One of the most galling things that happens to your gleaming new bathroom suite is that – well, it ceases to gleam.
Time was that where you lived in the country determined how bad your problem was: the limestone and chalk belt creates alkaline, hard water and is mostly located in the south and east, while the west, midlands and north-west of England, and most of Scotland and Wales, therefore escaped the worst of the problem.
But over 150mg per litre of calcium carbonate in solution, the level above which water is officially ‘hard’, can now be found in a much wider area of the country due to the way in which the national water pipe grid is expanding and being used to equalise water supply. You really don’t know where your water is coming from nowadays…
It’s not just a cosmetic issue. Deep inside your water tanks and boiler, limescale is precipitating out of the water, building up hard layers of calcium that make your equipment less effective and lead to a shortened working life. Your heating bills will slowly rise as the equipment works less efficiently. (British Water have estimated a 12% loss in efficiency from 1.6mm of limescale).
Thankfully at Plumbworld there is a solution that will keep limescale from even reaching your precious bathroom – or kitchen.
Big (and little) softies
Water softeners have become highly efficient and very affordable and there will be a model that will suit you. Here’s an at-a-glance reckoner based on the WaterCare range.
- 1-5 person home: AT10, 1494 litres/ 1.5 kg salt
- 1-9 person home: AT14, 2900 litres/ 2.4 kg salt
- Commercial use: AT18, 2900 litres/ 2.8 kg salt
- Commercial use: AT23, 3700 litres/ 3.5 kg salt
How do they work? By Ion Exchange. Simply, this turns calcium and magnesium ions into sodium chloride, so you have slightly salty water – without the scale. The ‘ion exchange resin beads’ in the softener need to be regenerated from time to time to make them active again: this involves rinsing them in brine and then flushing away the accumulated hardness to the drain.
Following the instructions according to the hardness of your water, the timer is set to regenerate the machine by flushing the used salt away at a predetermined interval, usually timed at 2 in the morning. You can override the cycle if you need to.
Timed control is fine for relatively predictable household or commercial usage: but for locations where use ebbs and flows (literally) it is probably better to opt for the Metered models, which can be chosen as an option with any of the above specifications.
The Meter Controlled softeners cost more for the extra hardware: but what they do is to measure your actual water consumption over 7 days on a rolling basis (ignoring low or no usage days), and based on that they assess the softener’s capacity to meet likely demand. Regeneration frequency and usage of salt will tend to be lower, because timed models work regardless of actual usage.
As a user of one of these machines, I can vouch for their effectiveness. However, we also do what others recommend to people who need low-sodium diets – we keep a separate unsoftened feed to a tap in the kitchen, for drinking water. Hard water is said to be good for the heart – mineral waters are full of it – even if it’s not good for taps.
Posted by Chris Ring
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