some form of incurable disease with the words ‘magnetic’ and ‘electrolytic’ being like the plague?
My own personal view is that in the U.S., some of the large organizations are trying to protect their own business interests. Ignorance and lack of knowledge tend to lead to protectionism and living in the comfort zone.
Why is it that a technology that has been around for years and that was born out of research carried out by NASA, is all of a sudden classed as ‘black magic’ and the companies that try to promote the benefits of such units are trying to be driven out of the industry? It is as if some witch hunt is being carried out. Visiting numerous WQA exhibitions over the years I’ve heard some absurd comments including, ‘black art’, ‘black magic’ and uncontrollable laughter at the first instance of these products being brought into conversation.
My own take on the issue is that these so-called engineers do not have a single clue about these products and so ridicule their existence out of ignorance. Going to a shrink, they would be diagnosed as insecure; as engineers, they believe themselves to be technically astute. I’m not sure which is correct.
Strong words—but true
The biggest problem we have and have always had in this industry is the general lack of education and understanding of the products. Simply put, we are telling people to alter the water which the municipal water companies utility authorities are supplying for washing and drinking and the consumer is asking why.
Is it any wonder that consumers are left perplexed in terms of their understanding? Is the provided water wholesome and of a high quality? And if it is in need of a second treatment, then why is it not done at source rather than at point of use? The simple answer is that it comes down to cost.
Calcium in the water is not detrimental to people’s health and therefore gives an excuse of why it should be left in the supply—but calcium enriched water when heated creates a totally different and devastating result.
Figures that are bandied around in different organizations show that 4.8 mm of scale buildup on pipework can increase heating costs by 27 percent. It is therefore costing both the consumer and the environment as more fuel is needed wasted and discharged into the atmosphere. With simple technology this can be dramatically reduced.
Physical water conditioners have a part to play regardless of what some people may think or say. Why was it that not too many years ago, one of the largest water softener companies in the U.S. purchased companies in Europe whose main product line consisted of physical scale inhibitors?
The obvious answer may well be that these devices have been accepted in Europe as products that actually perform in terms of inhibiting scale formation as well as provide a good economical reason in terms of profitability. If this was not the case, would they not have sought to sell that part of the business?
I find it very strange how a number of companies seem to have double standards—physical water conditioners do not work but we sell them by the thousands in Europe! Food for thought?
The whole aspect of physical water conditioners is to offer the consumer a choice of product for an application—it should be a decision for the consumer, but how can they decide if they are not given the choice in the first instance?
We all know and agree that to get rid of scale completely, the only real solution is to install a water softener. On the other hand, maintenance costs, water usage, brine dumping and issues of drinking artificially softened water are all aspects that may call for an alternative product.
So, what are the alternatives to water softening? I pause at this moment to think of how many dealers and engineers reading this publication are flicking past this article as a bell has rung in their heads telling them not to read on—or if they do, some bad karma will happen in their lives!
So, alternatives? Not sure where to start? If we said that you could control the buildup of scale:
- without affecting the mineral content of the water?
- Without having any maintenance costs in terms of replacement product?
- With the ability to fit and forget about the product once installed?
- By using technology that is clean and safe, which will not damage the environment?
- Without any moving parts, nothing to wear out it and can be covered by a Lifetime Guarantee?
At this stage, with any other product, people would queue up from midnight onwards outside a store, waiting for the doors to open. Where has such a revolutionary product been hiding and what has changed so it can be introduced into the market now? Nothing! The product has been around for years—a physical water conditioner which is based on either magnetic, electrolytic, electronic or electromagnetic technology.
Truth be known, these products are on sale in the U.S. even as we speak, but do not get the recognition they deserve. We sold these devices to a skeptical Canadian years ago, but seeing the results they could hardly believe their eyes. How it works, why it works, can it be true—well it was and still is.
The technology is simple—the understanding a little more confusing—and this is where the problem lies. If x + y does not equal z, it must be incorrect goes the reasoning of many. But what if x + y + variable always equals z?
In simple terms, water contains + and –ions and as we know opposites attract, therefore, as water is heated these + and –ions come together to form limescale.
Through a physical water conditioner we induce a single polarity whereby the + and –ions all become the same (say –) and as we know like poles repel away from each other, which prevents the formation of limescale. The calcium is held in suspension.
Recent research at Cranfield University has identified conditions under which magnetic treatment can lead to a 70-percent reduction in calcium carbonate formation. The degree to which scale formation is inhibited has been identified as being dependent on a number of physiochemical conditions such as temperature, pH, hardness and alkalinity.
We are aware that this subject can be very contentious and controversial but the simple fact is that these products do have a place within the industry and they should be promoted by all as an economical way of reducing and controlling scale within heating systems. Note: See scale info on our website: www.wcponline.com
About the company
CALMAG LTD. specializes in the manufacture of water conditioning equipment, providing products for the domestic, commercial and industrial markets. Products include physical water conditioners, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis units, ultra violet disinfection units and water chillers. They may be reached at Unit 4 Crown Works, Bradford Road, Sandbeds, Keighley, West Yorkshire, BD20 5LN; Tel: 01535 210320 Fax: 01535 210321; www.calmagltd.com
About the author
Charles Wysocki graduated from University in Technology and Management Science and has been involved in water treatment for over 15 years. He is involved with many trade associations within the U.K. and gives presentation talks on the benefits of water conditioning equipment throughout Europe. He may be contacted by Tel: 01535 210320 or email: [email protected]