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Water Softener vs. Water Conditioner for Your Commercial Building

by Patti Althoff - Siwicki | Sep 25, 2019 | Plumbing, commercial plumbing, Water softener, water conditioner | 0 Comments

Water conditioner vs. water softner

Does your business or multi-unit tenant building in Chicago need a water softener or a water conditioner? If you or your residents or employees have noticed white stains around water faucets and showerheads, it’s a good indication that you have hard water, which is water with 3.5 grains or more of calcium and/or magnesium per gallon of water, or water that contains more than 60ppm of calcium and magnesium.

Understanding Water Hardness in Chicago

Chicago puts out water quality reports at least once a year with the latest report occurring on 2/25/2019. The city of Chicago tests its water at the lake and at several points along both systems, including the South Water Purification Plant and the Jardine Water Purification Plant, and these reports include water hardness. However, Chicago does not list its water hardness in grains per gallon (gpg). Instead, they report water hardness in milligrams per liter (mg/L), also known as parts per million. The good news is that the United States Geological Survey gives an mg/L scale. However, many plumbers and sites that have information on water hardness report it as grains per gallon (ggp), so we’ll explore both reporting methods.

Converting PPM-mg/L into Grains Per Gallon

According to Chicago’s latest water report, the hardness of the water varies from 140 to 147 mg/L. In order to convert this number to grains per gallon (ggp), we have to divide the mg/L number by 17.1. For this example, we’ll divide 147 by 17.1, which gives us the result of 8.59gpg.

Grains Per Gallon Water Hardness Scale

According to the grains per gallon (ggp) water hardness scale, Chicago has hard water.

  • Soft Water – 0 to 1ggp
  • Slightly Hard Water – 1 to 3.5ggp
  • Moderately Hard – 3.5 to 7.0ggp
  • Hard Water – 7.0 to 10.5ggp
  • Extremely Hard Water – 10.5 or more grains per gallon

USGS Water Hardness Explanation and Scale in PPM

The United States Geological Survey also tracks water hardness across the United States. They describe water hardness as the “amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water”. They also provide a water hardness scale in parts per million, and according to the USGS scale, Chicago’s water is hard.

  • Soft Water – 0 to 60ppm
  • Moderately Hard Water – 61 to 120ppm
  • Hard Water – 121 to 180ppm
  • Very Hard Water – 180 or more parts per million

According to the USGS’s definition of water hardness, Chicago’s water is still hard. This means that residents and businesses may notice water spots on dishes after they’ve dried, and white scale may buildup on water fixtures and appliances, which reduces their expected useful lives. In the most severe cases, hard water can actually build up in the potable water plumbing pipes, reducing the diameter and effecting water flow throughout the building.

Softening Water with Water Conditioning and Water Softeners in Chicago

If you’ve performed research into water softeners, you’ve probably come across the term water conditioning and may be wondering if they are the same thing or different ways to remove the impurities from your potable water.

Understanding Water Conditioning

When we talk about water conditioning, we are talking about any method used to remove the impurities from the water. This includes using water softening devices and water purifiers.

Water Purifiers

Water purifiers remove all water containments, not just calcium and magnesium. These devices typically contain filters that strain the impurities from the water in order to make it taste better for drinking, cooking and making coffee and tea. Small versions of water purifiers include water filter pitchers and the filters that can be attached to kitchen faucets. Large versions of these filters are typically used by water bottling plants in order to remove every impurity, including the chlorine used to disinfect the water. Households and businesses don’t typically need whole-building water purifiers. Instead, what they need is a whole building water softener.

Water Softeners

Water softeners are designed to remove the impurities that cause scale and white buildup and residue on fixtures. They do not remove every impurity from the water. Water softeners work by a process called ion exchange. The ion exchange process in a water heater uses charged beads (salt that is specifically designed for use in water softeners) that attract the minerals that create hard water. The minerals are then sent down a drain while the softened water is sent through your potable water system.

Benefits of Using a Water Softener in Your Commercial Building

If you don’t have a commercial water softener in your commercial or large residential building, you could be in for a surprise when your water heaters, boiler system and other water-using appliances start to break down due to the scale buildup. This is because the calcium and magnesium inside your water can collect on the surfaces of your plumbing pipes, faucets, showerheads and appliances, especially if the water is heated, which means your hot water heaters and boilers are more susceptible to hard water damage than cold water-using appliances. When you choose to install a whole-building water softener, you are improving the quality of your drinking water, preventing white scape buildup on fixtures and inside appliances and extending the useful lives of your water heater, boiler, washing machines and dishwashers.

Professional Water Testing and Softener Installation with Althoff

Here at Althoff, serving the entirety of Chicago and the greater Chicago area, we have professional, experienced plumbers that can test your water for impurities and recommend the correct water softening system for your building. We start by testing your water’s hardness and performing a calculation in order to determine the correct water softener size. Then, we will provide you with an estimate for the installation of your new water softener. If you decide to go ahead with the installation, we will order your water softener, install it in your building and explain how to use and maintain it.

To learn more about how we can help you improve the quality of your water and to schedule water testing, give us a call at 800-225-2443.

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