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Combimate water "softener"—opinions?


richi
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As an alternative to a conventional salt-gobbling, kitchen-cabinet filling, water-wasting softener, I'm planning on installing a whole-house Combimate (made by Cistermiser).

 

This is one of those polyphosphate micro-dosing thingies (it adds about 2–3 ppm of food-grade polyphosphate, which sequesters the dissolved calcium, so reducing scale). @JSHarris almost certainly knows about the idea, but I thought of him when I read the claim that it's also good for red/brown water from boreholes.

 

I was going to get a BWT Combicare from ScrewFix, but was put off by DIYnot denizens saying they often plug up with scale, which is kinda ironic. Or there's a similar Italian product I found on FleaBay.

 

So anyone got experience of these things? Do they work? Do they keep working after a few years?

combimateFeatures.png

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Yeah, but I was looking for something that would genuinely cope with a whole house. Cistermiser says to remove the divider (#8 in the picture) to get more polyphosphate balls in contact with the water for whole-house application.

 

Refills seem to be about £25, including replacement O-rings. Said to last 12 months.

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Worth noting that phosphate dosing doesn't remove anything from the water, the proportion of metals in the water on the inlet side is exactly the same as the proportion of metals in the outlet side, so there is the same amount of calcium, magnesium, iron etc in the water post treatment as before.  The primary effect is to coat the inside of the pipework, heat exchangers, water heaters etc with a protective coating that reduces the level of scale build up.  A secondary effect is that the small amount of phosphate makes the water easier to lather with soap.  In essence, it's the same as adding Calgon to the water supply, but in a continuous, low level, dose.

 

Ion exchange water softeners do remove metals from the water, primarily calcium and magnesium, but also iron to some degree.  They replace those metals with sodium.

 

You can remove pretty much everything from water with reverse osmosis, but the water tastes pretty awful, it seems we need some mineral content to make water taste OK.

 

If all you want to do is protect a boiler, water heater etc from scale damage, then phosphate dosing works fine, and is probably the cheapest way of providing protection.  The water boiler for our boiling water tap was supplied with a phosphate dosing filter for just this reason.

 

If you want to soften the water, by removing high levels of calcium and magnesium compounds, then it's hard to beat a standard ion exchange softener.  As a useful side effect this will also prevent scale formation in boilers and water heaters (but be aware that there is a lot of false data about from manufacturers regarding this - all of it relates to an absence of product certification testing with soft water).

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I have bought a water softener from halcyon that fits on the pipe no chemicals needed. Not fitted it yet but hoping it will make some difference to the vile water we have in this area......think it is treated river water and its hard and horrible.

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"Each Halcyan Water Conditioner patented alloy core is designed and configured with specially foundry blended metals scientifically selected from both the Cathode and Anode end of the Galvanic Scale. Sized correctly, the patented catalytic alloy core changes the crystalline structure of the minerals in water..."

https://halcyanwater.com/domestic/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/HalcyanTechnicalOverviewDomesticincFAQs.pdf

 

Forgive my scepticism, but coughbullsh!tcough. Oh, and the smaller whole-house unit is £760...

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12 minutes ago, lizzie said:

I have bought a water softener from halcyon that fits on the pipe no chemicals needed. Not fitted it yet but hoping it will make some difference to the vile water we have in this area......think it is treated river water and its hard and horrible.

 

 

This is definitely not a water softener, it seems to be one of the many "water conditioners" that "claim" all sorts of things.  There's no scientific evidence that any of these devices do much, if anything, but some "may" change the way some of the minerals in the water behave (although there is no hard evidence to say one way or the other).  The claims are carefully worded to suggest, rather than guarantee, what the devices "may" do, so they skate as close to the ASA rules as possible, but stay just on the right side of the law.

 

None remove any of the metals, chemicals or minerals in the water at all - what comes out is chemically the same as what went in.

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Similar to the Aquabion, whose website makes much of some independent test results, hidden behind a registration wall. But when one gives up some dummy personal details, it redirects to another site... which doesn't exist.

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Not that we've much need for softening this side of the Irish Sea, but the autoclave manufacturer I work closest with supplies Kinetico Aquablu units and I'm very impressed by them-  no electrical supply, and twin-tank, regenerating in parallel with flow based on a mechanical meter.

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I agree, it was 50/50 whether we went for a Kinetico or a Harvey.  Both are twin tank, both use water metering, both are non-electric.  In the end we went with a Harvey, because one came up at the right price, but I doubt there's much to choose between either.  I like the fact that they work with no power, and don't need to regenerate over night (a potential problem for us as our main water filtration system backwashes overnight).  The low water use during regeneration is also useful, as is the relatively low salt use.

Edited by JSHarris
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10 hours ago, JSHarris said:

 

 

This is definitely not a water softener, it seems to be one of the many "water conditioners" that "claim" all sorts of things.  There's no scientific evidence that any of these devices do much, if anything, but some "may" change the way some of the minerals in the water behave (although there is no hard evidence to say one way or the other).  The claims are carefully worded to suggest, rather than guarantee, what the devices "may" do, so they skate as close to the ASA rules as possible, but stay just on the right side of the law.

 

None remove any of the metals, chemicals or minerals in the water at all - what comes out is chemically the same as what went in.

It cost a fortune! Hope I have not been 'done'! Fell for the blurb I'm afraid.  Won't know for a few months until we get it in and operational.

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Many years ago I bought a magnetic 'domestic water conditioner' and fitted it as instructed. It didn't work so I complained and they sent me a 'commercial' version. That didn't work either so they asked what my water hardness level was. When I told them they said their system wouldn't work because the water was too hard. Got my money back though. Since then I have used various versions of twin tank water softeners which do work.

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Sadly, one of the ways to make something appear as if it is some sort of technological marvel is to charge a high price for it.  The high price lends credibility to the claims in some ways.

 

The chemistry of water treatment is pretty straightforward, as the compounds dissolved in it are all very well understood.  When it comes to scale, then there are two main groups of metal compounds that cause permanent hardness, calcium sulphate and calcium chloride, plus magnesium sulphate and magnesium chloride.  No device that uses a non-renewable catalyst, magnets, and electric field etc will remove these compounds.  The most obvious thing to ask with any treatment system is "Where do the unwanted compounds go?".

 

In the case of all the inline water treatment devices that have no drain, the answer has to be that they cannot go anywhere, so they must still be in the water at the outlet of the device.  There is some pretty vague evidence that by altering the charge on some of the compounds their tendency to stick together is reduced slightly, but it's far from proven, and there's no evidence that there is any permanent change to the outlet water at all.

 

For devices like ion exchange water softeners or reverse osmosis filters, then there is a waste drain that removes the waste metal compounds from the water.  In the case of the common ion exchange softeners, they chemically replace the calcium, magnesium and to a lesser extent iron, compounds in the water and replace then with the equivalent sodium compounds that don't form scale.  When the softener regenerates, using sodium chloride solution, the calcium, magnesium and iron collected in the ion exchange resin is flushed out and replaced with sodium, ready for the next water treatment cycle.

Edited by JSHarris
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  • 1 year later...

Hello members, I thought it may be helpful for me to reply to some concerns on here directly from Halcyan.

 

To clarify, yes; the Halcyan is certainly and proudly a water 'conditioner'.

Halcyan does not attempt to remove beneficial minerals from your water, nor do we claim to do so. Halcyan's purpose is purely to prevent and remove existing limescale.

 

Thus, Halcyan is suitable for a certain proportion of the water treatment market; dependent on what the customer is looking for.

 

It is the only system in the UK that doesn't release chemicals into your water, whilst using no energy. This differentiates Halcyan from such systems as Aquabion or Kinetico.

 

On 03/07/2017 at 21:52, richi said:

"Each Halcyan Water Conditioner patented alloy core is designed and configured with specially foundry blended metals scientifically selected from both the Cathode and Anode end of the Galvanic Scale. Sized correctly, the patented catalytic alloy core changes the crystalline structure of the minerals in water..."

https://halcyanwater.com/domestic/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/HalcyanTechnicalOverviewDomesticincFAQs.pdf

 

Forgive my scepticism, but coughbullsh!tcough. Oh, and the smaller whole-house unit is £760...

 

Richi, I will indeed forgive your scepticism! Our 'alloy core changes the crystalline structure of the minerals in water..." ' claim is valid. We use a patented alloy to very simply and reliably change water's Calcium Carbonate content from its limescale-creating Calcite form into another Calcium Carbonate polymorph; Aragonite. Aragonite is physically unable to bond to surfaces or itself.

 

So, to answer JSHarris's 'Where do the unwanted compounds go?' - with Halcyan, they stay in your water and simply wash out in solution, no longer forming limescale.

 

After 30 years warranty with no maintenance or power usage, the Halcyan soon pays its way. It has an average 2 year pay-back period and therefore 28 years of savings.

 

On 03/07/2017 at 21:56, JSHarris said:

The claims are carefully worded to suggest, rather than guarantee, what the devices "may" do, so they skate as close to the ASA rules as possible, but stay just on the right side of the law.

 

No device will guarantee absolute results, because they all rely on various factors outside of their control; i.e the ever-changing water input.

We provide a 12 month guarantee confirming that if the unit doesn't perform as described, clients will receive their money back.

This is specifically to provide clients with the opportunity to experience the Halcyan's effects for themselves with confidence.

We ensure our descriptions of effects are responsibly described whilst recognising they can vary for different consumers.

 

Essentially, Halcyan will always deliver a significant reduction in limescale build-up when sized correctly.

 

We have various independent tests and reviews attesting to our results. Please get in touch via PM and I'll gladly send you over what we have.

 

I hope this clarifies what we do a little, and when we are a suitable solution.

 

Polly, Halcyan Ltd Product Support

 

Edited by Polly
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9 hours ago, Polly said:

It is the only system in the UK that doesn't release chemicals into your water, whilst using no energy. This differentiates Halcyan from such systems as Aquabion or Kinetico.

 

 

 

The claim I've highlighted isn't actually true, though, is it?  There are many "water conditioners" on the market that don't "release chemicals into your water".  I could name a few, but as I don't want to promote products based on pseudo-science, or give them the oxygen of publicity on what is a non-commercial forum,  I will just give a few generic examples to disprove your statement:

 

- Permanent magnet "water conditioners"

 

- Alternating electric/magnetic field "water conditioners"

 

- Other makes of "catalytic water conditioner" that do not use or need regularly replaced elements.

 

Examples of  all of the above can be found easily by a simple web search.

 

I could go on at length about the way chemical reactions work in the context of changing one compound to another, but someone has created a website that, a bit imperfectly, perhaps, explains devices such as this reasonably well: http://www.chem1.com/CQ/catscams.html

 

 

 

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in experiment terms it may be deemed subjective but I know from use the water is better than the rental house nearby and better than my neighbours which comes off the same main.  Whatever it does and however it does it I am happy with it.

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I have a neighbour who fitted a "water conditioner" (we have pretty hard water here - fed from chalk aquifers) and he's convinced it works.  I took samples to the lab at work and proved, beyond any doubt, that the chemistry of the water was unchanged by the "water conditioner".  He swears blind that his device works, mind. 

 

Worth a read of this website: http://www.chem1.com/CQ/catscams.html   if you want to understand a bit of the chemistry of calcium and magnesium compounds in water and how they can and cannot be changed.

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JSHarris thank you for your Catalyst Water Treatment link. I've visited it but it's not really relevant to a Halcyan since a catalyst only of course speeds up a reaction, rather than creates or causes it, so Halcyan doesn't claim to be a Catalytic system.

Halcyan's alloy creates its chemical reaction, not speeds it up.

 

45 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

I could go on at length about the way chemical reactions work in the context of changing one compound to another

Kind , but thank you, it won't be necessary. You will note, Halcyan do not claim to change one compound to another. Instead we change one compound; Calcium Carbonate, from one polymorph into another (Calcite to Aragonite). We would of course create two new compounds if we were changing it. We are not.

 

48 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

- Permanent magnet "water conditioners" - These use power and do not, in our experience, have a successful anecdotal record

 

- Alternating electric/magnetic field "water conditioners" - These use power

 

- Other makes of "catalytic water conditioner" that do not use need regularly replaced elements - These are all sacrificial - releasing chemicals slowly into your water - apart from Halcyan. Hence its 30 year lifespan and uniquely environmentally friendly approach

 

Examples of  all of the above can be found easily by a simple web search.

 

I've put in your quote above in italics why our claim to be 'the only system in the UK that doesn't release chemicals into your water, whilst using no energy. This differentiates Halcyan from such systems as Aquabion or Kinetico' is in fact true, yes.

50 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

 

The claim I've highlighted isn't actually true, though, is it?

 

 

Please keep asking questions, we do appear to be opening opportunities here for me to explain how the Halcyan works. I don't expect to convert all of you, but I'd love to quash some myths or false associations with other systems.

 

Thank you,

 

P

 

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8 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

I have a neighbour who fitted a "water conditioner" (we have pretty hard water here - fed from chalk aquifers) and he's convinced it works.  I took samples to the lab at work and proved, beyond any doubt, that the chemistry of the water was unchanged by the "water conditioner".  He swears blind that his device works, mind. 

 

I'm sure your neighbour was delighted! I say that in jest. I certainly appreciate you endeavours to find evidence in what can be a sensationalist and misleading market.

 

With a Halcyan, the above would indeed be the case. Mineral content is maintained. We do not wish to change it.

Calcium Carbonate would be just as present as before; it would simply be in the molecular form of Aragonite rather than Calcite.

This is the essential part. Aragonite cannot bond to anything - itself, or your surfaces, thus no more limescale. But a mineral test on water will show the same content before and after treatment.

 

 

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You've sidestepped my point about the validity of your publicly published statement on behalf of your company.  You claimed that, quote:

 

Quote

It is the only system in the UK that doesn't release chemicals into your water, whilst using no energy. This differentiates Halcyan from such systems as Aquabion or Kinetico.

 

I proved that to be a wholly untrue statement.  Please explain exactly what chemicals are released into the water by a permanent magnet, alternating electric/magnetic field, or catalytic "water conditioner" that has no soluble components and which requires no components to be replaced during its working life (and I specifically exclude any device that uses something like a replaceable zinc, or other metal, component). 

 

I cannot see how any of these other water conditioner devices that are on the market can possible release any chemicals into the water, but as a scientist I'm always keen to acquire knowledge, so if you could provide references as to what chemicals they release in to the water, preferably from peer reviewed sources, I would much appreciate it.

 

17 minutes ago, Polly said:

- Permanent magnet "water conditioners" - These use power and do not, in our experience, have a successful anecdotal record

 

 

Please explain, to a humble chemist (and physicist) where the power comes from in a  permanent magnet?

 

17 minutes ago, Polly said:

- Alternating electric/magnetic field "water conditioners" - These use power

 

 

I'm not questioning that at all.  I specifically wished to know, as per the above question, what chemicals these devices release into the water supply, as you have claimed.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

Please explain exactly what chemicals are released into the water by a permanent magnet, alternating electric/magnetic field,

 

I do not claim that magnets release chemicals into the water.

 

Nor do I claim that sacrificial anodes use power.

 

I say that Halcyan is the only system which does neither of these. I do not suggest that other systems must do both simultaneously.

 

Many similar options release zinc into treated water. Halcyan releases nothing. Hence it is extremely sustainable, reliable and long-lasting.

 

Regardless of us being the only system to release no chemicals into water whilst using no power, the reliability and tangible results of the Halcyan system are positively evident, and the Halcyan is an extremely valid option on the market, and not a sensational or over-promising system.

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From a cursory reading of the Wikipedia page on Aragonite (a term with which I was not familiar), it is clear that Aragonite is a solid crystalline form of calcium carbonate. Its a solid mineral, a form of stone, not a compound in solution. I conclude therefore that the use of the word, Aragonite, above by Polly seems to be a misuse of the term for purposes associated with commercial marketing. 

 

To me, this whole thing looks like an example of pseudo science.

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