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“Salt-Free” vs. Ion Exchange

A common misunderstanding by potential buyers of water treatment equipment is the use of the terms, “Salt Free” and “Whole House System”.   Many consumers erroneously think or are led by dishonest or unknowledgeable sales people to believe that they can get “soft water” or water that has had the hard minerals removed without the use of salt.  In the age of technology, you would think this might be the case.  Currently however, this is scientifically FALSE.  “Salt-Free” systems fall into 3 main categories. (1) Scale Inhibitors -using Template Assisted Crystallization technology, or TAC for short; (2) Filtration Systems -primarily using carbon based media;  (3) Combination Systems -part Scale Inhibitor & part Filtration System or Multi-Media Systems.  Some of these systems might even include a useless magnet or other type of dissimilar metal in an attempt to change or alter the hard mineral water chemistry.   As much as we would like these technologies to effective remove hard minerals, they ALL FAIL miserably to do so.

When asking consumers who purchased these types of systems what they like about them, invariably their first response is that “it doesn’t use salt”.  Not much of endorsement for the money spent.  Their typical second response is they “can drink from every faucet”, another complete misunderstanding that will be addressed in the near future.  The 3rd most common reply is, “it never needs maintenance”.  This is wholly untrue as well since all systems require some periodic testing, adjustment, sanitizing, and media evacuation and replacement varying from 3-7 years.

If you’ve noticed, water quality benefits have not been mentioned thus far by these customers.  Managing customer expectations regarding water quality is a critical part of the sales and buying process.  You wouldn’t buy an appliance for your kitchen, such as an oven because it didn’t use electricity, if you knew it would only heat to 200 degrees.  Yet many people buy water treatment equipment based on ‘perceived benefits’ without a clear expectation of specific water quality outcomes.  Many consumers are sorely disappointed after their purchase to find out their system does not remove hardness at all.  By then they have spent several thousand dollars only to have calcification (irreversible hard mineral deposits) on their fixtures, appliances and shower enclosures.  But what the heck, at least its “Salt-Free”!

The only way to effectively remove those pesky hard minerals from your water currently is with the proven technology called “ion exchange”.   Ion exchange occurs within the tank where billions of tiny polystyrene ionic resin beads attract the hard minerals, removing them from the water solution.  Periodically, a brine solution of soft sodium ions is introduced to exchange the hard mineral ions and cleanse the beads through a regeneration process.  THIS IS SCIENCE! Today’s water softeners incorporating “ion exchange” technology have never been better.  These are not your grandma’s softeners.  With new printed circuit board technology, well branded systems are programmable, customizable and very efficient, using less water and significantly less salt than ever before.  In fact, according to the Water Quality Association (WQA) today’s water softeners are considered “Green Technology”, since soft water requires considerably less gas or electricity to heat than un-softened water,  thus reducing its carbon foot print.

To mitigate these challenges, it is highly recommended that shoppers of water treatment equipment utilize the services of a water treatment expert.  These experts are state licensed water specialty contractors, not to be confused with your local plumber.   I am sure your plumber is a nice guy and knowledgeable about plumbing.  However, he is typically unqualified & untrained in water chemistry, specific water treatment technologies and the other nuances of water treatment, not to mention his lack of follow-up service and troubleshooting.

ICON Water Specialties is a 32 year old CA State Licensed water specialty contractor.  ICON sells, installs and services several top leading brands of water softeners, whole house water filtration systems, and reverse osmosis systems from 20-10,000 gallons per day.  ICON also specializes in contaminate specific Multi-media systems such as fluoride, Chlorine and chloramine removal, including nitrate removal and well filtration.   ICON is also a 3M Authorized Distributor of a full line of 3M Water Treatment products.

ICON Cliental include:

  • Residential
  • Custom Residential
  • Commercial
    • Restaurants
    • Coffee Houses
    • Wineries
    • Breweries
    • Hotels
    • Casinos
    • Manufacturing
    • Food Processing
    • Pharmaceuticals