Conventional water softeners add salt to the water in a process of ion exchange as a hard water solution. This process changes the minerals in the water which affects the way the soaps we use interact with the water in the cleaning process. Soft water is easier on our skin, but harsh on plants because of the salt. People who have water softeners in their house often install a cold water bypass to supply untreated water for other purposes not requiring softened water such as outdoor use, cooking, drinking etc. Others only soften the water destined for the hot water heater. Of course, their are some salt free water softener options which usually consists of adding potassium chloride instead of salt.
The technology of electronic water softeners has been proven to be effective in very large industrial sized systems which have actually been shown to clean off residual calcium accumulation already present in existing systems. The water is exposed to very large magnetic fields by running it through special magnets. It doesn’t change the chemical makeup of the water, but acts by stimulating the molecules in turn suspending them for about 72 hours. In suspension, these minerals such as calcium, won’t stick to each other or anything else. In 72 hours in most households any water submitted to these magnets has already gone through the system and used so there is a continual flow of electronically softened water available.
Electronic water softeners are gradually becoming available in the residential market with some credible products.
One such product is the “Clear Wave” made by Field Controls Inc. This product originated in Great Britain where hard water scale build up is a nationwide problem. It appeared on the market in North America in the early 90’s. According the manufacturer, Field Controls, it is as easy as 1-2-3 to install, can be installed in less than 15 minutes and no tools are required. They provide everything in their package along with an instructional DVD.
Another product is called “ScaleBlaster” from ClearWater Enviro. It is installed in the incoming water supply line coming into the house. According to the company which manufactures this product, there is no extra plumbing installation, is easy to install, and requires no maintenance as in changing filters or bags of salt. This company produces both residential and commercial sized electronic water softeners and according to their website “are a leading “Going Green” manufacturer of environmentally friendly products”.
One downside to an electronic water softener is its inability to function properly on water with high iron content, so testing your water before you decide is a definite consideration.
Jon Eakes, a do-it-yourself and home information guru on TV, states on his website that he used the Clear Water on his own system and although there was no additional build up of calcium in a 2 year time period, it did not clean up the initial accumulation present when installed.
So the overall conclusion is that electronic water softeners can work if the system used is appropriate to the mineral composition of your water and your water flow. However there is no conclusive or comprehensive study done to show which ones are more effective than others.