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Alternatives to salt-based water softening (and no monthly charges)

SterlingwaterI don’t want to make anyone feel bad who uses a salt-based water softening system, but you know all that salt being released into our environment as a result of your system? Not good. That’s why they are banned in some areas. For me, I don’t like the slimy feeling of water softened with salt.

I came across a system by Sterling Water at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference that uses an electrical current to “condition” the water. Water conditioning is the alternative to water softening. The latter takes the minerals out of the water, while the former leaves the minerals in the water but prevents them from crystallizing into the scale that harms plumbing, fixtures and appliances.

MagneticThe Sterling device is small and operates inline, with unconditioned water coming in one end, and conditioned water coming out the other. It costs about $1,500 and the only maintenance it requires is an annual flushing with vinegar.

At my house, we use magnetic water conditioning. It’s basically the same idea as the Sterling system, but instead of electrical current causing the mineral atoms to repel each other and not form colonies to attach to pipes, the same effect is caused by strong magnets clamped onto the main pipe coming into the house. They cost about $900 for a typical house that uses one 40-gallon water heater. You can find a few brands here and here.

How about you? Do you still use a salt-based softening system? Would you switch to a more environmentally friendly system if you could?

2 Comments on Alternatives to salt-based water softening (and no monthly charges)

  1. Thanks for the link, Mark. I saw that, as well. But there’s also a lot of “controversy” about human-induced climate change, and I could probably list 1,000 websites sponsored by oil companies to “prove” it’s not so.
    If anyone has tried magnetic water conditioning and it didn’t work, or it did work, Mark and I would like to hear about that.
    Here’s another little twist to my story. I just got a wonderful new 2007 VW Rabbit with a dark gray paint job. Because I never, ever get water spots on my dishes in the house, I wasn’t prepared for what happens when I wash my car: Total awful spotting. Really awful. I never noticed that before on my white Ford van.
    So then I realized the magnets are hooked to the line coming into the house, and do not impact the water in the hoses outside.
    I have a set of magnets that will be hooking to the PVC pipe from which I get my car-washing water.
    I’ll let you know the results!

  2. I’ve looking into this technology and wanted to point out there is a fair amount of controversy surrounding magnetic water treatment. Here is an excellent page which goes into quite a bit of detail:
    http://www.chem1.com/CQ/magscams.html
    Remember, if it were that simple, people wouldn’t be lugging big bags of salt out of the grocery store….

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