Today’s question comes to us from a guy named Igor Pimpik, hailing out of Potatohead, Idaho. Actually, it came from one of my readers on Quora. It is a question I have been asked a bunch so I decided to jump in and get wet.
First of all, there is no such thing as a salt-less water softener. These non-salt devices can be more properly called water conditioners although they don’t really do much of anything other than taking your money. Soft water is a term used for water that has only the smallest amounts of calcium and magnesium. In the truest definition water softening is the process of using something called ion-exchange resin. In this case, charged with the sodium ion (Na+) provided by a salt regeneration (NaCl). Then, through processes of (TMI) van der Waals forces and electronegativity the ion-exchange resin grabs and holds divalent and trivalent ions like calcium, magnesium, and iron and gives off a sodium ion (Na+) in its place.
Now, back on topic; these units called “salt-free” water softeners and conditioners do not soften water, and to be honest do not prevent calcium scale to any real degree. What they save you in salt, they more than cost in electricity. The claim is that by delivering electrical energy to water, the calcium ions don’t bind with each other to form scale (Calcium Carbonate)
The reality is that just as hot water in your tub quickly loses energy and becomes cold, the calcium ions quickly lose the energy imparted to them by the conditioning system and then go on to form scale, almost as if there was no treatment whatsoever. The bottom line is; if you have hard water, call in a pro, install a water softener and save yourselves a lot of headaches and wasted money.
Kudos to Culligan of Northern Indiana for the great history lesson on Emmit Culligan. Great read!