Physical Water Conditioner Technologies

Physical water conditioners are devices intended to prevent the build-up of hard limescale in a physical (i.e. non-chemical manner) manner. This is done by influencing the ions in the water so that when the saturation point of the water is altered (e.g. by heating) the calcium carbonate (or other minerals) precipitates as small crystals in suspension in the water, rather than as a solid mass bonded to surfaces.

CHEMICAL TREATMENTS

Chemical water treatments are methods of water treatment that change the chemistry of the water. They are not physical water conditioners but are important to list because they are the most used method of water treatment.

Water softener - Replaces the calcium carbonate ions in the water with other ions, commonly salt.

Reverse osmosis - Passes water through a semi-permeable membrane, so that all ions are removed pH control adjusts chemistry of the water to prevent scale formation

TYPES OF PHYSICAL TREATMENT

Intrusive magnets. Clamp-on magnets, Intrusive Electromagnets, Non-intrusive Electromagnets, Electrolytic, Signal Wire Electromagnets, Open-ended double Signal wire, and HydroFLOW. 

INTRUSIVE MAGNETS

These were the first physical water conditioners that appeared after the discovery that water flowing over magnetic rock did not scale. 

The general principles that are employed in the operation of intrusive magnets. The conductors represent the water that is moving and cutting the magnetic lines thus generating a voltage represented by the + and - on the ends of the conductors. The Voltage that can be generated by utilizing such an arrangement depends on the strength of the magnet and the speed of flow of the water. 

I represent the current that is generated as a result of the voltage. The current will be dependent on the voltage and the conductivity of the water. The current that is produced by this method is DC (Direct Current). It will act as a galvanic current causing corrosion and will release metal ions into the water. 

Any clusters that are formed due to the electrical field near the magnets will be carried by the water flow towards the source of heat. Some clusters will grow by attracting more ions and some will dissolve back. These clusters are not stable and will break up to individual ions after a relatively short time (3.5min). If enough clusters can reach the source of heat they will grow to form nuclei and the crystallization will occur as described above. 

This dependence on the rate of flow and conductivity of the water explains the unreliable results that are being achieved by utilizing this method. In addition, a permanent magnet will attract magnetic particles flowing in the water causing reduced efficiency and increasing the possibility of complete occlusion of the pipe. No enhanced nucleation can occur beyond the magnet itself, as the effect is localized to the magnet. 

When used on plastic pipes, magnets have no effect because the electric field cannot be formed without the metal path for the current to flow. In industrial circulating systems a small degree of success can be achieved.

CLAMP-ON MAGNETS 

These are constructed mainly of ceramic magnets that are plastic coated. Two individual magnets are clamped on the pipe to create the magnetic lines. These are attenuated by the large air gap between the magnets. There is no way to control the speed of the flow of the water and there is no reliable scientific evidence to prove that benefits claimed are being produced. 

It is debatable if such an arrangement can generate an electric field capable of forming clusters. Manufacturers producing such devices claim that results can be achieved with any pipe material, however, it is clear from the above that this cannot be the case.

ELECTROMAGNETS 

With correct design it is possible to generate strong magnetic fields with Electromagnets. It is also possible to control the speed of flow by restricting the flow. These devices suffer the same disadvantages as the permanent intrusive magnets described above. An additional disadvantage is that they must be connected to an electrical source, resulting in installation and running costs. The only advantage of Electromagnets over permanent magnets is the ability to be switched off thereby releasing any magnetic particles that may have accumulated in it.

NON-INTRUSIVE ELECTROMAGNETS 

These are categorized by signal cables that are wrapped around water pipes in an attempt to generate a magnetic field. These may vary from 50 Hz coils carrying mains voltage to a single wire coiled on the pipe. The signal used in the latter is mainly a square wave at an ultrasonic frequency. A section of pipe and the coil wound around it. Most of the magnetic lines run parallel to the moving liquid, thus, in theory, no electrical field can be generated within the electromagnet. 

Some of the magnetic lines beyond the ends of the coil flow between the poles and will cut the liquid at shallow angles. This will generate weak electric fields at both ends of the coil. The fields will be generated at right angle to the magnetic lines. Since each magnetic line has its equal and opposite line in the same axis, the voltages that are generated (V1 and V2, V7 and V8) are complimentary. These form V3 and V4, V5 and V12, V9 and V10, V6 and V11 that are equal and opposite. Thus, the overall voltage should be 0. In practice due to the uneven distribution of the magnetic lines, the voltages do not cancel completely. (This will be shown later in an experiment specifically designed to measure such voltages.) 

There are other reasons for variation in the electric field that may be formed by this method. The main one is the turbulence of the water flow within the pipe. The water flow within a pipe may not flow linearly. This depends on many factors and will be completely different between one installation and another. The turbulent flow within the axial magnetic lines will cause uneven voltages within the electromagnet. These variable conditions can explain the reason that in some cases these devices have some success and in others, they fail completely.

ELECTROLYTIC

Electrolytic conditioners are basically a battery. These conditioners operate on the well-known principle that if metal electrodes, made from different materials e.g. zinc and copper, are immersed in an electrolyte; between them. Zinc ions are then released into the electrolyte (water) by the anode. The release of positive zinc ions into the water will release electrons that will flow to the copper cathode through the connecting wire. This process will continue until the zinc anode is completely dissolved. 

The electrodes are connected by a large resistor 1M (1, 000, 000 Ohms). This is done to increase the life of the zinc anode but will drastically reduce the electrical field applied to the water. The manufacturer is faced with the problems of increased conditioning effect at the expense of the life of the conditioner. A balance must be achieved. A reasonable life span is only obtained with the conditioning effect reduced.  It is generally accepted that these conditions are producing an effect. And, as there is solely an electrical field being generated (no magnetic field) to obtain scale inhibiting, this is one more proof that it is the electrical field that is responsible for the conditioning effect as described above.  There are numerous disadvantages with such conditioners. 

The life of the conditioner cannot be determined. It is affected by the conductivity of the water that varies considerably from area to area.   As the anode is exhausted the conditioning effect will stop. Damage to expensive appliances may result.  Zinc ions are released into the drinking water.  Regular and expensive maintenance must be performed to ensure reliable results.  The conditioning effect can only be transported by the flow of water 

SIGNAL WIRE COILS

There are numerous manufacturers of the signal wire electromagnet. All are based on two basic designs. 1) One coil is wrapped around the pipe and is connected to the signal generator. 2) Two coils are wrapped around the pipe, one end of each coil is connected to the signal generator, and the other end is left open. Dutch and Belgian inventors have patented both designs respectively (However, many copies of these designs have been in production for the past 20 years without any apparent difficulty). 

In general, they produce the same swept-frequency square wave signal of 1 KHz to 6 KHz. Various designs have appeared in the amateur electronic press. 

For example in Elektor Electronics international electronic magazine issue July August 1994, an article headed “Water Softener”, describes in detail the construction of such circuitry with single, double and triple coil systems. The article contains claims of the discovery of unnamed researchers. Numerous manufacturers that started in business since that time have repeated similar claims. 

SINGLE COIL SYSTEM

In a single coil system, the inductance of the coil is very low. To be able to view the output signal it is necessary to disconnect one end of the coil from the signal generator. In a single coil system, the voltage will be 4V peak to peak (p to p) and the frequency may be between 5-6 kHz. This is the top frequency. Connect the coil back to the signal generator. The voltage will be 15 mV p to p. The frequency will be swept between. 240 Hz and 6 kHz. The drastic reduction in output is due to the large load that the small inductance is exerting on the signal generator.

Measuring the signal on pipe and you will see the voltage of 1mv p to p. This is the highest level of signal pulses that such a system is able to induce in the water. The energy that is produced by any oscillating electrical signal is the R.M.S. value or the equivalent D.C voltage that will produce the same energy. For example: The p-to-p value of a sin wave AC voltage equivalent to a 1.5 VDC battery will be 4.2 VAC. The value of the p-to-p mains voltage in the UK is 678 VAC but the Mains voltage is quoted as 240 VAC. It is the energy of the electrical field that is responsible for the orientation of the ions in the solution. The R.M.S. value of the of the sharp spike is tiny in proportion to the p-top value.

 

HYDROFLOW

The HydroFLOW conditioner is a sophisticated signal generator. International P.C.T. patents protect it. It can produce a complex waveform. This waveform is fed to a ferrite core. In the domestic range to facilitate installation, the core is divided into two sections that are pressed together by a leaf spring. In the commercial and industrial units, the core is constructed in segments. It is within this core that the oscillating coaxial magnetic field (O.C.M.F) is generated. The O.C.M.F. induces a voltage in the pipe, and in the water in the pipe. These two voltages are the same. Since there is no voltage difference between liquid and metal, no current can flow between them. This will eliminate any corrosion that would have otherwise formed. The frequency of oscillation may be between 100 - 160 KHz.

The advantages of the HydroFLOW technology over the other generic types. All other generic types of water conditioners act on the water only at the installation point (The installation instruction clearly demonstrates this) and are flow-dependent. It is necessary for the water to flow within the unit to transfer energy to the water. The flow must be slow enough to transfer the energy to the water. If it is too fast not enough energy will be transferred to create the effect, if the flow is too slow it will take too long to reach the area where the water is precipitating, and the effect will decay away (about 3.5 min). This is the reason that manufacturers specify flow rates and maximum flow, necessary for proper operation of such devices. Such flowrates are unlikely to be achieved in practical applications. 

To prevent scaling, energy has to be transferred to the water to change the crystallization from the surface to suspension. This is what happens with all the physical water conditioners on the market. All manufacturers of physical water conditioners have adopted it. 

HydroFLOW technology works differently by applying the energy efficiently to all the plumbing system, this by propagating the electric field throughout the plumbing system, thus creating clusters of ions everywhere and recreating the clusters that have been dissolved back into solution by the water (HydroFLOW installation instruction clearly demonstrates this).  

The physical effect that the Hydroflow has can be seen in the differences in the shape of the crystals formed be treated and untreated water. This test was done in a laboratory by heating and evaporating treated and untreated water.

Crystals formed by water treated with Hydroflow tend to be longer, thinner and more fragile. This clearly indicates the physical difference in the crystals created.