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WATER SOFTENERS – delivering energy efficiency in the home and a welcome additional income stream to installers


Heating engineers and installers are well aware of the damage that hard water can cause in heating systems and appliances – they see it pretty much every day of their lives if they work in hard water areas. But many are still to wake up to the very real opportunities that water softeners can offer them and their businesses.

Water softeners work in reverse to nature. Rain water is naturally soft and only becomes hard when it filters down through limestone type rocks, picking up hardness impurities as it goes. A water softener does the reverse of this, ‘washing’ hard water through a resin bed that takes out the ‘hardness’ salts – calcium and magnesium – leaving you with softened water, the way nature intended!

If your customers live in a hard water area – which is around 60% of the UK, especially in London and the south east, East Anglia and the Home Counties – they will already know about hard water. Scum in the kettle. Scaling up of showerheads, limescale marks in the sink and loo.

But if that’s what can be seen easily, imagine what damage is being done where you can’t see it, in heating systems, in washing machines and dishwashers, prime targets for hard water damage. Just a 1.6mm build-up of scale on the inside of heating system surfaces can cause a 12% loss in heating efficiency in pipes, in radiators and on heat exchanger surfaces in boilers. Scale will also form around the heating coil and eventually fill a hot water cylinder. It’s estimated that the annual amount of hard water used by an average family of four contains a whopping 70kg of scale. Untreated limescale simply means wasting energy, wasting money and having to replace appliances and heating systems.

The most welcome benefit for householders, is that having softened water in the home can reduce heating bills significantly – 15% reductions in energy bills are commonplace, often more – and importantly, having a water softener installed will reduce maintenance costs on those appliances. Good for the planet. Good for homeowners pockets.

As an installer, you can install a water softener at anytime. They are quick and simple to install – usually no more than half a day’s work for a competent plumber or heating engineer. Just a minimum water pressure of 1.7 bar (25psi) and access to the mains water supply, drainage and electricity are required. Many installers offer a water softener as ‘part of the package’ when they install a new kitchen or bathroom, because they know that a water softener will help keep the customers investment as good as new. But, if you are called to undertake remedial work that has been caused by hard water, particularly replacing a boiler, a radiator or sections of pipework – that’s an excellent opportunity for you to take the customer through the benefits of a water softener.

Once installed they are really simple to use and maintain. All you need to do is occasionally add salt to aid the regeneration process. Water softeners come in a range of different sizes. The one you recommend will depend on the size of the family and the property in which it will be installed.

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