Water Conditioning 101
An Overview of Hard Water Problems and Solutions
Hard Facts About Hard Water
Water that contains significant amounts of minerals (usually calcium and magnesium) is referred to as “hard” water. Although the United States Geological Survey reports that hard water is present in almost 90% of the country, there are regions where the concentration is particularly high.
Why Hard Water is Hard on Your Business
Hard water can take its toll on your business. Excess minerals in the water produce a scale that results in inefficiencies and, in turn, higher costs. Examples include
- Energy and fuel consumption. Scale in boilers and water heaters functions like insulation and impedes heat transfer, so systems work harder, use more fuel, and are less efficient.
- Water pressure and flow. Scale buildup in pipes and plumbing can cause clogs and lead to reduced pressure and inconsistent flow.
- Appliance and equipment costs. If you have equipment that uses water, it will work harder and wear our more quickly in the presence of hard water scaling. This includes everything from dishwashers and washing machines to ice makers, air conditioners, laboratory equipment, and manufacturing equipment. Even toilets wear out more quickly in hard water regions.
- Chemicals and cleaning supplies. Hard water causes a scum to form when soap is used; consequently, detergents and shampoos do not lather as well and are less effective. In many cases additional chemicals are required, resulting in increased cost and increased environmental pollution.
- Supply costs. The same minerals that produce scale in pipes and equipment also leave deposits in linens and on glassware, shortening their life and giving them a rough feel and dingy appearance.
- Labor costs. Poor performance by cleaning agents means that it takes more time to accomplish typical cleaning tasks—as much as 50% more time, according to a University of Ohio study.
Add to these the cost of de-scaling equipment and the dissatisfaction of customers who appreciate pure, good-tasting water, clean soft linens, and spot-free glassware, and you can see why water conditioning is not a luxury—it’s a necessity.
Water Treatment Basics
There are several water treatment methods on the market. The most effective and efficient method is water softening, using reverse osmosis.
Reverse Osmosis Water Softening. This process is also called positive ion exchange, because its methodology is based on removing the calcium and magnesium ions by exchanging them for sodium ions. Tanks containing resin beads rinsed with sodium (salt) are installed. Hard water is channeled through the tank, where the minerals are attracted to the resin beads and cling to them. At the same time, sodium ions are displaced—hence, the term “exchange.” Eventually the resin beads will become saturated with minerals and will need to be regenerated with fresh sodium. The softening system has a control valve that directs the process of flushing minerals out and adding sodium back to the resin beads. Periodically supplies of salt will need to be added to the system so that this process can take place.
Filtration. Some minerals and contaminants can be removed by a filtration system. Water passes through a bed which removes small particles by trapping them in a polymer membrane. These systems must be backwashed periodically to removed accumulated sediment.
Choosing a Water Conditioning System
Only a company that specializes in commercial water treatment has the expertise to help you determine what’s best for your situation. A reputable company will offer
- Water testing
- Site evaluation and needs analysis
- System purchase or lease options with all manufacturers’ warranties
- Equipment installation, maintenance, and repair, including emergency service
- Regular salt delivery and installation
- Flexible contracts and satisfaction guarantees