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Current IssueApril 23, 2014
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Ask The Expert: Comparison of home water softeners
Question: Q: I stumbled upon your e-magazine while searching for online comparisons of home water softening/conditioning systems. We've been renting a Culligan unit so long that we've probably paid for it a couple of times over. From what I've seen, recharge-on-demand seems to be the ecological choice. Any other suggestions? Do you have any sources, links, articles, etc. which may be helpful in our selection process? Thanks for your time.

Jo Swearingen
West Bend, Wis.

Answer: A: Actually, it's referred to hereabouts as "demand initiated regeneration" (DIR), and you are correct that it's generally viewed as more efficient, which translates to more ecological in the sense that it reduces water and salt usage to actual needs of the household better than other softeners. You should also likely make sure that the equipment is adjusted periodically (once a year) by a water treatment professional so that you're assured it's functioning properly and reducing the amount of brine discharge that would be released in normal operation. Keep in mind that, as of January 2003, the brine efficiency required for softeners in use in California goes up from 3,350 grains of hardness removed per pound of salt used in regeneration to 4,000 grains. This is primarily because, since California is in the arid and semi-arid West, water reuse is becoming increasingly a focus of local water authorities for a variety of uses, from irrigation to some industrial and eventually even reconsumption possibly. Thus, reducing the brine load on wastewater makes it more cost effective on the technologies required to recycle the water. While the POU/POE residential water treatment industry has been singled out in the past as an easy target of regulations aimed at limiting that brine load on community wastewater systems, the industry was successful in 1997 in lifting softener and reverse osmosis system bans as discriminatory. This was because other sources were not being considered or addressed and it infringed upon consumer's right to improve the quality of water in their own homes. Since then, additional legislation was passed in California where the industry agreed to compromise to allow restrictions in cases where a full assessment of brine contributors was done and efforts made to reduce contributions across the board. The higher brine efficiency guidelines for softeners were part of the compromise for that legislation. The Water Quality Association and NSF International, which are among organizations that do third party testing of such equipment, both post information on products that meet these guidelines on their websites: www.wqa.org and www.nsf.org The WQA website also has a "member finder" section that lists Certified Water Specialists as well. Hope that helps.

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