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The Past, Present, and Future of Water Softening

by Mark Timmons June 14, 2021 0 Comments

Water Softening Throughout the Decades -In the 1920's to 1950's

For the first eight years of my life, I lived in a city that had relatively soft (5-6 GPG) water, and I was a kid, so I really didn't know what soft water was. However, when I was nine, we moved to the country and I was introduced to very hard water that had a lot of iron. My father worked for Water Refining Company (Miracle Water, Servisoft, and Refin-A-Matic Brands) and shortly after we moved, he installed a water softener. Every Saturday, he would regenerate it, which involved taking off the cap, draining some water out and pouring salt into the top of the tank and then backwashing and rinsing through opening and closing valves. I often helped him and that was my first exposure to water treatment. While it did not take out all the iron (rust), I remember my first bath with soft water and it felt wonderful. Nearly sixty (60) years later, I still love the feel of soft water. [By the way, water softeners will remove iron (under the right circumstances and water characteristics) but we believe that iron is best removed by oxidation BEFORE the water is softened.] I remember my father and I regenerating that water softener for several years and then something amazing happened.

Water softening had roots back into Egypt in 1500 BC, but the concept was not really discovered until the mid-to-late 1800s. In the 1920's Emmett J Culligan (pictured to the right) and Lynn Lindsay were neighbors and evidently worked closely together on soft water ideas and systems before they went their separate ways.

I am sure there is quite a story there, and I would love to hear it, but there aren't a lot of people alive now that were alive back then.

In the 1960's

In the mid-1960's my father was working for Water Refining Company in Middletown, Ohio. Ron Baker, the President of Water Refining is credited with inventing the 5-cycle water softener control valve which was fully automatic. Of course, my father installed one of those in our house and the water quality was notably improved.

As a side note, my uncle John Timmons, was also in the water conditioning business and he allegedly reverse-engineered the Water Refining Company 5-Cycle valve so that the flow was the opposite that it was. As the story goes (and I can only repeat what I was told), he and Donn Dresselhuys were friends and he was going to bring his “reverse engineered” Water Refining valve to Autotrol Corporation, presumably for some financial interest. In the interim, Water Refining Co. bought out his patent and he did not go to Autotrol... and the rest is history.

In the 1970's

By the mid-1970's I had left my childhood home and started my first water treatment business, which I later sold, but it is still in operation, nearly 50 years later. At that time, I was selling Miracle Water Softeners which were “meter-controlled,” unlike the older systems which were either manually regenerated or regenerated by time (day). It made much more sense and was dramatically more efficient to regenerate based upon gallons, rather than time. I thought that was an amazing advantage.

Water Refining Company was always on the cutting edge of technology and maybe got a little full of themselves when they came out with a futuristic-looking meter controlled system called the “WaterFine.” It was an unmitigated disaster (most likely every system failed) and they followed it up with the Comput-A-Save, which was incrementally better, but way too complicated and cumbersome. Miracle Water and Servisoft were later to sold to Eco Water and are no more.

In the 1980s and 1990s

In 1983, I started my second business and decided to become a Hague Dealer. Hague's National Sales Manager was Mike Dunn, whom my father had signed up as a Servisoft dealer decades before that. I was also drawn to Bill Hague, whom I regard as the smartest man I have even met in the water softening industry. Yes, there may have been people who had more technical expertise (not many), but no one had a better understanding of how to soften water, engineering, sales, and marketing than Bill Hague.

Over the years I spent literally weeks and months with Bill Hague and was proud to have been the #1 Hague Dealer in the USA on several occasions. Bill taught me way too much and that led to manufacturing our own systems. I will always be eternally grateful for everything Bill Hague taught me. R.I.P. Bill - Next to my father, you were the finest man I have ever met.

Water softeners have not changed much since the 1980's. A business called Kinetico developed a non-electric twin-tank water softener, and Fleck Controls followed that with a twin-tank electric water softener. Non-electric seems really cool, but in reality, a water softener uses a couple of dollars a year in electricity (if that), so that is really no longer an issue.

In the 2000's

What is an issue is reliability and efficiency. Advanced electronics and computerization have made water softeners more reliable than ever. For several years, we have had a 10-year warranty on the valve and electronics. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-controlled valves have been around for several years and US Water Systems valves and electronics have been Bluetooth Controlled for several years. This allows us to precision-program any water softener and monitor its functions, including water flow and historical flow rates and gallons.

Upflow or Downflow Brining?

While there is no question that upflow brining is more efficient (it's probably about 5 or 6% more efficient), that is not a statement that can be made in a vacuum. Our tests have shown that upflow brining is more efficient ONLY if the bed is packed. If it is packed it means that there is no “freeboard” to allow the water softening resin to fluidize and expand during backwash and it also means that the brining will occur with a “packed bed.” If you do not have it packed and have upflow brining, your efficiency is the same as downflow brining and you are misleading the consumer.

Anyone can make a softener with a “packed bed” but most do not. Hague, who also makes WaterBoss does use a packed bed in many of it's systems. This may be fine on city water that has no iron or manganese, but I have found it can frequently be a nightmare on well water, as it offers no expansion of the resin bed during backwash. Therefore, iron and other contaminants are not readily backwashed out of the bed, since there is no ability to fluidize the bed. That, in and of itself, is problematic.

I believe that upflow brining “in the real world” is no more efficient than downflow brining. In my opinion, it is just marketing and sales hyperbole. It sounds good, but in the real world, there is not a significant difference in a residential application between upflow and downflow brining. We have sold both types of water treatment. In fact, out newest systems are capable of upflow or downflow brining, but we only configure them to be in the downflow brining mode. If upflow brining were really more efficient, we would configure it that way. That's all I have to say about it!

What Valve is the Best?

Water softener guys have debated for years as to who makes the best water softener valves. Would it surprise you to learn that they are all the same? Essentially, they really are all the same. In my nearly 50 years of water softening experience, I have sold Fleck, Clack, Autotrol, Kinetico, Lindsay, Miracle Water, Ecowater, Canature, Water-Right, and Hague. For the past four years, we have sold mostly CSI valves. CSI is an acronym for Chandler Systems Incorporated, and CSI is fast becoming a major force in the water softener valve business… maybe THE major force in the water softener valve industry. I say that because I believe they have the most advanced electronics in the industry.

As I mentioned, we have sold just about every water softener control valve on the market, including Fleck, Autotrol, Canature, and Clack valves. Some water dealers are fanatical in their love and belief in the Clack valve and while I agree that it is a very good valve, it cannot hold a candle to the new Drop Technology valve from CSI.

The biggest difference is in the electronics. For years, CSI has been the leader in Bluetooth technology, and our Matrixx, Flexx, and Traxx water softeners have all used that technology with our WaterLogix App. These systems did not need to be programmed with “dinosaur buttons” but rather, with the app, which was very intuitive and easy to program in about 30 seconds… without have to read a boring owners manual. Now, we are going a few steps beyond that and are “reimagining water softening with the latest in WiFi technology.

The Revolution in Water Softeners is Here: Introducing Matrixx with Drop Technology

Now, we are taking softening water to the next level with the new Matrixx with Drop Technology. Actually, it is not just a water softener, albeit a highly efficient and dependable one, but it is so much more than that. It is a Total Home Water Management System that is compatible with your home WiFi. The first thing you will notice is that is does not have any “dinosaur buttons.” It is totally programmed using the Drop app for your Smartphone, whether it be an Apple or Android device.

Now In the 2020's

Before, I tell you all about it, let me ask you if you have a home security system. Do you? A little over 30% of American homeowners have home security systems, but the number is increasing day-by-day as home security is a rapidly growing business. Why am I talking about this? Here's why: You are 7 or 8 times more likely to have a leak, that turns into a flood in your home, as you are to have your home burglarized. Think about that for a minute: 7 or 8 times!

There is a strong chance if you are reading this that you have a Home Security System, which can help prevent your home from being burglarized, but since you are 7 to 8 times more likely to have a flood in your home, what are you doing about that? Well, you could go out and buy a Home Leak Detection System. There are several companies who make them and lots of companies selling them. Yes, you could… which might give you partial protection, but if you happen to live in an area that has hard water (and that is a pretty high percentage of the country), why not incorporate your water softener and flood and leak detection into one simple Home Water Management System?

That is exactly what the new Matrixx with Drop Technology does. Actually, it's only part of what it does. Water damage can be devastating in a home for many reasons. Not only can uncontained water destroy valuable property, it can also create ideal conditions for the growth of unhealthy mold in your home.

Non-weather related water damage is the second most common type of insurance claim for homeowners. It is so common that major insurance providers recommend installing water leak detection equipment in your home… and they will discount your insurance premium by a significant amount. Recently, we had a homeowner who saved over $600 dollars a year by installing a Matrixx Drop Home Water Management System with build-in leak detection. Installing a smart home water leak detection system is the most reliable way to get peace of mind that your home and valuable possessions will be protected from disastrous water damage events.

250 gallons of water can leak from a 1/8 inch crack in a pipe in just one day. According to experts, 10% of the home in the USA have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons of water a day. Even a leaking float in a toilet can waste hundreds of gallons a week. The Matrixx Water Softener with Drop Technology detects and prevents leaks two ways:

(1) The computer monitors your daily water usage patterns and detects anomalies, such as your teenager taking a one-hour shower and alerts you of this unusual water usage. It can then either turn off the water or allow you to make the decision.

(2) There are remote leak detectors (you can have up to 32) that detect the presence of moisture and shut down the system, while notifying you of what is happening. They can be placed in a bathroom (to prevent a bathtub overflow); by a sump pit; under a kitchen sink; by a water softener, or water heater; or any other place where a water overflow could be catastrophic.

Our Drop water leak detection system will instantly alert you any time your property is in danger of sustaining water damage due to:

  • Leaking pipes
  • Broken water heaters
  • Burst pipes
  • Leaking fixtures and appliance
  • Flooding in basements and other flood-prone areas of your home

Additionally, the Matrixx DROP will use the drain function of the water softener to immediately drain your plumbing system. That way, you'll avoid the continued spraying and flooding that can happen even after the water is shut off due to pressure remaining in the system.

Sounds great, right? Well, there is more… a lot more! Consider this:

(1) Let's say you are going on vacation and suddenly realize when you land in the Caribbean that you forgot to shut off your water before you left, so as to not return to a flood. All you do is simply open the app on your Smartphone and shut off the water… and enjoy your vacation.

(2) What if your home is on a slab and the outside hydrants are not bypassed so that you can water your lawn or garden with untreated water? You can simply press the bypass button while you are watering your lawn or garden or if you have an irrigation system, you can program a regular “event” during the precise time your irrigation system is operating so that it is not using softened water.

(3) The Matrixx with Drop Technology notifies you about a week before you are about to run out of salt, so that you don't forget.

(4) If you are so inclined you can shut off the water for a family member who takes unnecessarily long showers. Disclaimer: We do not recommend this as there could be retribution (but it would be funny).

(5) You can precision tune your water softener to optimum salt efficiency and ensure a minimum of water wasted to drain by optimizing each regeneration cycle and salt usage.

(6) You are able to monitor your peak water usage daily, weekly, monthly, and historically including gallons used and peak flow rates. You can also compare what the Matrixx Drop Water Management System records as usage to what the municipality says you are using in order to determine if there is a leak on the line into your home. It's possible you could be paying for water you never use. Water leaks from U.S. homes exceed 1 trillion gallons in a year. That's equal to the annual water use of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami… combined!

(7) One of the coolest aspects of the Drop Technology is that in the unlikely event you have a problem with it, one of our US Water Systems Matrixx Drop Water Treatment Specialists and connect remotely to your system and determine what the problem might be.

(8) If the power goes out during regeneration, a 9-volt battery automatically returns the Matrixx Control to the “Service Position” so as to not wastewater.

How it Works

The Matrixx Home Water Management System consists of the following components:

• The Matrixx Drop Valve - For this purpose, we are talking about water softeners, but they can also be utilized for any type of backwashing filter.

• The Matrixx Hub - The Hub communicates any Drop device within its own network or with the use of your home (or business) Wi-Fi network.

• The Matrixx Drop Leak Detector(s) - You can place up to 32 on one hub. They communicate with the Hub on a private network so that even if your Wi-Fi goes out, you are protected.

• The Matrixx Remote - The Remote can be positioned in a central location in your home so that you can monitor the Drop system. It also operates as a Range Extender. It

displays different colors to indicate what is happening.

• The Drop App on your Smartphone - When utilized with your home (or business) Wi-Fi, you can monitor it from anywhere in the world.

You can also add other Matrixx Drop Water Treatment Components to one Matrixx Drop Hub, such as carbon, iron, sulfur, and sediment filters including the Pioneer PFOA/PFAS & Lead Removal Filter… and while you probably don't need it, it is capable of adding up to twelve (12) of each. One Hub and a filter and or softener quantity up to 48.

Why would you need that many filters or softeners? Well, I forgot to mention that the Matrixx Drop Water Management System is available in 1”, 1-1/4”, and 1-1/2” sizes with a 2” version coming by Fall of 2021. Not only can it be used in residential applications, but it can also be utilized in large custom or estate homes and in any Commercial application, such as hotels, restaurants, car washes, laundries, manufacturing, labs and everything in-between. It is a true commercial-grade system.

Finally, I should mention that it is fully compatible with Alexia. Yes, the Matrixx with Drop Technology is a water softener, but it's so much more. It is a complete Home Water Management System. Talk to one of our Certified Water Specialists to find out if the Matrixx with Drop Technology is right for you and your family.

The future of water softening is here today and (in my opinion) this is the biggest advance in a water softer since the 5-cycle valve was invented about 70 years ago. I have seen a lot of changes in softening water in my lifetime, but this trumps the 5-cycle valve and the invention of the meter-control.

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