Whole House Water Systems
Making what comes from the tap better and healthier
Bad water quality is no laughing matter. What’s in that H2O flowing from our taps, faucets and showerheads is a growing concern for consumers and businesses alike. Every region in the U.S., and areas within each state, has its own local water issues, perhaps not as drastic and tragic as what’s happening in Flint, Mich., but still worth noting. The West is no exception.
So, what are the biggest water quality problems being addressed by whole-house water filtration systems? They include hardness, taste and odor.
“Here in Southern California it’s hard water. Next in line would be chlorine/chloramine, says Dennis Falsken, president of Falsken Water Systems Inc. “A water softener is the most effective way to address the hard water. A water softener removes/reduces the excess calcium and magnesium from the incoming water supply. Hard water issues cannot occur if the elements that create hard water are no longer present. Chlorine/chloramine reduction is accomplished with equipment very similar in appearance to a water softener, but will use a complete different process using filtration media specifically designed for addressing chlorine/chloramine.”
Across much of the United States, water softening is the dominant technology used to prevent lime scale build up, a big problem addressed by whole house water conditioning, says Ryan Lessing, product management/engineering, Watts Water Quality. “Softeners work on the principal of ion exchange and contain a cubic foot or more of media; this is where the exchange of ions takes place. Water softening media is saturated with sodium ions. To understand what takes place, think of ions as components of minerals that are dissolved in water and have an electrical charge. The heavier the ion, and the stronger the ion’s charge, then the more likely it is to attach itself to the ion exchange media while simultaneously knocking the sodium ion off into the water.
“Calcium and magnesium, known as hardness ions, are heavier and have a stronger electrical charge than sodium. For this reason, lime scale forming ions (calcium and magnesium) are removed from the water and non-scale forming sodium ions are put back in their place. After a certain amount of water has been treated by the water softener, the ion exchange media becomes saturated with calcium and magnesium ions and must be regenerated with a brine solution. This forces the calcium and magnesium ions out of the media and restores the media with new sodium ions, allowing the ion exchange process to take place again.
Another process, template assisted crystallization, commonly known simply as “TAC,” is growing in popularity, Lessing says. “TAC systems bear a slight physical resemblance to a water softener, but function in a much different way. These systems use a specially formulated media to convert hardness ions into an un-dissolved crystal form. When hardness ions are dissolved, they can react to form scale. However, when they are converted into a crystal form, they are inert and cannot form scale within the plumbing system. TAC systems do not require regeneration, or brine – so a lot of water is saved. They don’t even require electricity. They do not remove hardness from the water; instead, they neutralize its scaling affects.”
The basic Water Inc. House Pure System addresses the significant taste, odor, and cloudiness created by the infusion of chlorine into the water system, says Major Avignon, CEO of Water Inc. “And, in more and more areas where chloramines are being used, our systems help to reduce the pinhole leaks done to copper water lines.”
The options for whole house water treatment all depend on the wants and needs of the customer,” Avignon says. “We always recommend or request a water test to be performed on the water where they system would be installed. It is important to find out the details of the water to assure that the proper system sold to the customer works to prevent or correct the issues that they would or could have without the system installed.”
To reduce the negative effects of chlorine or chloramines, the main water entering the house will enter a carbon filled tank that will reduce the unpleasant odor and taste, he explains. That tank periodically back flushes to clean the carbon for many years of use. This water is able to be used for irrigation purposes. “A concern for spotting and scale build up will be addressed by a water softener or scale control system. The process of softening is accomplished by exchanging hard water minerals (calcium, magnesium) with soft minerals provided by sodium or potassium. This water feels ‘silky’. Our microprocessor-controlled systems use much less sodium/potassium and are more efficient by water use by their ability to regenerate only as needed.”
Hard water and chlorine/chloramine taste and odor are serious concerns, says Roy Esparza, director of business development, Puronics, Inc. “A properly sized, whole house water system will remove these concerns for homeowners.” There are two different options: whole house multi-media water conditioners and no-salt systems. Puronics systems effectively remove both hard water (calcium carbonate) deposits and chlorine/chloramine compounds.
“Puronics systems have an upper layer of carbon (Silvershield) to efficiently absorb chemical compounds while inhibiting bacteria growth. Our second layer of media (ion exchange resin) removes hard water ions using salt as a regenerate, and the final layer of media is the clarifier to remove particulate matter, providing high-quality water. Non-salt systems perform similar chemical reduction functionalities. However, the hard water ions are not removed, but are converted into a crystal microscopic form through a process called nucleation. Once formed and detached, the crystal will not adhere to any surface. This technology does not require salt as a regenerate, electricity or a drain for backwashing.”
The Enviro Water Products Pro-Combo System addresses the two most prevalent problems homeowners with municipal/city water face: chemicals and hardness, explains Tony Friesl, executive vice president of Enviro Water Products. Two major problems are addressed: filtration of chemicals like chlorine and chloramine taste and odor, and eliminating the damaging effects of hard water by preventing scale. “We have a video that shows exactly how the system works we could share as appropriate.”
Teaming up to Treat Water
Pairing a whole house system with a point-of –use system is a common treatment method to ensure that the highest water quality is achieved for the water’s specific intended purpose, Watts’ Lessing says. “When a reverse osmosis unit is selected as the POU drinking water system, even the sodium imparted into the water by the water softener will be removed by up to 98 percent along with many other potential contaminants not removed by softening alone.”Single media systems usually require additional point-of-use treatment for taste and odor removal, Puronics’ Esparza say, while multi-media systems are typically stand-alone systems.
“Due to the high flow rates, 25- to 35 gallons per minute, in a whole house system, there is limited ability to reduce contaminants beyond chlorine and chloramines,” Avignon says. “For maximum filtration and best quality of drinking water, a point-of-use system is recommended. The best systems — either filtration or reverse osmosis — are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, an independent testing service that verifies the claims made by the manufacturer. These are always delivered via a specific faucet and the controlled flow rate and capacity make sure you get to enjoy ‘bottled water quality’, without the high costs, environmentally and financially, of using thousands of plastic drinking bottles. Using both systems will ensure that the entire house and its occupants are protected.”
The choice of installing both whole house and POU systems is a matter of personal preference of the homeowner, Falsken says. “If they want to have quality water easily available for drinking or cooking, they may want to add a reverse osmosis system. A common consumer concern is fluoride. An RO system will address this element.”
Some systems are, like salt-based systems, says Enviro Water Products’ Friesl. “They are paired with a Reverse Osmosis POU system in order to remove the salt added to the water for drinking. Our Pro-Combo System can stand alone and deliver better than bottled water quality from every tap in the customer’s home. The only time a Reverse Osmosis System would be used with our system is when a homeowner is concerned with a specific impurity in the water like lead — Think “Flint, Mich.”). Our Reverse Osmosis system is very efficient and addresses many heavy metals, cysts, etc., while at the same time re-mineralizing the water.”
What installers need to know
Knowledge about selection, sizing, commissioning and troubleshooting of these systems is very important, Lessing says. “In some states, water treatment equipment installation and repair activities must be performed by a professional with a state license, or by a licensed plumber.”
Water testing is important. “It’s always recommended to complete an on-site water test for both hardness and chlorine levels,” Esparza notes. These tests can be performed easily and quickly with the proper test kits.
“There are three simple steps that the plumber, contractor or install needs to know: electric, inlet water size and outlet/drain size. Each of the valves or connections will have the markings to show the proper water flow to the inlet and outlet side,” Avignon says. “Each of the whole house water systems that Water Inc. provides is 110 volts unless the system is large or special order. It is also important that the drain lines for the units are run to a French drain or a city sewer drain. The system does have a cycle that is performed every so often that requires water be run through a media or ingredient to rejuvenate/refresh to allow the best use of filtration to the water.”
Consumers need to be educated that water treatment processes are more efficient and effective today than in the past, Falsken says. “Much of the information surrounding water treatment is just not valid any longer. There is a lot of bad information and misinformation out there. For example:
1. Consumers think they have to deal with multiple salt bags needed to operate a softener. The facts: In the past a softener for the average family would use 8 to 10 bags of salt per month, today’s equipment will require only about one bag per month. Instead of adding salt monthly like in the past, the addition of salt will only be required a couple of times a year.”
2. Consumers believe it’s unhealthful to drink softened water because of all the salt in the water. The facts: There is essentially a negligible amount of sodium that goes down stream into the home from a professional water softener that is sized and programmed correctly.
3. Consumers believe softened water has a slick slimy feel. The facts: Because of the overall increased operational efficiency, today’s professional water softener does not produce this feeling.
Two things, Friesl says. (1) Enviro Water Products Pro-Combo System works for all city water applications without the plumber or contractor having to understand water chemistry. (2) Unlike traditional systems, our system is very quick and easy to install because it requires no electrical outlet and no drain line. The net effect of using our product is that plumbers and contractors can get into the water treatment business easier than ever before. The Pro-Combo System is a rare high-ticket, high margin item.
Where You Can Learn More
“The original equipment manufacturer for any given piece of water treatment equipment should be the first source for training and support,” Watts’ Lessing says. “Most of them will come out and host trainings for companies they do business with. The Water Quality Association has constructed detailed certification programs to train installers, representatives, service and application technicians.
Your water treatment provider should assist with tech support manuals for their equipment, Esparza says. Puronics offers complete a line of water treatment systems, with water testing kits, laboratory testing, technical support/product sizing and in-house and on-site sales and technical training.
“We actually provide water treatment classes here at our facility and offer condensed versions that can be given at a contractor’s shop,” Falsken says. “We can gear the class to the specialty of the contractor. It may be residential, commercial, food service, manufacturing or any type of water treatment application that the contractor might perform. Our goal is giving the attendees more confidence offering, selling and installing water treatment equipment. We also are available to answer questions from the contractor or his client in person, on the phone, or by e-mail.”
“Our website (www.envirowaterproducts.com) has training and installation videos. Our bi-lingual Technical Service team is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, six days a week to answer any and all questions. Our field-based sales team conducts on-site training meetings with plumbers and contractors both to kick off the program and also ongoing as needed,” Friesl says.
“Installers and contractors are welcome to call our service department with any questions or issues that they have,” says Water Inc.’s Avignon. “We have many resources to quick answers for any and all questions about our water filtration products. Water Inc. has videos that can be downloaded as well as training available for installers. We want to ensure that products are working properly according to manufacturer design”