The magnetic water conditioning system

For those who give a hoot about the environment, the news of late has not been good. The Bush administration backed out of the Kyoto accord, reversed a campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and slowed the pace of toxic-waste cleanups at Superfund sites by 50 percent. Eric Schaeffer resigned as director of enforcement for the Environmental Protection Agency, saying that he was tired of "fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce" (ironically, Schaeffer was appointed to the EPA in 1990 by Bush"s father). The Democratic-controlled Senate didn"t do Mother Nature any favors, either, when in March it voted against increasing fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks. That same month brought word that a massive Antarctic ice shelf had melted faster than chocolate on sun-soaked Texas blacktop.

Jeff Stuart, the superintendent at Brickyard Crossing, says he"s "very much satisfied" with magnetic water conditioning.

If you"re searching for some good news on the environmental front, turn off CNN and take a look in Indy"s own backyard. Actually, make that Brickyard, as in the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course. Three years ago, Brickyard Crossing installed a magnetic water conditioning system. According to IUPUI professor Dr. Ingrid Ritchie, who has researched magnetic water conditioning, the Brickyard Crossing"s magnetic system enabled the golf course to reduce the application of fertilizer and water to its links by 71 percent, from 27,619 pounds per year to 8,132 pounds per year. The application of less fertilizer and water provides an obvious environmental benefit, and it also cuts costs. Ritchie estimates a cost savings of 62 percent.

"We"ve been very much satisfied with the system," says Jeff Stuart, the superintendent at Brickyard Crossing. Stuart notes that, in addition to the cost savings and environmental benefits, the magnetic system has eliminated the dry and wet spots on the course - a big plus for golfers.

Problem: scale

Magnetic conditioning reduces the build-up of scale within pipes carrying hard water. Scale - a rock-like, white-to-gray substance - accumulates wherever you find hard water that is heated. If you don"t soften the water in your home, you probably have scale visible on your shower heads and water taps, and perhaps even on your tea kettle. Removing scale can prove quite challenging, as it grips surfaces as fiercely as barnacles to a lobster boat.

In a home appliance such as a washing machine, the accumulation of scale adversely affects the product"s efficiency and longevity. In industrial applications - boilers and cooling towers, for example - scale can pose similar problems, only on a much larger scale, so to speak. Traditionally, chemicals like sulfuric acid have been used to remove scale in industrial applications. The downside to this practice involves the hazards associated with draining extremely toxic chemicals into the sewer system, as well as the danger faced by the workers who handle the chemicals.

Solution: magnetic conditioning

Magnetic conditioning offers a non-chemical method for preventing scale. The operating principle behind the magnetic technology involves the interaction between a magnetic field and ions. The magnetic field increases the frequency with which ions of opposite charge collide, which ultimately causes the scale formed to be non-adherent, and therefore a non-problem.

Magnetic conditioning devices vary in size. For a light commercial application, such as a coffee maker, the magnetic device measures the size of a roll of quarters. In contrast, a cooling tower might require a magnetic device as large as a VW bus.

Not everyone believes that magnetic conditioning actually works. The Water Quality Association (WQA) - comprised mainly of major players in the water softener industry, such as Culligan and Morton Salt - has vigorously argued against the efficacy of magnetic conditioning.

Ft. Wayne-based Charles Sanderson, who manufactures and installs magnetic conditioning products, says that he has been under attack from the salt-based water softener interests for over 30 years. Sanderson has filed lawsuits against Culligan and WQA, among others, alleging that they participated in a conspiracy to falsely disparage his products and services. Sanderson"s attorney, Bob Hendren, claims that negative comments disseminated by the WQA have caused his client"s earnings to drop precipitously. "Sanderson, as well as other magnetic manufacturers, has drawn the attention of traditional chemical water treaters, and has been the target of substantial negative information, which have kept his company and technology under constant attack," Hendren says.

A WQA position paper had this to say about magnetic technology: "WQA knows of no generally recognized scientific or technical evidence which proves that magnetic devices sold to treat water have any measurable physical or chemical effect on water quality." The paper was released in 1995, five years before Dr. Ingrid Ritchie and Robert Lehnen, both professors at IUPUI, published a study that supported the efficacy of magnetic water conditioning.

"The results of our study demonstrated that magnetic water conditioning does affect the chemistry of the water," Ritchie says. "The bottom line: The magnetically treated water visibly resulted in less scale - about half as much - than water that was not treated."

In discussing the environmental and cost-saving benefits of magnetic conditioning, Ritchie cites a Department of Energy study released in 1998. The study included a life-cycle comparison between traditional lime-softening treatment and magnetic water treatment for a hypothetical industrial boiler. "The comparison showed that magnetic conditioning would result in reduced pollution and a life-cycle cost savings of $2,759,000," Ritchie says. "The payback for the equipment is less than one year for this hypothetical facility. The actual savings at a given facility will vary, depending on the individual applications and conditions."

Clearly, then, magnetic water conditioning represents a win-win for business and environmental interests. The only ones who stand to lose are those companies offering traditional, chemical-based products and services. Backed by Ritchie"s extensive research, magnetic devices likely will become standard equipment on a wide range of appliances and machinery: water heaters, irrigation systems, heating and air-conditioning units, cooling towers - the list goes on and on. The end result will be increased energy efficiency and decreased pollution. If you"re concerned about the environment, savor this rare instance of good news.


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