Common problems with Eastbourne plumbing!
5th March 2015
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One of the biggest problems we find in and around Eastbourne is the problems caused in heating and hot water by Limescale.

Limescale is a chalky type of deposit made up of calcium and magnesium and is formed naturally when water is boiled. It is more evident in hard water areas and can attach itself to the element inside your kettle, as well as build up in washing machines, dishwashers and boilers and hot water cylinders. It is not harmful to health, but finding a solution will begin to save you money from day one, reducing existing scale and giving longer life to domestic appliances, not forgetting the savings on fuel bills, soaps, shampoo's and detergents.

How can I reduce limescale?

There are a number of products which can slow down the formation of limescale such as inhibitors, conditioners, water softeners or in-line mains incoming descalers.

Drinking water

For drinking water we can install a dedicated filtered tap which are readily available in most plumbing merchants.

Water softeners

If you install a water softener, it's important to still have a supply of un-softened water for drinking and topping up your central heating system, which does not contain as much sodium. Also it is important to note as we have seen this on many occasions, the majority of heating systems DO NOT ALLOW softened water to added to the system as this is highly corrosive to the boiler and radiators.

Other tips include

  • Setting your boiler and hot water cylinder at 55C.
  • Add an electronic Scale inhibitor/Condition (no plumbing required)
  • Add an Electrolytic Water Conditioner to your mains water supply
  • Add a Magnetic Water Conditioner to your mains water supply
  • Add a Water softener to your mains water supply

What is an electronic Water inhibitor/Conditioner?

An Electronic Water inhibitors/Conditioners they use very powerful low frequency signals transmitted asynchronously via an aerial to create a strong magnetic field, which has the effect of altering the formation of calcium carbonate crystals (limescale), so that they remain in suspension in small particles and do not form hard crystalline deposits (hard water scale) inside pipes, boilers and domestic appliances.

The main advantages to this unit is it is very cheap to install however the main disadvantage is the unit constantly uses electricity and as we all know electric isn’t cheap.

What is an Electrolytic Water Conditioner?

An Electrolytic Water Conditioner are inline devices that need to be plumbed into the water system. Inside an electrolytic conditioner are two dissimilar metals, normally copper and zinc, which act as a cathode and an anode. The electrolytic current that flows from the cathode to the anode causes small quantities of metal ions to dissolve into the water. The metal ions then disrupt the positively charged scale forming particles so that they never clump together and form scale that we see.

The common advantage of an electronic descalers, electrolytic scale inhibitors are relatively cheap to buy. They do not need an electric power supply and so annual running costs are zero. They provide whole house protection against limescale problems and treated water is safe to drink.

The main disadvantage of Electrolytic water conditioners are that they need to be periodically replaced to maintain the full level of protection and, unlike electronic conditioners, they need to be plumbed into the pipework, adding to the initial cost.

What is a Magnetic Water Conditioners?

A Magnetic Water Conditioners come in two forms. They either clamp onto the outside of the pipework or are fitted in-line with the pipework in the same way as electrolytic softeners. Magnetic conditioners work in a similar way to electronic conditioners, but use a magnetic field rather than an electric field to alter the characteristics of the scale producing minerals in the water. Scale particles in the treated water lose their ability to adhere to one another and to pipes, boilers and other internal surfaces.

The main advantage Magnetic conditioners are fairly popular due to their relatively low cost. The clamping type is easy to fit and normally just needs tightening onto the pipework with a spanner. They do not need any electrical power and so running costs are zero. The main disadvantage to Magnetic conditioners are generally not suitable for whole house protection, only single appliances. Some magnetic conditioners need to be plumbed into the pipework and they all have to be replaced periodically to maintain full performance.

What is a Water Softener?

A water softener has a resin tank containing tiny resin beads that hold electrically charged ions. When freshly regenerated, the beads become full of sodium ions from the softening salt. As hard water passes through the softener system, the calcium and magnesium ions are attracted to the resin beads. There, sodium ions are exchanged for the hard water ions. The system then delivers soft water for your use. It is usually intended for the whole house particularly showering and bathing.

The main advantage of these units are the taps, showers, baths, basins etc last a lot longer. However the disadvantages far out way the advantages in my opinion

  1. They require a lot of space (usually the whole space under a kitchen sink)
  2. They require constant maintenance (topping up of the beads)
  3. They have been known to cause great damage to heating systems if they are not bypassed during the topping up of pressure
  4. You require additional drinking water facilities and possibly filtration
  5. Very costly to install in comparison to other previously mentioned limescale reduction methods

Water Filters

Water filters come in many shapes and sizes from stand-alone jugs used for kettles etc, to fully integrated reverse osmosis units. The two most common types that will remove calcium and magnesium from hard water are, reverse osmosis units and carbon resin filters. There are many other types of filter available, but they do not remove hardness minerals.

The only advantage to these units are the because they are normally only available from a single outlet or jug is they save limescale build up on kettles, irons etc. the disadvantage is that water filters do not alleviate hard water problems throughout the rest of the home. Limescale deposits will still exist within the plumbing and heating system and on taps, showerheads and other surfaces. The exception to this, is reverse osmosis units which are suitable for whole house water treatment, but again expensive to install and require constant maintenance.

About the Author

David Ruddle

Member since: 10th July 2012

I have been helping raise the profile of local businesses and community organisations since 2011. If you need help please contact me.

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