Magnetic Water Softeners – Reliable?
If you’re in the market for a water softening system, you may notice that magnetic water softeners are quite popular thanks to their low price range, zero maintenance, and ease of use. It’s no wonder then that when it comes to choosing between traditional salt-based water softeners and magnetic scale treatment systems, many will choose the latter.
Given that there is a significant price difference between the two softening systems, it begs the question whether magnetic water softeners are comparable to salt water softeners in terms of efficiency, and whether magnetic softeners really work?
To answer these questions, let’s see how these two scale treatment systems operate and how they compare to each other.
Salt-Based Water Softeners vs Magnetic Water Softeners
Salt water softeners are the only systems capable of actually softening water by targeting minerals that cause water hardness. Through a process called ion exchange, hardness ions are replaced with sodium ions, and water hardness is completely eliminated.
These salt-based water softening systems contain resin beads, which are responsible for the ion swapping that happens in the process of softening water. Use after use, these resin beads become “exhausted” or saturated, and need to be regenerated by washing away excess minerals. The regeneration process uses softener salt added to the brine tank of the water softener system.
Salt-water softeners can be time clock water softeners, which regenerate as they are programmed, and metered water softeners, which regenerate when needed. Both systems use salt, however, metered water softeners use less salt and less water. Also, metered water softeners can be electric (require electricity) and non-electric (rely on water pressure).
While traditional water softeners rely on a chemical process to soften water, magnetic water softeners rely on magnetic fields to draw hard water ions before water is distributed throughout your plumbing system. This involves placing powerful magnets on your water pipes.
On the face of it, magnetic water softeners seem like a less “invasive” way to soften water since there is nothing added to water. Even if you compare the purported benefits of each system, you may be inclined to favour magnetic softeners because of their affordable price, easy installation, and no maintenance.
Salt water softeners use water and salt to create the solution needed to regenerate the resin beads. This water is the sent to drain, which means increased water usage and regular salt changes.
Only when you compare the effectiveness of the two do you realise that salt water softeners are indeed superior to magnetic scale treatment devices, which have little to no effect.
Are Magnetic Water Softeners Efficient?
Anti-scale magnetic treatment is viewed by many as an alternative to chemical water softening, but even though these magnetic devices have been shown to produce electrical charges in calcium carbonate particles, their efficiency is only marginal.
The concept behind magnetic scale treatment is that the strong magnetic field alters the crystal structure of hardness minerals in order to prevent them to deposit as scale. Unfortunately, the research that has been conducted on the effects of magnetic fields on scale is deemed inconclusive by most water treatment specialists.
Therefore, in the absence of conclusive scientific research, magnetic water softening remain a hypothesised mechanism for inhibiting scale formation.
Alternative to Salt Water Softeners: Watts OneFlow Scale Control Systems
If you’re looking for an efficient way to treat hard water, but you’re not a fan of chemical processes or dealing with maintenance, the OneFlow line from Watts is an efficient alternative to traditional salt water softeners.
OneFlow scale control systems fall into the larger category of non-salt water softeners or scale inhibitors and use a physical process to deal with lime-scale build-up issues caused by hard water. OneFlow adds no chemicals to water, it needs little to no maintenance, it doesn’t use any electricity or backwash system.
This scale control system uses template assisted crystallization (TAC). Each OneFlow system sends water through a fluidized bed of OneFlow beads, which interact with hard minerals such as magnesium or calcium forming soft scale microcrystals. These microcrystals then flow freely without bonding to surfaces.
There are many advantages to installing a Watts OneFlow Scale Control system, and the most notable ones include:
- Eliminates scale build-up in expensive equipment;
- Retains beneficial minerals in water;
- Uses no chemicals — Eco-friendly alternative to chemical water softening;
- Low maintenance (e.g. no salt changes). Media replacement is to be carried out every 3 years for tank-based systems and once a year for filter housing systems. No other maintenance is required;
- Saves water because it doesn’t use a backwash system;
- It requires no electricity to operate.
Of course, no system is perfect, so there are some disadvantages to consider:
- OneFlow systems merely control or inhibit scale build-up, they do not remove hardness minerals from water, and thus do not soften water. You will still deal with detergent inefficiencies, soap scum, dry skin or hair;
- Initial investment costs are higher (sometimes even double the costs of a water softener system), but maintenance costs associated with traditional water softeners are eliminated.
OneFlow systems have many applications, and they are preferred in situations where chemical-free scale reduction or removal is necessary (e.g. food industry, laundromats, solar heating systems, steam generators, RO pre-treatment, water distillers, etc).
Unfortunately, magnetic water softeners are not efficient in inhibiting scale and they’re not a reliable choice when it comes to dealing with water hardness issues.
Due to the lack of solid scientific evidence backing up magnetic scale treatment systems, we recommend opting for tried and tested scale control methods like salt water softeners or scale control systems like the OneFlow from Watts.
Make sure to take under advisement the pros and cons of each system before choosing one for your home or business. As a general rule, water softeners that use ion exchange are more suitable when you need soft water, while other scale control systems are a better fit if you merely want to prevent scale build-up.