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A major new independent research study in the USA has concluded that water softeners are amongst the ‘very best’ household energy savers. The research was undertaken over 9 months at a cost of $700,000, and commissioned by the Water Quality Research Foundation – a not-for-profit association that provides public information about water treatment issues. The research findings back the energy saving claims made by the UK’s leading water softener manufacturer – Tapworks – over many years.

The study, undertaken by the renowned independent testing and research facility dedicated to applied science and technology development – the Battelle Institute – reported a number of key findings including that softeners help preserve the efficiency of water heaters and major appliances and keep showers and taps unclogged. The full report can be found at http://www.wqa.org/BattelleReport.

The research found that gas storage tank household water heaters operated on softened water maintained the original factory efficiency rating over a 15 year lifetime. This, whilst those operated on hard water saw as much as a 48% loss of efficiency.

The research also reported that up to 30 pounds of calcium carbonate rock-like scale can accumulate in electric water heaters over time. The scale build up shortens the life of the heating element significantly because of the increased operating temperature of that heating element as it has to heat the scale before it can heat the water.

The study found that instantaneous gas water heaters – similar to combi boilers here in the UK – operated on softened water maintained the original factory efficiency rating over a 15 year lifetime. But the study found that tankless water heaters completely failed to function because of scale ‘plugging’ in the downstream plumbing after only 1.6 years of equivalent hot water use on 26 gpg (440 ppm) hard water. Softened water, the report says, saves 34% of costs compared to operating on 20gpg (340 ppm) and saves 47% compared to operation on 30 gpg (530 ppm) hard water. Considering that many places in the UK have mains water at 500 ppm and higher, this puts the scale of the problem into context – Tutbury in Staffordshire has water measured at 715 ppm, Kingston, near Miltyon Keynes has water at 600 ppm and Middlesbrough and Leamington Spa share the distinction of mains water at 543 ppm.

Showerheads on soft water maintained a brilliant luster and full flow. Faucets and taps on softened water performed ell throughout the study – nearly as well as they did the day they were installed. Faucets and taps on hard water could not maintain the specified 1.25 gallons per minute flow rate because of scale collection of the strainers. The strainers on the faucets using unsoftened water were almost completely plugged after 19 equivalent days of testing.

The evidence with appliances was even more revealing. In the study, dishwashers and washing machines were operated for 30 days and 240 completed wash cycles on softened and hard water sources. The units using softened water were almost completely free of any water scale build up. The appearance of the inside of the units using hard water showed the need for ‘de-liming and cleaning’ due to the significant build up of scale and deposits.

As a consequence of the study, the WQA is now promoting water softeners in the USA as ‘the best energy saving device you can buy’.

Tapworks MD in the UK is Mike Pickavance: “Despite the economic climate in the UK in the last couple of years, we’ve been delighted that sales of our water softeners have been very good and defied the downturn many other manufacturers in our sector have experienced.

“This research report is very encouraging and highlights what we have been saying for many years here in the UK. Although the research has been undertaken in the US there is a direct read across to the UK marketplace.

“It’s a simple fact that 60% of the UK – including most of London and the south east and pretty much all of East Anglia – suffers from hard water and many areas of the UK suffer from exceptionally hard water – which has a number of fairly immediate problems from the rapid scaling up of appliances and heating systems in places that you can’t see, leading to early failures and a need for often extensive maintenance or replacement of parts, far earlier than you would normally expect to have them replaced. And a build up of limescale that people very definitely can see and experience in their washing, on shower screens, showerheads, not to mention the green grey stains in baths, washbasins and sinks and the scale build up in kettles. It’s a very obvious and often unpleasant problem to deal with, but one that can be simply dealt with by investing in a water softener. This latest research suggest that the pay back time typically for the purchase of a water softener is about 1 year. There are no other appliances you can buy that pay for themselves at all – making a water softener a unique investment for people living in hard water areas of the country.”

Another claim made by Tapworks is that investment in a water softener will see significant savings in soaps and detergents usage and the Battelle Study will report on this later in the year along with the effects hard water has on fabrics and laundry.

Tapworks was the first appliance manufacturer in the UK, back in 2008, to be accredited as an officially carbon neutral business. In Tapworks case, an accredited EU Emissions Trading Scheme Verifier measured and evaluated every aspect of the Tapworks UK operation. He confirmed the finding that “it is likely that the annual emissions created in the US manufacture of the UK sold units are covered by the annual emissions saving created by the softener use. It is therefore safe to state categorically that the UK operation of Tapworks has a beneficial impact on the environment.”

This report highlights that by installing a Tapworks water softener, if you live in a hard water area of the you will not only be installing a carbon neutral appliance, you will also be “conservatively saving up to 20% a year on your energy bills because of the reduced demand on electrical energy supply from a power station or gas combusted in the water heating equipment.”

Further details of the full range of Tapworks water softeners can be obtained by calling Tapworks on 01494 480 621 or visiting www.tapworks.co.uk.

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