Water hardness is an issue that can bedevil the operation of many a professional warewasher, so it is a key responsibility for dealers to ensure they specify the correct appliances and options for a site from first installation.
So what would manufacturers advise dealers to do? According to Electrolux Professional’s category m anager for warewashing, Steve Bowler: “It can be an easy factor to overlook, but given that hard water is prevalent across 60% of the UK, dealers must consider it to be one of the most important considerations when specifying warewashers. Using a warewasher that is not designed to deal with hard water can lead to mechanical damage, and even failure, which will ultimately lead to increased costs further down the line.
“Aside from the toil on the warewasher itself, washing with un-treated hard water can leave physical marks on plates and glasses, such as spotting and filming.”
He therefore urged: “Internal softeners can help to counter these effects, by treating the water before it enters the warewasher, thus preventing a build-up of scale on the warewasher’s internal components. All Electrolux Professional warewashers offer this as an optional addition, since some sites employ a central softening plant.
“Another way of mitigating the negative effects of limescale is through an automatic de-lime cycle, such as Electrolux Professional’s Zero Lime feature. This regularly cleans the heating elements of the machine, allowing the warewasher to continue to reach the high temperatures required for a full and effective cleaning cycle.”
While Hobart Equipment Division’s UK sales director Tim Bender underlined: “Hard water in any kind of washing operation spells bad news, as the moment you heat hard water it will deposit limescale inside the machine, sticking to the elements and blocking pipework.
“You could just about compensate by using detergent made especially for hard water areas but it goes without saying that this will impact on chemical consumption, and could greatly affect a machine’s lifespan.”
Agreeing that specifying an optional water softener is the most common approach to mitigating the effects of hard water, he added: “In smaller machines this would be built in, softening the water and preventing a build-up of scale. When it comes to larger rack and flight-type machines, we recommend an external unit that delivers soft water direct to the machine.
“You can no longer assume that because a site has soft water today that it won’t, in a few months’ time, have hard water. Fluctuations in rainfall affect underground water levels, and water companies compensate by pumping water from one region to another.
“With this in mind, our recommendation is to never pre-judge or guess the levels of hardness, always check, and if in doubt offer a softener.”
At Maidaid Halcyon, sales director Julian Lambert believes that water treatment has increasing become an inbuilt component for warewashing equipment manufacturers. “As a result of customer feedback many years ago, we developed a range of machines with internal water treatment. The majority of our water softening machines have the all new internal continuous water softeners. These units are not meant for operation in extremely hard areas and we would always advise using an external softener as well.”
However, he emphasised: “Even if you select one of our water softener machines we would always advise our distributors to specify external water softeners when quoting for a warewashing unit in a hard water area.
“The end user must be made aware that the softener is only effective if it is salted and regenerated at the correct times. So it’s also very important for dealers to specify the correct size of softener for the size of machine and the frequency of its usage. The downside of internal water treatment devices is that they invariably must be of a small physical size, this has the ultimate effect of offering a reduced capacity, and not something the user is always made aware of.
“Maidaid Halcyon will assist our distributors with the selection and sizing of the correct water treatment option.”
Over at Meiko, UK MD Paul Anderson began: “First and foremost, distributors need to know which manufacturer supplies the best machines for these conditions and which manufacturer supplies its distributor partners with comprehensive engineer training to cope with hard water situations.
“Whether softeners or reverse osmosis, thanks to the fact that the whole of the UK is now on a water ‘circuit’, it is likely at some point that a soft water area could be subject to hard water in times of shortage, or when supplies are diverted to fix leaks etc.
“Dealers should also be aware that Meiko’s GiO reverse osmosis uses less water than a softener.”
Acknowledging that softener solutions can also work and – if installed by Meiko – will qualify for the firm’s No Bills guarantee, Anderson added: “However, softeners do cause maintenance issues when sited in locations not easily reached for daily maintenance, because staff fail to keep them topped up with salt.”
He concluded: “With Meiko involved, dealers do not need to worry about local water hardness in relation to the dishwashing; we supply a machine to handle the local water conditions and if necessary, will also supply a water softener to suit local conditions.”
Noting that all warewashers require a softener if the water supply exceeds 60-80 parts per million hardness threshold, DC Warewashing & Icemaking Systems’ director Bob Wood said: “We would always advise dealers to check the water hardness of a prospective customer by carrying out a simple water hardness test. These are not expensive and give a visual indication in a matter of seconds.
“Once the hardness has been ascertained the dealer can work with the customer to find the best solution for them. If space is of a premium, ease of use a priority and high staff turnover a reality then we would advise dealers to steer the customer towards an integral system. If budget is the main priority, then we’d advise them to look at external manual softeners and if the water is very hard and the site is very busy, we’d ask them to consider an external automatic softener.”
Wood continued: “We always advise the distributor that prevention rather than cure is the modus operandi when it comes to water treatment in hard water areas. In most cases de-scaling is therefore not considered to be part of a routine maintenance, as if installed with the correct water treatment in place there should be no need to de-scale the machine.”
Winterhalter’s marketing manager Paul Crowley weighed up the benefits and drawbacks of reverse osmosis, analysing: “Reverse osmosis forces water through a special membrane, removing more impurities than a standard water softener can. This magnifies the benefits of softening considerably. The downside is that reverse osmosis systems cost more to buy and more to run, since the process wastes a lot of water.
“However, for the very best results reverse osmosis is the answer, especially with fine stemware. The reverse osmosis membrane will need replacing periodically, by a service engineer.”
Therefore, he revealed: “Winterhalter has developed a hybrid technology that combines reverse osmosis and a water softener. This offers a variety of benefits, including preventing blockages of the reverse osmosis membrane, extending membrane life and ensuring perfect wash results from first wash to last. It also lowers running costs, since the operator can switch between using the reverse osmosis system or just the water softener.”
Winterhalter UC (undercounter) and PT (pass-through) warewashers allow the installation engineer to tweak the machine settings to take account of local conditions, including the hardness of the water. Crowley commented: “This ensures the best possible results, whatever the condition of the water.”
Elsewhere, Wexiödisk’s UK and Ireland country manager John Shepherd cautioned: “It is vital for dealers to undertake a thorough check of the water hardness during the specification process, particularly as damage caused to an appliance by the build-up of scale and associated deposits is not covered under the warranty.
“When commissioning one of our machines, we will complete our own water hardness check, making sure that a water softener has been fitted if required. Should this not have been specified where needed, we will contact the dealer immediately, asking them to rectify the issue before any problems occur.”
Wexiödisk prefers a separate water softener installation, as Shepherd explained: “We have taken the decision not to install water softeners within our machines for a very good reason. If you were to calculate the water usage of a standard commercial warewasher per day, you would find the recommended size for the softener is significantly larger than available space internally.
“Many of the models available on the market have shrunk down the size of the softener to allow it to fit, in doing so reducing the capacity and ultimately the effectiveness of the process. The result of this lower capacity is having untreated, hard water entering the machine and a build-up of limescale over time.”
Classeq has taken a different approach, with all undercounter DUOWS warewashers including an integral water softener, while the D400 DUOWS is said to be the only 400 x 400 sized machine in its class to have this feature. In addition, an external water softener is available to purchase which is compatible with all Classeq machines – 8, 12, 16 and 20-litre softeners are available to buy separately and specified dependent upon usage.
Marketing manager Adam Lenton said: “Whether the machine the dealer is specifying has a built-in water softener to help eradicate limescale build-up or whether a compatible water softener is available, if a customer is in a hard or medium water area, the machine will need a water softener. If they do not have a water softener it will seriously affect the life-span of the machine.
“A dealer should take note of a site’s water hardness as early as possible in the specification process, and our sales team can also help advise, test the water hardness and help specify.”
Over at Krupps, it is able to supply integral or external softeners, reverse osmosis units or even chemical products to mitigate hard water. Export MD Riccardo Scuotto detailed: “Built-in softeners, together with constructing the wash and rinse arms from stainless steel, are features that can protect the unit against limescale.
“The correct use and regular maintenance of warewashers improves longevity, and using specific chemical products for water softeners will help the quality of washing.”
Advising dealers to inspect the site and test water hardness to determine which mitigation method is best, Scuotto added: “Krupps machines, depending on the water hardness, can be programmed on site. By simply inputting the water hardness measurement the machine will automatically adjust all settings for each programme to improve the quality of the washing and the regeneration of the water.”
He added: “Any machine with built-in water softener, like the Krupps ELS51E, performs better in hard water conditions than a standard machine without a water softener. Also, a standard machine can be used if it is installed in line after an external softener or reverse osmosis system.”
Elsewhere, Smeg offers a free water quality site survey to support its active distributors. Commercial channel director Phil Coulstock pointed out: “Carrying out a site survey before specification is vital to understand the site’s water quality – there are online websites that can show you the sites geographic/postal code areas water hardness, but these aren’t site specific and therefore are not a substitute for visiting and testing in person.”
He underlined: “Another point we make to our distributors at Smeg is that when specifying a dishwasher with an integral water softener it is important to know the volumes of water/number of cycles the required machine is likely to be doing during the day and the capabilities of the integral unit.
“Often in very busy sites that use the machine a lot in short period of time, an external water softener would be a better solution for the end user than the perceived convenience an integral softener offers.
“We often see machines with integral water softeners installed but not set up for the site’s specific water hardness and left on the standard water hardness setting – we are currently taking steps to prevent this from happening in the future.”
At Comenda, UK brand manager Jonathan Mellor explained: “Hard water has a high mineral content consisting of specifically calcium and magnesium. Hard water can affect the warewasher in many ways so it is important to be aware of how hard the water actually is.”
Noting that water softeners remove the minerals that cause water to be hard, he revealed: “During the site survey, dealers should also check that the site isn’t fed by a lead pipe system. It would be advisable to have the lead pipe replaced before softened water can flow through them, and although lead pipe systems in hard water areas may not cause a problem, it is advisable to replace them anyway. When naturally or artificially softened water ends up in these lead pipe systems, it may cause the pickup of lead.”
He added: “Dishwashers that are fitted with fully automatic water softeners which reduce downtime are suited to hard water operation.”
Softening goes automatic
One of water solutions provider European WaterCare’s core strategies for this year involves improving the quality of its products. Its aim is to offer customers good performance and reliability through improvements to its existing range.
Water softeners represent a core component of the firm’s product line-up and form a vital link to foodservice operators looking for uninterrupted, efficient service from their warewashing equipment to produce quality results.
Therefore, the importance of providing a reliable solution packed with adaptable and innovative features is a must. With this in mind, the manufacturer has launched the Autosoft Water Softener range featuring the Fleck 5800 and 4600 from Pentair.
European WaterCare has teamed up with Pentair to provide its new range of softeners, now easily identifiable by their colour; Autosoft Hot in red cabinets and Autosoft Cold in blue cabinets.
The 5800 valve is said to represent a step forward in the Fleck product range. As well as optical sensors, a clear back-lit display and increased regeneration efficiency, the 5800 valve features what is designed to be improved flow, easy servicing and a quick set-up.
The Autosoft range now combines WaterCare’s decades of experience in manufacturing softeners with tested and trusted Pentair components, all aimed at providing customer satisfaction.
Hard water efficiency
Limescale is the chalky white deposit that builds up inside equipment in hard water areas, blocking internal water lines and coating heating elements, affecting their efficiency. Removing the minerals that cause limescale by treating the water can improve the efficiency of warewashing equipment.
Aqua Cure supplies a range of compact reverse osmosis systems for removing the minerals that cause limescale as well as reducing the total dissolved solids (TDS) that can cause spots or streaks to appear on glass and tableware. Reducing the TDS should mean streak-free tableware which staff won’t have to polish manually.
Several options are available depending on the volume of treated water required.