SOFTENED WATER FOR HOTELS AND MOTELS – COMMERCIAL WATER SOFTENERS
Where have the engineers gone? The canon of ethics for engineers would indicate a closer look at water softener application is in order.
We see specifications calling for salt using water softeners that quite frankly do not make sense. The cost to the facility owner can easily be in the $50,000 range and higher when installation and space costs are included. Additionally, thousands of dollars will be spent annually for salt and maintenance. In a competitive industry with a saturated room supply in some areas, these extra CAPEX and OPEX costs are an unfair burden.
First, why treat the water? Unless the source water is extremely hard (15 grains per gallon or more), treatment is probably to protect the facility from hard water scale that plugs pipes, ruins plumbing fixtures, shortens water heater/boiler life and causes laundry problems. If over 15 grains there may be a case to soften the water for guest comfort in upscale facilities although negative guest comments about “slippery feel” are not uncommon. A truly wasteful and costly habit is to treat all water in a facility when, if treatment is warranted, treating only water to the hot side is the only benefit to the owner. This would reduce all costs by 50% or more.
Next let’s look at the chemistry. Total hardness consists of two primary components — calcium (temporary) and magnesium (permanent) hardness. The damaging hardness is the calcium which drops out of solution and becomes scale when heat is applied. So, treating total hardness is really a waste of regeneration salt and water in this application. The chance of the calcium hardness component being an issue at all is based on three other factors— the presence and level of bicarbonate alkalinity, the pH and the application water temperature. These numbers combine in an equation to develop a unitless number referred to as the Langeliers Saturation Index or LSI. If the number is positive, treatment is warranted if negative, treatment, especially expensive softening, is in a word useless. Therefore, recommending a water softener without full knowledge of the water chemistry is unethical and unfortunately done all too often.
Lastly, even if treatment warranted for scale prevention, why an overpriced, space wasting softener that needlessly dumps high chloride brine and wasted water to drain? Many communities in a number of states and countries are banning their use which could mean illegal installation or possibly a post installation order to not use. A viable alternative is a commercial ESF (Enviro Scale Free) unit by Dime Water, Inc. 1/20th or less space required, typically 70% lower cost, no salt or chemicals, no electricity and historically a 15+ year life without service or repairs.