Every home that I’ve ever lived in has had hard water. There are pros to having hard water, but there are also many cons. The cons have led me to investigate ways of mitigating hard water, but this also has additional drawbacks. I recently purchased and installed a ScaleBlaster. Read on for my ScaleBlaster review.
Why Care About Hard Water?
Hard water tends to be high in calcium and magnesium. Even though these usually make water taste better, they pose many problems when used in a home water system. Most noticeable are limescale deposits on water fixtures. This is visibly unsightly, but also leads to damage and a decrease in efficiency to the overall water system. Hard water makes dissolving soaps more difficult. This can make showers unpleasant and over time, can lead to damage to the fibers in the clothes that you are laundering using this water. The lingering, unsightly residues are really the thing that I hate most about hard water.
Mitigating Hard Water
The most common way of mitigating hard water is through the use of a water softener. A water softener is an appliance that uses ion exchange to replace calcium/magnesium ions with sodium ions. Sounds great, right? Well, this exchange of ions results in water that doesn’t taste as good. Also, if you’re trying to avoid added sodium in your diet, you’ve now created a whole new mechanism for it to get into your body. Many of the places where I’ve experienced hard water, I never really did anything to mitigate it and just dealt with the associated problems.
The first home that I purchased had a water softener. I liked not having the visible telltale signs of hard water, but I quickly got annoyed by having to replenish the ‘salt’ in this water softener on a regular basis. I also noticed that the quality of my homebrew was drastically decreased. Hops and malts were muted and the mouthfeel of my frequently brewed recipes was ‘off’. Before this, I hadn’t really given much thought to water chemistry during my brew days. After a bit of research and getting my ‘post-softener’ water tested, it was clear that this was likely the cause of my brewing woes. I had one water tap that was pre-softener and I started using that for all of my brewing.
My current home also came with a water softener. One of the first things I did was setup the ability to completely bypass it so that with the flip of a few valves, I could have unadulterated water at any tap in the house. This information will come in handy later. When brewing, or filling my hot tub, I’d make sure to completely bypass the softener as well. I still had that annoying problem of having to constantly load the softener with salt and thought that there had to be a better way.
My ScaleBlaster Review
Searching around for alternatives, I eventually discovered the ScaleBlaster. I had my doubts, but finally pulled the trigger when there was a sale on one at Costco.
What is the ScaleBlaster?
The ScaleBlaster is a Made in the USA ‘electronic descaling device’. You install it early on the incoming water line. This install involves wire wrapping your water pipes in a very specific manner, hooking this wire up to the ScaleBlaster and then plugging the ScaleBlaster into a regular electrical outlet. The device than produces an oscillating electronic field that changes the calcium molecules. This causes the ions to precipitate or collide with each other, to the point that they no longer deposit and just come out the other end of your pipes.
This sounded very interesting. Technically, it wasn’t softening the water. My water would still taste great. I could brew with it. Best of all, no need to reload with salt! The ScaleBlaster promised to eliminate the visible problems of hard water. Even better, it claimed that the alteration of the calcium ions would also allow the water to remove pre-existing scale deposits from my pipes and equipment.
How did I test?
Since the ScaleBlaster isn’t actually softening the water, I couldn’t test my water before and after to see how well it works. Instead, I turned off the water softener for a few weeks before install. I then took note of how the scale built up on my water fixtures. Another great visual indicator came from my sprout growing process. For growing sprouts, you need to run cold water over the top of the tray several times a day. With the softener off, the top of the tray had noticeable scale development in between waterings. Now that I had a few objective measurements in addition to the subjective ones, I was ready to begin.
My plan was to install the ScaleBlaster, bypass the water softener and let it operate for two weeks in this state. After this time, I was going to do a deep clean of all the fixtures and surfaces to remove the scale. Then, I would run things for another two weeks and see how things compared to running without the water softener.
Installing the ScaleBlaster was straightforward, but fairly involved in order to make sure everything was perfect. The biggest issue was the wire wrapping. It took the better part of an afternoon to properly do the wire wrapping. This was mostly because I was working in a tight space and had a difficult time perfecting a method to easily manipulate the several feet of wire that needed to be wrapped. I placed the ScaleBlaster downstream of my existing water filter as recommended in the instructions. This also allowed me to plug the ScaleBlaster into the same electrical outlet
It took a few days, but subjectively, I felt that the ScaleBlaster was working. Long before doing the ‘deep clean’, I noticed that I was no longer seeing evidence of scale on my sprout trays. After doing the deep clean, things actually stayed clean. One annoying issue did develop though… a few toilets in my house started emitting a high frequency whine. This usually occurred while water was running in other parts of the house. We discovered that a slight jiggle of the bits inside the tank usually stopped this, but it would regularly come back. Eventually, I did a deep clean of all components in the tank and this seems to have resolved the issue.
So is the ScaleBlaster worth it? It’s been over a month and I haven’t put the original water softener back into rotation. I’ve read reviews online and some people with very hard water did not seem to have the same experience as me and either returned the ScaleBlaster or used a water softener in conjunction. Personally, I’m happy with the current setup and knowing that I can easily add the water softener back into the mix if I need to do so. Have you used the ScaleBlaster? I’d love to hear about your experience and how you deal with hard water issues.