The term water conditioner (sometimes called physical water conditioner or physical water treatment device) is generally used to describe a wide range of products that are designed to prevent lime-scale build-up on heat-exchange surfaces when hard water is heated. Unlike softeners or filters which work by removing the ions (hardness salts) which form the lime-scale, water conditioners generally work by affecting the chemistry of the precipitation reaction: suppressing lime-scale formation, reducing the rate of scaling, or by altering the form of the scale or the chemistry of the precipitation mechanism itself. There are lots of different types of products on the market with a variety of claimed operating mechanisms.
The most common types of water conditioner include:
The UKWTA has demonstrated how lime-scale build-up has a major impact on reducing the efficiency of domestic water heating appliances – so much so that lobbying the Government has now resulted in a change in the UK Building Regulations (the Domestic Heating Compliance Guide - published May 2006) to require treatment of the feed water to water heaters in hard water areas to inhibit lime-scale formation.
The benefits of installing a water conditioner can include:
It is generally understood that water conditioners are not completely effective in preventing lime-scale build-up – they reduce scale build-up by modifying the form of the scale produced making it less likely to stick heat-exchange surfaces. Although there are claims that certain products are ineffective in comparison with other technologies, there is significant evidence that most are generally beneficial with many modern products providing a very high level of satisfaction. Unfortunately, wild claims by less scrupulous manufacturers in the past have led to some reluctance to recognise the ability of water conditioners, although the publication of field test results by authoritative bodies, and the introduction of performance warranties for some products, is increasing confidence. Performance is dependent on initial water quality and may be influenced by the installation practice, for example some manufacturers advise against positioning near tee-off points to household appliances as this may lessen the treatment effect. It is essential to seek advice from the manufacturer or retailer and to follow the installation instructions carefully.
Work with a reputable manufacturer or dealer who can help guide you through the various technologies – Begin by consulting the list of UKWTA members.