A water conditioner is an alternative water softening device that’s equipped with some type of cartridge or tank containing a special scale control media that help transform hardness mineral ions in the water into a stable and harmless form that won’t adhere to surfaces.
How does it work?
Water conditioners are usually made up of a single cartridge or tank system filled with resin beads or another descaling media. Most work through a physical process known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) to alter the way hardness minerals in water behave.
In this template-assisted crystallization process, water is passed through a tank/cartridge of TAC media which consists of tiny polymer/ceramic beads that are covered in craters called nucleation sites that act as templates to create micro-crystals.
When the hard water from the mains supply comes into contact with the TAC media in the tank/cartridge, the calcium and magnesium ions get caught by the nucleation sites.
Therefore, as the water flows into the cartridge, more magnesium and calcium ions continue to build up within the sites upon which they are changed into small micro-crystals.
Eventually, when these micro-crystals reach a certain size, they break off of the media where they are then released into the water.
These crystals are stable and flow through the water and the plumbing system with their crystalline structure intact. They don’t break off and are unable to attach themselves to water pipes or appliances as scale as the regular hard minerals do.
The result is complete prevention against scale build-up, but the minerals remain present in the water which is a great advantage since they are healthy to humans and in this crystalline form, they can’t damage the plumbing system.
However, it’s important to note that, the scale control media used by whole house water conditioners may vary greatly from one brand to another. Furthermore, several models come equipped with extra filters to help tackle other issues aside from water hardness like removal of contaminants
They can come with a sediment pre-filter and/or a carbon filter to take care of particulates and chemical contaminants like chlorine. Others even include more advanced filters like a UV sterilization filter or an iron filtration tank that can help soften and treat well water.
What are the benefits?
There are several advantages and benefits to using salt-free water conditioners that make them stand out from traditional water softeners. Some of these benefits include:
A Variety of Applications
Water conditioners come in different cartridge sizes and flow rates. If you don’t wish to install a whole-house water conditioner you have a variety of other options to choose from like a single-cartridge system that you can set up in line with other water filtration systems or in front of a tankless water heater.
Aside from that, there are other whole house water conditioners that offer more extensive filtration abilities. They come with additional filter media along with the salt-free conditioner cartridge.
Therefore, aside from inhibiting scale build-up and removing existing scale in pipes, these water conditioner systems will tackle other water issues. A good example is a whole-house water conditioner and chlorine reduction system which not only prevents scale accumulation but also improves the odor and taste of your water supply.
Low Maintenance and Media Consumption
Another key benefit you get from using a water conditioner is the maintenance-free aspect. They are very low maintenance systems as the tank/cartridge of resin beads doesn’t need ongoing regeneration.
It takes very little TAC media to sustain a whole-house water conditioner system as many units only require about 5 to 10 liters of media which can last several years. Generally, you will be replacing the media once every 3 to 5 years.
Installing a water conditioner system is also remarkably simple since most come as a single tank or cartridge. No wastewater is generated, so they don’t require drain connections. They also don’t need electricity to operate and have no dramatic effect on the water flow rate.
Healthy Mineral Remain in Water
Water conditioners prevent the formation of limescale but at the same time leave healthy minerals in the water which are beneficial for your health. Furthermore, they won’t raise the sodium content in the water like salt-based water softeners.
Soft Water Alternative
Soft water tends to have a “slippery” feel which not most people like. Other people also complain that showering in soft water often leaves one feeling like the soap is still sticking to the skin or the shampoo never completely washes out of their hair.
Although all these are purely preferential, if you don’t like how soft water feels but still want to ensure scales are removed from your plumbing, then a water conditioner can give you exactly that. It doesn’t eliminate the hardness minerals, instead, it only makes them ineffective such that they can’t adhere to surfaces.
Water conditioners don’t produce any wastewater as they don’t go through regeneration cycles. Therefore, no salt or other chemicals will get dumped into the waste stream.
In addition to that, they save water because all the water that gets processed through the system flows right into your home water supply or tankless heater.