"Completed: Water Filter and Water Softener Installation" by William Herron is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
How long does water conditioner take to work? Have you ever wondered if you left enough time for the water conditioner to work before you used the water?
I have wondered too. We have all had that question many times before in our lives. Actually, it turns out we were right to be concerned about it. Let me tell you why.
The main deciding factor here is that you have to identify the type of water conditioner. This depends on its working mechanism. There are many types of water conditioners in the market. These work using different techniques to condition the water.
What does a simple water conditioner do?
A water conditioner would remove chemicals and impurities that may be present in water. Chemicals such as chlorine and organic contaminants in water cause bad taste and smell. Water conditioning removes such smell and taste in water.
Water conditioning is often associated with water softening. Water softening is the process of curing hard water. If you live in an area with hard water, you may experience a buildup of lime scaling on plumbing. This causes serious plumbing issues. Your home equipment such as washing machines, dishwashers, and showers get damaged with the lime buildup. This reduces the lifespan of your homeware. This scaling is the buildup of hard minerals such as Magnesium and Calcium in water. Water softeners remove hard minerals from your water. This prevents causing lime scaling within the plumbing and fixtures.
Several water conditioning systems available in the market address one or both the above issues; lime scaling and impurities in water.
There are traditional and modern technologies used in water conditioning. The time taken for these water conditioners to work, therefore, depends upon these technologies.
What are the technologies used by water conditioners?
There are a lot of brands of water conditioners. Irrespective of their brand and size, these vary from their fundamental technologies.
Water conditioners can be categorized into four main types based on the technology used in them. Certain brands produce water conditioners of different technologies. They are aimed to cater to different market segments and different customer types. And yes, as you have probably realized, they do have considerable price differences too.
Ion Exchange type of Water Conditioners
This is one of the oldest technologies used in water softening. The technique used in ion exchange water conditioners uses a salt-based basin or a filter bed to remove the Calcium and Magnesium ions from water. Hard ions such as magnesium and calcium are removed when water enters the salt filter bed, sodium ions from the salt step in to replace the hard ions. The hard ions get accumulated in the filter bed while the output water is rid of hard ions. But, in this type of water conditioner, water output is high saline or brine. Due to the usage of Salts in this type of conditioner, these are often called salt-based water conditioners.
So, to entirely condition water, numerous vendors encourage you to buy a reverse osmosis filter along with the ion exchange water softener. Some brands have ion exchange water conditioners in the form of double tanks where a reverse osmosis tank is already put into the same system.
How long does an ion exchange water conditioner take to work?
There are so many arguments on how long an ion exchange water conditioner takes to work. Some argue that it may need to sit for hours to wait until the ion exchange is complete. Some claim that the water is suitable as soon as it comes out of the tap.
But experts recommend that it depends on the size and the general consumption of salt by your conditioner. They recommend keeping track of the salt consumption by the brine tank at least once a month to ensure you have enough salt in your brine tank. This helps to keep the salt-based conditioner’s performance at its best level. The salt level in the brine container must be maintained at least half full to get softened water. Once you run out of salt entirely, it may need 2-3 days for you to get the water softened back to the expected level.
So it is safe to assume; that if you somehow run out of salt or it is the first time you begin using the ion exchange water conditioner, it is always a good idea to wait approximately 48 hours before you use the water.
If the system is not working efficiently you will notice soap suds and lime spots on your bathroom.
The most advanced water conditioning systems are made smarter. They have inbuilt features to accommodate different consumption levels. This helps to predict consumption and thereby conserve water and salt utilization.
How often to add salt into the salt-based conditioner?
Your salt usage will increase with the size of the water conditioner, your water consumption levels, and the hardness of your water supply. As mentioned before, the ideal way to get the best performance of your water conditioner is by maintaining the brine container at least half full with salt all the time.
A household with a family of 4 with an average level of hardness in water will use at least 40 pounds of salt within a month.
What is a reverse osmosis filter?
A reverse osmosis filter works by sending water at high pressure through a thin membrane. The membrane filters out the water at a microscopic level. This filtration removes all impurities, organic substances, some chemicals, and sodium ions in the water. A reverse osmosis filter can transform brine water into consumable clean water.
Reverse osmosis filters are used coupled with other types of water conditioners too.
Many people get confused when vendors market reverse osmosis filters to clean their water of salinity. Yet only a handful understand the above mechanism. If you have a water softener at home but still cannot consume the tap water due to impurities and smell, a reverse osmosis filter could help you. It is generally fixed to the output line of your conventional water softener, and it would work parallel with the water conditioner.
Electromagnetic type of water conditioner
Magnetic water conditioners need electricity to function. Don’t worry these systems are compact enough to comfortably fit inside your home. The water conditioner uses an electromagnetic force field to soften the water. The interior of the water conditioner comprises a big tank with electrical coils connected to the sides. These coils create an electromagnetic force field around them when powered by electricity. Therefore, electromagnetic water conditioners are also called magnetic or electronic water descalers.
This electromagnetic force field is said to change the molecular structure of hard ions in water. The hard molecules are sheet-shaped and, this will convert them to spherical-shaped crystals. And this change will prevent these hard ions from sticking to surfaces and fixtures. Thereby you can prevent the occurrence of limescale.
But, the electromagnetic water conditioners are only effective on water that gets in direct contact with its electromagnetic force field. As a result, their effectiveness is not scientifically proven.
How long does a magnetic water conditioner take to work?
There is an ongoing debate between vendors and the scientific community on the effectiveness of magnets in water conditioning and the life span of their resultant effects. Although they help to prevent lime scaling, magnetic conditioners are not reviewed as the best option for places where water sits still for a long period.
Why magnetic water conditioners are not suitable for certain places.
Magnetic water conditioners work by altering the molecular shape of hard minerals to form crystals. This eliminates their ability to stick to the walls of your fixtures and pipes. This occurs when water comes into contact with the magnetic field that is formed inside this conditioner. Although theoretically, this mechanism is successful in converting hard ions into crystal forms, there is no scientific evidence to support how long the altered molecular shapes of hard ions will last once it leaves the magnetic field.
There is a compelling argument to suggest that this period when the molecules stay in crystal form is no longer than a few hours at best. Therefore, this may not be the ideal product for domestic use if you are not a frequent water consumer.
Then again, there is also no guarantee about the efficiency of the magnetic water conditioners. As mentioned before, the water has to come in contact with the magnetic field to be able to aid the process of descaling. However, it is not warranted that all the water passing through the magnetic water conditioner will be in contact with the magnetic field. Consequently, the effectiveness of magnetic water conditioners could be far less than expected.
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) type of water conditioner uses a catalyst media. Therefore these are also called catalyst water conditioners or sometimes Vulcan descalers. The catalytic media used in this type of conditioner may be a polymer, radiofrequency or electric impulses. The water doesn’t always have to be in contact with a catalyst for this type of conditioner to work. The TAC changes the molecular structure of the hard ions and they are converted to larger crystal forms. These larger crystals lose the ability to attach to the walls of appliances and plumbing fixtures. The formation of larger crystals prevents lime scaling on your fixtures and spotting on your bathroom floor.
This mechanism does not necessarily remove the hard ions from water. Instead, the hard minerals are converted into crystals and allowed to flow out with water.
How long does a TAC water conditioner take to work?
TAC uses catalytic media to help convert the hard ions into crystal forms to descale the water. The catalytic media used in TAC conditioners may be polymer resin or electric impulses. In the case of polymer resin media, the polymers are available in bead forms. The mineral ions in water come into contact with these beads and they help to covert the shape of molecules to crystal form.
When the TAC water conditioner is using electric impulses, the conditioner will have an electric pulse generator outside the conditioner. This pulse generator connects electrically into the conditioner and will generate electric pulses at a set frequency. The same principle of descaling will occur in this situation. These components generally have a warranty period offered by the vendor. The warranty period may differ with different manufacturers and brands. Therefore pay attention to the warranty period when you purchase a TAC water conditioner. It will ensure that you will get replacement components in the case of a breakdown of its components.
If you are a user of Template Assisted Crystallization type of water conditioner, you made the right decision. This has the capability to condition water at a faster pace. You will not even notice a difference in flow rate since this conditioner can descale water on demand.
If your home has a high water demand with irregular consumption patterns, a catalytic water conditioner is what you need. Catalytic water conditioners can be used on-demand. The latest models of TAC will offer features to enable water conservation mode and ensures good supply without affecting the water flow rate.
How much catalytic media will be used by TAC?
When TAC media used by the conditioner is polymer beads, they may need to be replaced every three years or so depending on your consumption rate. They can be used for as long as five years in some instances. Generally, the manufacturer of the TAC water conditioner will recommend a standard lifetime. This should be referred to as a guideline for you to replace the TAC media within a specific period of usage.
If you are comparing usage of TAC catalyst with the generic salt ion-exchange conditioners, comparatively TAC uses a small quantity of catalyst unlike in salt-based conditioners. A small amount is enough to last a long period of around three years as mentioned above. You would not have to constantly keep monitoring to check if you run out of catalysts like in salt-based conditioners.
Carbon water conditioners
This type of system both conditions and smoothens water. The water is sent in high pressure across a granulated activated carbon (GAC) filter. It filters water to remove hard ions, certain chemicals, impurities, and organic matter that could be giving a bad smell or a taste in water. This removes water hardness, smells, or bad tastes and the water can be directly consumed. The GAC acts as a filter and retains all the hard ions and other impurities. As a result, it is important to closely monitor the activated carbon filters and replace them frequently.
How long does a carbon water conditioner take to work?
GAC or carbon water conditioners are an efficient type of water conditioner. They come in various sizes and functionality for portable, domestic and larger industrial usage. The size and the number of carbon filters required within the water conditioner will depend on multiple factors. The form and nature of contaminants in the water, the hardness of water, and your intended usage are the most important factors for it.
Portable carbon water conditioners are majorly used in businesses and domestically. Portable type of GAC water conditioners can be used instantly. It filters water faster and produces quality water that could be consumed directly.
The domestic GAC water conditioners generally have an elaborate two-tank design. They are equipped with two filters to ensure effectiveness. They also provide faster output depending on the pressure of water supplied into the GAC.
Portable and domestic GAC conditioner systems may need to be monitored and their GAC filter needs to be replaced every few months. Some filters may even last up to several years based on their usage. The lifespan of the GAC filter depends on the hardness of water and contaminant levels.
If you use the GAC filter for the first time or if it has been idle for a few weeks, we recommend you let the system flush with water once before you use it. This will remove any residue left in still water due to organic reactions.
The key highlight when deciding how long the water conditioner takes to work is taking the advice of your vendor. Different water conditioners may have to be treated differently when it comes to their inbuilt system.
You should get a handbook or a manual when you purchase a water conditioner. So make sure to collect the manual from the vendor when you buy a water conditioner and read it well.
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