Need help deciding Saltless vs Salt (with research)

Users who are viewing this thread

CableSCES

New Member
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Points
1
Location
Orange County, CA
Hi Water Experts!

I've been lurking here for the past couple weeks while doing research for the purchase of my home water filter and softener/conditioner system. I have 3 questions at the bottom, if you want to skip my whole intro. But here's a little background and research.

====
I'm a licensed civil engineer by trade, specializing in structures, and so I ofcourse want to know the physics, chemistry, research and testing that's been done on the systems like this that I buy, especially at price tags over $5000. I would install it myself, but I know my limits, I'm no plumber, so I want an expert to do it, with his liability and insurance and guarantee. I'm cautious of snake-oil salesman, but also understand that science is updating all the time and new technologies are continuing to improve our world.

I’m in Southern California, and started off by getting 6 different water purification specialists to come to my home and give me concept designs with quotes. I've narrowed it down to 2 of them. One is hard selling me on saltless that he “installs on Hollywood homes and for hospitals and cancer facilities,” and telling me that salt is bad for me and for my home plumbing. The other is hard-selling me on a salt ion-exchange system and that saltless doesn’t work. Prices are about the same including labor and taxes.

The saltless consultant "salt-free since 1979" proposed a "catalytic core device," one at the street, and one at the GAC+ filter tank. I had no idea what he was talking about, so down the rabbit hole I went.

I wanted to post the compilation of my research for the past couple weeks, so that anyone else doing a search for this stuff can have a single place to find out more information. I've posted my research with links in the first reply to this thread.

MY CONCLUSIONS:

1) There is no evidence to demonstrate that Catalytic Core conditioner devices work, beyond anecdotes which are flawed (as Mr Cartwright demonstrates).

2) There IS evidence that TAC, MWT, and CDI are effective at reducing scale, to varying degrees and varying durations.

3) Traditional salt-based ion exchange is the most effective, since it literally removes the calcium and magnesium particles.

4) Chloramine in water is bad all around, on health, on soil, and ruins copper piping.

MY QUESTIONS TO YOU

1) Does anyone have countering evidence or claim that the Catalytic Core systems do in fact work?

2) If I did go saltless, TAC seems to be the way to go. But how do the different manufacturers compare? One of the purification salesman is telling me that the original TAC from Belgium/Germany (Melstream Spectrosoft) is 20x more effective than the knockoffs made and sold out of Florida (Filtersorb, Watt, Next). Can anyone vouch for or against this? The experiment for the CA waterboard was done with Next ScaleStop, with between 90-97% reduction of scale. I looked up Melstream and they have very very little internet presence or information published.

3) The same salesman told me that putting a salt-based softening system in a house that has been piped for years with Copper Piping “is literally pouring salt on an open wound” and will result in tons of leaks in my home copper piping. I couldn’t find any research to this effect, in fact, there was tangential research that sodium (hydroxide) can reduce copper corrosion.

Is his claim true? Do sodium-chloride (or potassium-chloride) softeners result in leaks in copper plumbing that has long held hard chloraminated water? Does anyone have experience with this?

4) What are the true honest downsides to using a salt-based resin exchange system? When should I actually consider salt-free conditioning instead?
====

Thanks everyone for all your posts on this forum that I’ve learned so much from, and thanks in advance for your answers to my questions! Hopefully this will help more people than just myself.

My water:
pH ~ 8.2 per test
Cl/Br ~ 3 per test
Hardness ~ 21 gpg per test, 16.4 gpg per municipal water district report
Chloramine Residual ~ 2.1 mg/L per water district report

(Attached is Water District Water Quality Report PDF for 2018 water)
 

Attachments

  • MNWD-2019-Water-Quality-Report-data-reduced.pdf
    123.5 KB · Views: 105

CableSCES

New Member
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Points
1
Location
Orange County, CA
MY RESEARCH:

Every time I tried learning about this stuff, filtration and softening, the first things that pop up are companies trying to sell you something. I did find out that some municipalities are banning salt-based systems due to the backwash buildup in the municipal water supply which puts them out of compliance with state and federal regulations. So OK that got me curious, there must be SOME kind of viable alternative if it’s banned in some areas.

It took me some time, but the best most recent neutral industry journal publication on this is a 2-part article series in WC&P Magazine, from 2016, written by Peter Cartwright, found here:
http://wcponline.com/2016/10/15/water-treatment-enigma-part-1/
http://wcponline.com/2016/11/15/water-treatment-enigma-part-2/

He discusses how catalytic devices have not demonstrated repeated effectiveness in consistent testing, so that's roughly 20 years after the Catalytic Core device was introduced to the general WC&P audience in 1987 by Care Free (which was then debunked in May 2000 WC&P mag "Ask the Expert" Q&A, but then rebutted by Care Free in a subsequent April 2001 Q&A response saying "oh we made a typo" and defending their tech). Mr Cartwright also references this website specifically oriented around water softening and filtration chemistry and physics, by Stephen Lower, PhD, Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Vancouver, Canada:
http://www.chem1.com/CQ/
(I've seen this site linked from at least one thread on this forum too, so that was great to see it linked from multiple places.)

That site is very informative, and he discusses the exact terminology of the original 1987 paper for the Catalytic Core device, such as precious metals, electronegativity, free electrons in aqueous solution, and the expansion of the electron orbital shells. The professor demonstrates how these are impossible by the basic principles of chemistry. (This professor DOES discuss how Template Assisted Crystallization (and Epitaxial Nucleation) could possibly work actually, as the science makes sense, he's just dubious. But I'll get to TAC later).

I ran a search on researchgate and google scholar, and couldn't find a single academic study testing a catalytic core device for reduction of calcium bicarbonate, calcite, or aragonite scale. All results for epitaxial nucleation have to do with organic chemistry or semiconductors.

I did find two articles, one by UCANR and one by the US Golf Association, testing various types of water conditioners on the quality of water, the quality of plants exposed to the water, and on the buildup of scale inside their irrigation systems. Their studies found no improvements with catalytic core devices or magnetic devices over straight piping.

There are however a number of scientific articles, research compilations, and experiments demonstrating that Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC), Electromagnetic water treatment (MWT), and Capacitive Deionization (CDI) all are indeed effective at reducing scale, to varying degrees based on factors of the system they're applied to.

Here's the research from the California Water Board, done by University of Arizona, on Alternatives to Salt:
https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/wate...ing/research/ion_exchange_water_softeners.pdf

Here's a research paper summarizing 130+ other experiments and analyses done on electromagnetic scale reduction, showing the mechanism is that the electromagnets align the hardness particles, and force them to bang into each other creating nucleated precipitate, which prevents it from scaling so badly. Typically lasts only 72hrs though.
https://www.researchgate.net/public...ems_mechanisms_characterization_and_operation

Here's the official USGA magazine's compilation of research when non-chemical conditioners are used on golf course turf:
http://gsr.lib.msu.edu/2000s/2009/090520.pdf

UCANR test of non-chemical water conditioners on drip irrigation:
http://calag.ucanr.edu/Archive/?article=ca.v046n06p22

University of Nebraska Overview of Non-chemical conditioner options:
https://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2275.pdf

As a side note, I also have run across quite a bit of research that demonstrates chlorine and chloramine, potentially in conjunction with water hardness particles, has a deteriorating effect on copper pipes, causing pitting, reduction of wall thickness, and leaks. Chloramine causes more thinning than chlorine. Actually, GAC units on Chloraminated water reduce the pH and cause even more release of copper (and thus thinning). Not to mention that due to the reaction between chloramine and copper, it somewhat negates the disinfectant properties of both, and within 72hrs of water stagnation, bacteria buildup is substantial, as well as nitrification of the water by that bacteria processing the free ammonia.

Virginia Tech Civil Engineering Dept:

https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.625.2350&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/35674

American Water Works Association “Optimizing Chloramine Treatment” Textbook, pages 83-86
https://books.google.com/books?id=nBCqLMCk6ooC&lpg=PR9&ots=WcP-bneKEm&dq=chloramine copper pipe&lr&pg=PR19#v=onepage&q=copper&f=false

Water Research Magazine March 2012
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0043135411006786

ASCE Journal of Environmental Engineers 2008 - Technical Paper
https://ascelibrary.org/doi/full/10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9372(2008)134:7(521)?casa_token=t25ehbpOMXMAAAAA:72Cugy-xSppKHwOEAwr4Lfp8KQTru_tRbDBGCrjqHi56Rwk2IkT_n1ESbTT8OsiO54HRiu1e
 
Last edited:

ditttohead

Water systems designer, R&D
Messages
5,977
Reaction score
427
Points
83
Location
Ontario California
Capacitive DI should not be lumped in with "alternative" scale reduction technologies. It is a completely different technology that has easily and repeatable test results and methods. CDI reduces TDS significantly and it has a huge future in the water industry if some major hurdles can be cleared. Pentair and several other companies have spent millions developing this technology but the technology simply is not their outside of some very specific markets. This is more of a classroom session than a DIY board topic so I will recommend anyone who wants to know more on this topic to email me. I would love to see CDI become viable but for now, it is a little too expensive and high maintenance for the main stream market.

As to alternative technologies, we have seen in some applications that these technologies can reduce or mitigate scaling issues. My real problem is that outside of laboratory testing which in my opinion has been poorly done, the results simply are not repeatable and there are far too many unknowns as to how the medias/technologies work, and why they work in one location, but are completely ineffective in another location. When it comes to common accepted technologies like RO, softening, carbon tanks etc, all of these have one thing in common. They are all easily tsted for effectiveness in the field cheaply and easily. RO, use a $20 TDS meter. Softener, use a $40 Hardness test kit. CDI, use a TDS meter, Carbon, use a chlorine test kit... alternative scale reduction systems... you will just know... that's not science. Also most of these technologies are paired with a large carbon tank which will affect pH, changes in pH will affect scaling and the feel of water. I have written articles on this topic and it is a regular part of my training seminar series. My humble opinion, a softener will outperform "scale reduction" technologies but if you are not able to install a softener, ten a scale reduction system may be right for you. If you are expecting soft water, you will be disappointed. If you get a little less scale buildup, consider it a win. the carbon tank that accompanies most of these will reduce chlorine, chloramine, tastes, odors, and many other contaminants. You will likely notice that the water in the shower tastes great and you will have no more chlorine odor in the shower. This is a great benefit even if the scale reduction portion of the unit is not as effective as you hoped for. The biggest failure of scale reduction technologies is when people claim they work as well or even better than a softener, this is silly and is a bad practice.
 

CableSCES

New Member
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Points
1
Location
Orange County, CA
Thanks for your reply dittto! I was hoping to get your input! Your response makes a lot of sense.

I'd love to read some of the articles you've written on this, are they available online?

Also, could I follow up on one question: The claim that adding a salt softener will cause leaking in my home piping - have you seen this to be true?
 

ditttohead

Water systems designer, R&D
Messages
5,977
Reaction score
427
Points
83
Location
Ontario California
Adding a salt softener will cause leaks is a silly statement made by many salt free conditioning companies. The most honest companies sell both. Many people have a difficult time selling both, they find the hard sell of for or against an easier sales technique. We see leaks in pipes for a multitude of reasons. Improper velocity calculations, cheap poorly manufactured materials, improper water treatment... this is regardless of material type. If you look at some of the pictures I have posted over the years, you will see all kinds of failures in plumbing caused by a multitude of issues. In general, if you have copper plumbing, a simple copper test would tell you if you are damaging the copper plumbing as it will show up on ta copper test. Here is a recent picture of a pipe I cut open on an untreated municipal water supply...
copper.jpg
 

Monguila

Member
Messages
31
Reaction score
3
Points
8
Location
Vista, CA
Thanks for your reply dittto! I was hoping to get your input! Your response makes a lot of sense.

I'd love to read some of the articles you've written on this, are they available online?

Also, could I follow up on one question: The claim that adding a salt softener will cause leaking in my home piping - have you seen this to be true?


The man knows his water...
 
Top
Hey, wait a minute.

This is awkward, but...

It looks like you're using an ad blocker. We get it, but (1) terrylove.com can't live without ads, and (2) ad blockers can cause issues with videos and comments. If you'd like to support the site, please allow ads.

If any particular ad is your REASON for blocking ads, please let us know. We might be able to do something about it. Thanks.
I've Disabled AdBlock    No Thanks