Drinking water contains magnesium, calcium, and other minerals. The "harder" the water is, the more minerals it contains. As the water and mineral ions enter the home, they meet up with heat, pressure, and agitation that cause them to crystallize. The dissolved mineral ions come out of solution and form branched shaped mineral crystals with an electrostatic charge. This charge causes them to attach to the sides of plumbing pipes and fixtures, which results in harmful scale build-up. The crust of scaly material reduces the patency of pipes and efficiency of plumbing fixtures, which results in repeated maintenance calls.
Hard water scale can be annoying and in some cases dangerous and even deadly. The build up is annoying when it blocks the tiny exit holes in the shower head or faucet causing water to squirt out in odd directions. It is much more annoying when it interferes with the temperature sensing device in the water heater resulting in hotter than needed water, and a rising utility bill. Scale build up can costly when it narrows pipes so much that the pressure of water at the faucet heads is sub-standard. In that case a homeowner may end up spending thousands of dollars to replace the pipes in his home. Scale build up can be deadly when it blocks the temperature and pressure valve in the water heater. This may result in the buildup of extreme pressure in the tank that can, in some cases, result in a deadly explosion!
For over 100 years the solution to hard water has been water softener treatments. Unfortunately water softeners contain large quantities of salt. Softeners remove beneficial calcium and magnesium through an ion exchange process, and replace them with sodium. The subsequent wash out cycle results in the loss of more than 100 gallons of water and with it the healthy minerals and remaining sodium. In homes with well and septic systems the salt run off may end in the ground water and then back in the well. With city systems it flows to a waste treatment facility and from there to lakes, streams, and rivers, where the high sodium content damages the environment. Because of the harmful sodium runoff, some areas have totally banned the use of water softeners. Even in locales where the treatment is legal, homeowner must still spend $100s of dollars a year to purchase heavy bags of salt, and pay for high maintenance costs.
The inconvenience and in some cases illegality of water softeners meant that a new approach to conditioning hard water and preventing scales needed to be developed. In response to the problem, researchers in Germany developed a technique called template assisted crystallization. Template assisted crystallization (TAC) is a type of physical water treatment. It processes hard water without the use of chemicals, without the need to discharge large amounts of waste water, without subsequent pollution, and without large maintenance costs.
With TAC, water entering the home or about to enter an appliance passes through a media containing tiny polymeric beads. The beads have tiny chemo-active sites or templates impressed on their surface. These micro sites attract Ca++ and Mg++ in solution and transform them to sub-micron sized inert crystals, which pass through the water system without binding to the inner surface of pipes and appliances. The myriads of tiny inert crystals attract additional free Ca++ and Mg++, which pass harmlessly through the system to be consumed or washed out the drain.
A number of American companies now manufacturer and market template assisted crystallization treatments. They come as cartridges which a plumber or DIY homeowner can attach to the home's plumbing system. They can be placed anywhere, and therefore treat water coming from the main, or water about to enter one or more of the appliances. A homeowner using a TAC system can expect to add years of life to his pipes and plumbing fixtures and avoid the dangers and costly repairs associated with long-standing exposure to hard water.