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Frequently Asked Questions

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Magnetic & Catalytic Water Conditioners

Q. What is a magnetic or catalytic water conditioner anyway?
A
. Magnetic water conditioners pass water through a magnetic field, and catalytic water condtioners employ a slight pressure drop and a catalytic metal alloy to treat water. There are three main types: non-electric magnets, electrically powered magnets, and catalytic conditioners. Some conditioners use both a magnetic field and a catalytic alloy. Both systems attempt to treat water hardness and prevent scale build up in piping without the use of salt or filter media. The type of system we sell, the Enviro Scale conditioner, uses both a a catalytic alloy and a non-electric magnet to treat the water.

Q. Can I use these in place of a water softener?
A. Generally, no, but it depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you don't care about water hardness spots and just want to protect piping systems from scale build up, then they can be used in place of a water softener. If your water hardness is in the range of 5 to 15 grains per gallon, and you know you don't want a water softener, then these systems are your next best approach.

Q. Is all water hard?
A
. No. Waters above 6 to 8 grains of calcium carbonate per gallon are considered "hard". If you are on a private well or spring, you should test your water. Not all city waters are hard. If you see white spots and scale on fixtures and appliances though, chances are the water is "hard".

Q. How can I tell if the catalytic conditioner is working?
A.
This is difficult, since there is currently no way to analyze the water to see if the water has been treated. Since no minerals are actually removed, the water chemistry appears the same before and after the system. The only approach that works is to inspect the piping itself after a few years to see if scale is building up.

Q. I don't want to use a water softener because I don't want to put salt in my water; isn't salt a health problem?
A. No. The sodium level in softened water is very small, and depends on the hardness of the water and the amount of water one would consume. For instance, very hard water containing 20 grains/gallon (also expressed as 340 mg/liter) would add 340 mg of sodium for every liter (about a half a gallon) of water drank. One would have to drink over four gallons of water to exceed recommended daily sodium levels, and in many cases much more than that. Still, catalytic conditioners are easier to install and maintain then water softeners.

Q. Is there any maintenance involved with catalytic water conditioners?
A. Yes. The unit should be installed with unions, so it can be removed on a yearly basis and cleaned with white vinegar. Mineral deposits can build up on the catalytic core rendering it inoperative.

Q. Are there any water conditions in which I should NOT use a catalytic conditioner?
A. Yes. Don't use a catalytic conditioner if there is any iron, oil, phosphates or tannins in the water to be treated, as these can build up on the core within a very short period of time, making it inoperative, or requiring frequent cleaning.

Q. Is the water good for drinking after being treated with the catalytic conditioner?

A. These units do not affect the water either way for drinking. In some cases though, based on the release of dissolved carbon dioxide, the taste of the water is improved slightly for drinking, but no actual purification takes place.

Q. Will I save on soap or laundry products by using conditioned water?
A. Yes, very slightly. The surface tension of the water is improved, so soap will dissolve more easily, but one does not save the same as in water softening.

Q. How does the Advanced Water Systems know so much about these units?
A. We have installed several hundred catalytic conditioners over the years, and all data is from anecdotal references from our customers. Most people seem to see no difference, but some clients swear by them and reorder them when they move etc. Generally there is scant scientific evidence to support the claims by the catalytic conditioner manufacturers, but there is demand for them, and they do seem to have some effect, particularly on scale build-up, so we offer them conditionally to our customers. Caveat emptor.

Q
. Are there any scientific tests that have been done on these units?
A
. Yes, and the water treatment industry, the Water Quality Assocation and the standards testing organization, NSF International are in the process of setting up testing and standards for these systems, so we may have more information in the years to come.

 


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