Water Softeners and Water Conditioners

Father-in-law wishes to install one of the above in order to, I understand, reduce the scale build up in the water pipes and on the taps in his house.
He has found vast amounts of literature about conditioners and softeners as individual items i.e. how to install, where to install, runing costs etc but nothing which tells him the pros and cons and what each system is designed to do. FWIW he is astounded to find that Which? has written nothing (ever) about these devices.
Can anyone offer any advice and guidance?
TIA
Richard
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Real email address is RJSavage at BIGFOOT dot COM

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On Tue, 21 Mar 2006 17:46:43 +0000, rjs wrote:

Water Conditioners claim to reduce scale by magic. They don't.
Water Softeners virtually eliminate the calcium carbonate (limescale) in the water by swapping the carbonate ion for the chloride ion. As a result scale is removed, the water feels more "luxurious", soap forms a lather more easily and doesn't form scum, you need less detergent in your washing machine, and you don't need salt in your dishwasher. I would never go back to hard water.
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Nigel Molesworth wrote:

Ion exchange softeners work. They cost from around 350ish plus installation. You need to tip in a sack of salt at regular intervals; the consumption depends on how frequently they regenerate or your water consumption. Lots of data posted previously, search the archives.

Electronic/magnetic water conditioners are claimed to work, mostly by the sellers. The effects are dubious. Most sensible posters here believe they don't work. Dr Drivel believes that they do work. Lots of data posted previously, search the archives.

Close. It swaps the calcium &/or magnesium base ions for sodium, but who cares if they work. Which they do.
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On 21 Mar 2006 12:07:56 -0800, Aidan wrote:

Same thing. Turns Sodium Chloride and Calcium Carbonate into Sodium Carbonate and Calcium Chloride.
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On Tue, 21 Mar 2006 18:11:14 +0000, Nigel Molesworth
They *possibly* work, as discussed in another thread.

Not true.
Detergent is no more effective with softened water. All softened water does is allow the detergent to produce more bubbles. As you'll remember from 'O' level chemistry bubbles don't have a cleaning effect!
The public equate "more bubbles"="better cleaning" and this is simply not true.
Manufacturers make detergents that bubble simply because the public prefer them!
Southern Water confirm this fact: http://www.southernwater.co.uk/educationAndEnvironment/drinkingWaterQuality/waterHardness.asp
"While hard water does not produce as much lather this has NO EFFECT on the performance of soaps and washing detergents".
In other words it's all "spin" circulated by the softener manufacturers..

True.
Two other points to bear in mind if you have a softener fitted is that you must have an unsoftened drinking water tap installed, due to the possible increased levels of sodium. In addition you have to have a compulsory water meter installed as they use excess water during regeneration.
sponix
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On Tue, 21 Mar 2006 22:16:37 +0000, sponix wrote:

You are using "fact" as if Southern Water have no need for spin.
I can assure you that soft water does not require as much detergent for the same cleaning power. Part of the detergent is used up in softening the water.
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On Tue, 21 Mar 2006 22:34:36 +0000, Nigel Molesworth

The cleaning power is exactly the same! The effect is purely psychological, due to the increase in "bubbleability".
Ask on one of the chemistry newsgroups.
sponix
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That is only the advice of teh water companies. There is not a health reason for it. Having said that, all tap water tastes pretty disgusting anyway.

Not true. The only requirement is that the supplier is notified that one has been fitted. It doesn't necessarily mean that they will insist on a meter. It does mean that the householder no longer has the right not to have a meter according to DEFRA.
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Andy Hall wrote:

Thats because it has most of the minerals like sodium carbonate taken out of it ;-)
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wrote:

I believe the non-softened tap is a requirement under water bylaws.

True in the Southern Water area at least. Similarly if you have a garden tap installed etc.
sponix
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sponix wrote:

Only insofar as they modify the type of precipitation that calcium carbonate crystallizes out at for a short way downstream of the device.
That my prevent e.g. hard scale forming in a local pump, but it doesn't soften the water, and nor does it prevent scale forming elsewhere.

Incorrect by and large. A lot depends on the detergent though. You can easily run a test if you have softened water by getting your hands oily, and washing them first in softened, and then in unsoftened water using e.g washing up liquid.

And they work whether or not the eater is softened.

http://www.southernwater.co.uk/educationAndEnvironment/drinkingWaterQuality/waterHardness.asp
Its not. Soaps particularly react with calcium carboante to form an insoluble scum that does not do what soap is designed to do - allow grease and fats to become water soluble.
I don't know where southern water got their 'facts' from but they are plain WRONG.

It is CONVENTIONAL to have this, I do not believe the regulations INSIST, and in any case, there is more sodium carbonate in moist mineral water than in softened tap water, and more salt in a bag of peanuts than 50 gallons of softened water.

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sponix wrote:

My parents have a softener - installed in the last couple of years - and no water meter.
Richard
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Did they tell the water company?
sponix
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Sponix wrote:

Good question!
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Nigel Molesworth wrote:

And making the calcium carbonate sodium carbonate which adds an interesting mineral water flavour.
As a

Ditto.
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Lots of misinformation here:-
- Soft water from a softener contains sodium carbonate rather than calcium/magnesium carbonate, the hardness. - You use less soap as soap is not being consumed by reacting with the hard water. Basic hard water reaction is sodium stearate (soap) + calcium carbonate (hardness) -> calcium stearate (scum) + sodium carbonate. Soft water contains sodium carbonate and doesn't react with the soap, so all the soap goes into cleaning rather than scum making. - You don't have to have a water meter. - You don't have to ask the water company.
This misinformation about asking water companies comes from Google and not reading which country the rules apply to. Many US states forbid the fitting of ion exchange water softeners as the excess chloride discharged by water softeners (calcium chloride) is discharged into rivers and ends up being used to irrigate crops causing crop failures due to excess chloride ions. In UK this is not an issue as there is little irrigation using river water, some chloride is removed in sewerage works and it all ends up being discharged into the sea which happens to be full of chloride ions.
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On Wed, 22 Mar 2006 14:51:23 -0000, Ian_m wrote:

I agree.

Agreed. I said "[ion exchanger] Turns Sodium Chloride and Calcium Carbonate into Sodium Carbonate and Calcium Chloride"

Agreed. I said "soft water does not require as much detergent for the same cleaning power. Part of the detergent is used up in softening the water."

Agreed. If fact you use less water in the long run, it rinses better.

Agreed. See above.
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On Wed, 22 Mar 2006 15:51:22 +0000, Nigel Molesworth

In fact you do have to tell the water company that you have a softener (according to DEFRA). This also negates your right not to have a meter. This means that the water company *may* insist that you have one.
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wrote:

Mine (Southern Water) doesn't as I phoned up asking for the water hardness as I was fitting a water softener, they put me through to technical (or some such thing) who asked me what I wanted to know and was given the figure 19 Clark in my case...hard...
Can't see why you need a meter, mine discharges 16l of water every couple of days, thats really only two loo flushes, and the fact that you can get away with less water and soap usage saves money (but savings probably don't cover the 500 cost of the softener, but we didn't fit it to save money)
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Take a look at
http://www.southernwater.co.uk/b2b/waterRegulations/notification.asp
You do have to officially notify them. Whether you do, and whether they would ever find out if you didn't is an entirely different matter.

Don't look for logic in any of this - look for politics, bullshit and a reason for the water companies to fit a meter should they choose to do so.
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