The Myth about Flow Rates

Dec 6, 2021

From time to time, we get asked about whether water softeners can affect flow rates. 

Often this occurs when a customer has read through a manufacturer’s literature, making claims that their water softeners won’t just improve the flow rate but that their softeners offer the best flow rates on the market. This can all sound very enticing – but it is misleading information. 

Customers can also be influenced when they hear that having a water softener will slow the rate at which water flows through their taps. Again, this is false info. 

For anyone who might be confused or concerned about the connection between water softeners and flow rates, we’d like to provide some clear guidance.

Firstly, there is no governing body that can independently verify the flow rate claims of one manufacturer against another. Therefore, any wording you see about a water softener creating a flow rate of 20 litres a minute, 45 litres a minute or even 60 litres a minute, is nothing more than marketing. And some of these claims are ridiculous, frankly. The water would need to flow at Niagara Falls’ rate to back up some of these figures!  

Above all, the thing to remember is this: whatever your water flow rate was PRIOR to your water softener being installed, it will be EXACTLY THE SAME AFTER your water softener is installed. 

The premium quality water softeners we sell will have absolutely no impact on your flow rate. Our water softeners – indeed any water softeners – are not designed to improve the flow rate or to reduce the flow rate. They are purely there to provide you with high quality softened water, 24/7. 

A simple exercise to check your flow rate – with and without a water softener

To prove the point, to check the accurate flow rate for your property, the best way to do this is to take a bucket of water and fill it from the garden tap. The reason for using the garden tap is that it will generally be unimpeded by any pipework going into the property. Preferably use a bucket that displays the litre readings on it, so you can measure the volume of water. Fill the bucket up for, say, 30 seconds and see how many litres of water you have at this point. Let’s say it is showing 12 litres of water. Doubling this figure will give you the flow rate per minute. In this case, it would be 24 litres of water per minute. 

Then repeat this exercise from the cold tap at the kitchen sink or even the utility room. At this point, if you have a water softener, it would be useful to disconnect it temporarily from the mains, to ensure that the pipework inside the property isn’t distorting the flow rate. Comparing the garden tap and kitchen tap, the flow rate should be identical. Run the water and compare the rate.

Thirdly, reconnect the water softener and run the kitchen tap for the same 30 second period. The flow rate should be exactly the same as it was without the water softener being connected. If, and it is only an if, the flow rate is slightly less with the water softener in operation – and we are talking about between a quarter and half a litre a minute – this is such a small difference it really isn’t worth worrying about. That said, you are unlikely to see any difference at all in the readings – with or without the water softener. 

So, if you were concerned about the link between your water softener and the flow rate, this is an interesting little test that should put your mind at rest. 

What determines the flow rate? 

The rate that the water flows through your taps will be governed by the age, design and complexity of your pipework – it has nothing to do with the water softener. Generally, new homes will be fitted with more streamlined pipes that enable higher flow rates than within older properties. So, flow rates in newer properties tend to be greater than in traditional stone cottages, for instance. 

Will the performance of my combi boiler be altered by having a water softener?

Again, the water softener will make zero difference to the flow rate. Whatever the flow rate you were getting from your combi boiler before the water softener was installed, it will be just the same after the installation. Modern day water softeners are designed to work in harmony with all modern-day central heating systems. The one thing you will notice is that your boiler will perform even better with a water softener, because it will no longer be confronted with limescale-causing hard water, which will seriously downgrade the boiler’s performance over time. 

My water pressure reading seems to fluctuate. Why is this?

People can also be panicked by water pressure and whether this has an impact on flow rates, because they see the pressure gauge falling when they turn on their taps. This is explained by static pressure and dynamic pressure. Static pressure is where no water is being used and the pressure shows a reading of, say, 5 bars.  When you turn on a tap and the water comes under pressure, this is known as dynamic pressure. As a result, the needle on the gauge will drop. Once the tap is turned off, the reading will return to its normal static level of around 5 bars. 

Again, this is all perfectly normal plumbing procedure, which is not affected by the installation of a water softener. 

Do water softeners affect flow rates in bed and breakfast accommodation and other commercial properties?

Again, no. Even in commercial establishments such as B&Bs, pubs, restaurants and nursing homes – where water consumption is greater than it would be in a standard residential property – it is highly unlikely that flow rates will be affected at all with the installation of a water softener. With this in mind, we tailor our water softeners to meet the demands of the property size. For instance, if you have two-bedroomed home with one bathroom, you wouldn’t need such a powerful water softener as if you were running a six-bedroom, six-bathroom guest house. 

Conclusion 

The connection between water softeners and flow rates is a complete myth. It doesn’t exist – even if you are told otherwise. The advanced, extremely reliable water softeners we sell will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on your water flow rate. We hope this will help clear up any confusion or misapprehension surrounding the subject.

If you are interested in having a water softener or water filtration system installed in your or business, call Scott Jenkins Water Softeners today on 01243 607494 or email: scott@sjbs.info As one of the leading suppliers of high-quality soft water products and drinking waters systems in the South-East, we operate extensively throughout West and East Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey.