What Is a Whole-House Water Conditioner?
No matter where you reside in the United States, less-than-ideal or even contaminated household water is an issue that many homeowners may face. Whether the domestic water that runs to your home comes from a well or is delivered by a municipal system, there’s a good change that a number of minerals and contaminants can be found in varying levels in the water you use to drink, cook, clean, and bathe with. As a result, it often makes sense to consider a home water treatment product or system to help ensure your home’s water quality.
The broad range of available residential water treatment products include a selection of moderate to highly effective point-of-use water filters, along with a variety of whole-house water treatment solutions. This blog will focus on whole-house water conditioners, a proven product that may be worth considering as a standalone system, or used in conjunction with other water quality solutions.
The Benefits of Home Water Treatment Products
Although your local municipality has its own filtration and treatment system, and routinely produces water that meets federal and local standards (which have been known to change periodically), installing a whole-house water treatment system provides a second level of enhanced filtration that further ensures your safety and provides even higher quality water in your home.
The Benefits of Home Water Treatment Include:
- Increase the purity and ‘health’ of your drinking, cooking, and bathing water
- Increase the effectiveness of your dish and clothes washers
- Reduce consumption and improve the effectiveness of soaps, shampoos & laundry detergent
- Reduce the risk of water supply-related plumbing issues with appliances and piping
- Create a failsafe against a municipality water treatment breakdown
Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener
Simply put, a whole-house water conditioner is a versatile water treatment product that provides a broad range of benefits, as compared with a water softener, which focuses on the specific issue of ‘hardness.’ Hardness refers to the presence of minerals such as calcium and magnesium which can cause scaling and deposits throughout a home’s plumbing system, potentially wreaking havoc with appliances and even piping. Other impacts of hard water may also include health and hygiene considerations. A whole-house water softener’s chief job is to remove those minerals which cause hardness, and this is the most effective product for solving significant hardness issues. A quality water conditioner, on the other hand, may also reduce hardness – albeit to a lesser degree – but also provides a host of other benefits that you’d enjoy from a quality water filter. Therefore, you can think of a water conditioner as a more comprehensive water treatment product than a softener.
Generally speaking, whole-home water conditioners are not as effective as water softeners at removing hardness – some models are not even designed to do that work – but the big bonus of most water conditioners is that, in addition to potentially addressing a wider range of water quality issues, they require very little or zero maintenance at all. A great benefit in the right application!
Why Choose a Water Conditioner?
In many homes we visit in the Denver-Boulder metro area, hardness may be present in the water supply but not as an overwhelming issue, and the less labor-intensive water conditioner option might be the better call. A quality whole-home water conditioner can not only help reduce moderate levels of hardness, it can remove or neutralize a variety of chemicals, and also help address odor and taste concerns. However, as we mentioned above, if your home has a very hard water supply then the most appropriate solution will most likely be a water softener, possibly in conjunction with another product such as a water conditioner or a filtration system.
Types of Water Conditioners
Different designs of water conditioners provide their own sets of benefits, and taking the time to understand the theory and operation of each is the best approach when considering one of these products. Understanding their limits and appropriate applications is important to determine if a product is right for you and your home. In the right application, a water conditioner can be a great addition to your plumbing system.
Below are the most common whole-house water conditioner technologies currently available, either in standalone products or which can be found in combination in some units.
Carbon filtration may make use of both granulated and high activity carbon to remove certain chemicals from the water, and also help mitigate taste and odor issues. In some cases, the carbon filter is made from natural sources such as coconut shells or charcoal, which naturally contain abundant carbon.
Catalytic media water conditioners incorporate specially formulated filters that react with calcium and magnesium in the water to alter the minerals’ crystalline structure. This change in molecular structure reduces the tendency toward scaling and creating deposits in piping and appliances, as those minerals remain primarily suspended in the water. This process does not remove hard water minerals, rather, it simply changes their chemical structure to reduce scaling.
One of the most technologically advanced water conditioner designs makes use of the reverse-polarity theory. This unique design uses induced magnetic fields to alter the molecular structure of calcium and magnesium in the water. Similar in result to catalytic media but different in operation, this design also causes the hard water minerals to stay suspended in the water instead of creating buildup inside pipes and appliances. In addition, this design also prevents corrosion and helps dissolve pre-existing scale, over time. Some reverse-polarity water conditioners use electricity to power the process, but there are also good options that do not require electrical power.
Our Water Conditioner of Choice: The HALO 5
Our plumbing team at Save Home Heat Company recommends the HALO 5 whole-house water conditioner and filtration system from HALO Water Systems as a premium water conditioner for homeowners whose needs are a good match for the HALO 5’s capabilities. With a 10 to 15 year projected lifespan and a 10-year manufacturer warranty, this quality water conditioner has a design that combines several proven technologies and features into one product:
- Granular and high-activity carbon filtration
- Two-stage, 5-micron particle filtration
- Reverse-polarity field generation technology to inhibit scaling
- Automatic backwash system to maintain effectiveness and long product life
- 100% maintenance free
- Requires no electricity or batteries
Combining Water Conditioners and Water Softeners
We occasionally come across cases where a home has very hard water combined with other water quality issues such as certain chemicals, or odor and taste. A situation such as this requires a dual approach, at times requiring two separate units to do the most effective and most reliable job, long term. We tend to shy away from recommending products that include all of these functions in a single package; long term performance and maintenance concerns fuel most of this concern.
A nice advantage of installing a whole-house water conditioner in conjunction with a whole-house water softener is that the conditioner will help reduce the required frequency of maintenance of the softener, and also reduce salt consumption. Together, the result will be an even more effective, less maintenance intensive water treatment system.
The proper solution, of course, depends on the specific needs of the home and the family, and in many cases the nature of the water quality issues do not dictate this sort of multi-prong approach. In the Denver-Boulder area, you can trust our team at Save Home Heat to provide knowledgeable, proven, professional advice that has your best interests in mind, and to match you with water treatment products that make the most sense for you and your home.
Choosing the Right Water Conditioning System
Before making an investment in a water treatment product or system for your home, the first step is having your water tested in order to hone in on the issues you should be looking to address. Some issues, such as scaling, are pretty obvious, while others not so much. Our team can provide reliable in-house testing of common water issues such as hardness, chlorine, iron, and pH, and can direct you to independent labs (such as the state of Colorado) if more in-depth testing is indicated.
If you’ve already had your water tested and are considering a water conditioner or another type of water treatment product, we urge you to take the time to learn as much as you can, and to ask lots of questions before you make a purchasing decision. Our team at Save Home Heat Company will provide you with ample amounts of information and fully answer all your questions in a patient, low-pressure manner. Our only agenda is helping you improve your quality of life, and earning your trust every time you provide us the opportunity to work in your home.