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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all, we are hoping that someone can advise us on how we can improve our water and water heating system.

Our house in Alentejo has water pumped from our borehole. The water heater is a propane wall-mounted boiler. The boiler is not really up to the job, we have to run the water for ages before we get water hot enough for a shower, and it never really gets hot enough for washing dishes. We would like to install a bath as well as a shower, but no way this boiler will be able to fill a bath with warm enough water. We could simply get a more powerful boiler, but we would really like to overhaul the whole system in the greenest way possible. These are the problems we have:

First, the water is so hard that we have to practically chip it out of the tap! This obviously is not good for the boiler or pipes (we have had the boiler descaled several times). But it also plays havoc with our skin, particularly for John, who has psoriasis. So we would like to fit a water softener, but we have not been able to find out if this is possible with a pumped borehole. Has anyone got such a system?

Secondly, we would like to fit solar water heating. The pipes in a solar water heater are narrow, and would obviously be affected by the hard water - another reason to fit a water softener. And for supplementary water heating, we need to fit a better propane or electric boiler. We have looked at propane boilers, but all the gas boilers in Portugal seem to be very primitive affairs - nothing like the condenser boilers now standard in northern Europe. Might we be better to use a well-insulated tank heated by electricity?

So, the system we would like is: borehole tank to water softener; softened water to solar panel and tank; and from there to gas boiler or electric water heating. Does anyone have such a system, or know of anyone technical who can give advice? Many thanks, John and Linda
 

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Hello all, we are hoping that someone can advise us on how we can improve our water and water heating system.

I will try

Our house in Alentejo has water pumped from our borehole. The water heater is a propane wall-mounted boiler. The boiler is not really up to the job, we have to run the water for ages before we get water hot enough for a shower, and it never really gets hot enough for washing dishes. We would like to install a bath as well as a shower, but no way this boiler will be able to fill a bath with warm enough water. We could simply get a more powerful boiler, but we would really like to overhaul the whole system in the greenest way possible. These are the problems we have:

First, the water is so hard that we have to practically chip it out of the tap! This obviously is not good for the boiler or pipes (we have had the boiler descaled several times). But it also plays havoc with our skin, particularly for John, who has psoriasis. So we would like to fit a water softener, but we have not been able to find out if this is possible with a pumped borehole. Has anyone got such a system?
We have a whole house water softener, there are plenty of companies who can install one for you, the issue is getting it correctly calibrated. Without correct water analysis then you are going to be struggling to get the water hardness/softness correctly balanced.

Secondly, we would like to fit solar water heating. The pipes in a solar water heater are narrow, and would obviously be affected by the hard water

The pipes in the water heater are somewhat immaterial as you would need to use an indirect system, that is a separate hot water tank, thermally insulated which is then heated by the solar system. We have a combination system based around a relopa system for the daytime and an energie.pt system for nighttime. Again the key here is to make sure that the systems are matched to your hot water usage, ordinary solar panels will have an optimum water heating volume which needs to be factored in. - another reason to fit a water softener.

And for supplementary water heating, we need to fit a better propane or electric boiler. We have looked at propane boilers, but all the gas boilers in Portugal seem to be very primitive affairs
Agreed we ended up buying two LPG condensing boilers in the UK,
again a correctly designed relopa/energie system should not need any supplementary help.- nothing like the condenser boilers now standard in northern Europe. Might we be better to use a well-insulated tank heated by electricity?Not really no, we had an immersion based system initially as our Builder said that was the best, it was but only for EDP !!!!!!

So, the system we would like is: borehole tank to water softener; softened water to solar panel and tank;Not a good idea/not possible and from there to gas boiler or electric water heating. Does anyone have such a system, or know of anyone technical who can give advice? Many thanks, John and Linda
I hope that helps, ask away if you need more

Rob
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you very much for your helpful reply, Rob. There are still a couple of things I am not sure about. For example, while I understand that the solar panel and tank are an indirect system, with whole house water softening, wouldn't the water delivered to the indirect solar system be softened before it got to the solar tank?

Secondly, a borehole system uses a reserve tank, ours is quite small. I understand a water softening system also requires a tank - so could these be incorporated into one?

Thirdly, although we could bring a condenser boiler from the UK to Portugal, the issue would be who we could get to fit it, if heating engineers in Portugal are not trained to fit such boilers.

And finally, how do we find the right people or companies to do some or all of the work needed? I have tried the internet, but there is very little information on the internet in Portugal (a lot of it is actually for Brazil!). I have also tried asking neighbours, but they just seem to put up with the hard water. I'm not even sure what I should be looking for, maybe a water engineer? Are there any national companies who do this sort of work? I have not found anyone locally. Thanks again, Linda
 

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Hi there

I have inserted some more comments below and I hope these help


Thank you very much for your helpful reply, Rob. There are still a couple of things I am not sure about. For example, while I understand that the solar panel and tank are an indirect system, with whole house water softening, wouldn't the water delivered to the indirect solar system be softened before it got to the solar tank?The solar panel operates with a fluid which is not water. This fluid will circulate from the heating panel to the water tank
(your hot water tank) and this then heats the water you use in the house, so the water that arrives at the hot water tank from your borehole will need to be softened before arrival. Our whole house softener is installed between the main isolation stop cock (we are on "city water") and the input pipework before entering any part of the house, now you may want to think about this as we had to install an isolation loop or we would be using softened water for garden irrigation !!

Secondly, a borehole system uses a reserve tank, ours is quite small. I understand a water softening system also requires a tank - so could these be incorporated into one?Correct it does, ours has a reserve capacity of 50 litres which is built in to the softener casing and has to date .......5 1/2 years later proved to be more than adequate

Thirdly, although we could bring a condenser boiler from the UK to Portugal, the issue would be who we could get to fit it, if heating engineers in Portugal are not trained to fit such boilers.In our experience they are more than capable,
the issue for us was price, because they sell so few over here they charge the earth for a small selection, we saved 000's when we brought them in. our plumber had no issue at all, after all, all U.K. products are CE marked

And finally, how do we find the right people or companies to do some or all of the work needed? I have tried the internet, but there is very little information on the internet in Portugal (a lot of it is actually for Brazil!). I have also tried asking neighbours, but they just seem to put up with the hard water. I'm not even sure what I should be looking for, maybe a water engineer? Are there any national companies who do this sort of work? I have not found anyone locally. Thanks again, Linda
OK this is a poser, the issue is always recommendation,
a tricky subject, if you went to a company such as energie.pt, they will arrange all this for you, we did and are very impressed with the workmanship and service.
As regards a water softener company, pm me and I can give you a contact local to us as well as our contacts at Energie and the National plumbing company, not ideal but maybe a start.

I hope that helps

Rob
 

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Hi,

Have you had the borehole water analysed at different times of the year and do you know the dissolved salts and concentrations ? Would you describe the borehole pump set up, is it downhole or surface pump, does it supply a header tank with level switch to operate the pump or maybe a pressurised tank with pressure sensor to operate the pump. Is there a constant cold water pressure at the boiler inlet? What is this pressure? Does the water from a hot tap get hotter if you reduce the flow from the tap? Water softeners generally reduce the pressure as they restrict the flow, if you do not have sufficient pressure/flow at present this will be aggravated by the water softener. The common solar water heater set up in Portugal is a flat panel with a built in tank at the top on an inclined frames or roof fed from at the base a cold water supply so when there's no flow everything is at the static feed pressure, the hot outlet is at the highest point and it is a passive direct system so the water in the panel/tank is the water which comes out of the tap. This hot water in the panel/tank is supplied to a gas fired water heater (best solution) or there is an additional immersion heater in the tank. The panel tank sizes are related to water usage. I'll post some more and photos of typical Portuguese installations when I have more time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Many thanks, Rob, I have sent you a PM. I'm sorry for the delay, our internet has been down. Many thanks, Linda.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi,

Have you had the borehole water analysed at different times of the year and do you know the dissolved salts and concentrations ? Would you describe the borehole pump set up, is it downhole or surface pump, does it supply a header tank with level switch to operate the pump or maybe a pressurised tank with pressure sensor to operate the pump. Is there a constant cold water pressure at the boiler inlet? What is this pressure? Does the water from a hot tap get hotter if you reduce the flow from the tap? Water softeners generally reduce the pressure as they restrict the flow, if you do not have sufficient pressure/flow at present this will be aggravated by the water softener. The common solar water heater set up in Portugal is a flat panel with a built in tank at the top on an inclined frames or roof fed from at the base a cold water supply so when there's no flow everything is at the static feed pressure, the hot outlet is at the highest point and it is a passive direct system so the water in the panel/tank is the water which comes out of the tap. This hot water in the panel/tank is supplied to a gas fired water heater (best solution) or there is an additional immersion heater in the tank. The panel tank sizes are related to water usage. I'll post some more and photos of typical Portuguese installations when I have more time.
Thank you very much, Strontium, sorry we haven't replied sooner, our internet has been down, and at the moment we are visiting family in the UK, so can't answer all your questions! We haven't had the water tested at different times of year, and don't know the concentrations - should we have the water tested at say 3 month intervals? Would the drought conditions of the last couple of years perhaps affect the concentrations? The water always seems to have the same level of hardness to us, although this isn't very scientific! We think it's a mixture of calcium and magnesium salts, and there is both temporary and permanent hardness. If you boil the water in a pan, you are left with a white deposit after pouring the water out, but this water will still not lather with soap. The main borehole pump is down the borehole, but at the surface there are four secondary pumps for the irrigation system, while the water that goes to the house is separate. The irrigation water also shows traces of iron, though the iron seems to be filtered out of the house supply. The house supply from the borehole goes to a filter system and pressurised tank, but I can't remember what that pressure is, and can't check at the moment! The pressure does stay constant though, we check it regularly, just can't remember what it is! If it's any help, the pressure seems similar to the mains pressure we used to get in the UK. The water does not get hotter if we reduce the flow to the tap, but it does get a bit hotter if we reduce the flow on the gas boiler itself. The pressurised tank, propane boiler, and all the controls for the water supply, irrigation timer etc are in a single story storeroom joined to the south side of the house. The roof of this storeroom would be an ideal place to put a solar panel and tank, we think. Thanks very much for your help, I'll try to find out more when we get back to Portugal. Linda
 

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Slightly backtracking, if you are concerned about water quality then you could consider building a cisterna (underground water storage tank). Then with some guttering on the house you feed it with rain water for the months that rain water is available. If you build a big enough storage (50,000 litres is useful) then the stored quantity will last well into the summer months and you can just use the borehole to a minimum just to 'top up' during the high summer.

Soft water (rainwater) has the effect of eating away at calcium in the pipework so is itself a natural descaler. You would save electricity running the borehole for all water requirements.

We have a large cisterna here (Algarve) and before we had a pool almost didn't need to use the borehole at all - we could run all summer on stored rainwater.
 

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Water Softeners come in a variety of sizes so some idea of your consumption needed. Also the analysis of the water as softeners have spec such as 300PPM: 5000 Ltr so knowing the concentration of dissolved salts/ions helps. If your borehole water is static then it may be in contact with "chalk" for a long time but if you use a lot ie watering potatoes then there is a flow so the salt concentration may drop dramatically as the water is only in contact for a short time. Also see aquifer. Does the water quality vary with the wet and dry seasons/periods ie if there's loads of water is the salt concentration low compared to when there is little water?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Water Softeners come in a variety of sizes so some idea of your consumption needed. Also the analysis of the water as softeners have spec such as 300PPM: 5000 Ltr so knowing the concentration of dissolved salts/ions helps. If your borehole water is static then it may be in contact with "chalk" for a long time but if you use a lot ie watering potatoes then there is a flow so the salt concentration may drop dramatically as the water is only in contact for a short time. Also see aquifer. Does the water quality vary with the wet and dry seasons/periods ie if there's loads of water is the salt concentration low compared to when there is little water?[/QUOTE

Thank you, Strontium, it seems to get more and more complicated, doesn't it? Our consumption varies quite a lot, just the two of us there much of the time, but then we get visits from family and friends, eg a son, his wife and 4 children for 2-3 weeks in summer, and so on. The water seems to stay very hard at all times of the year, but then the last couple of years there has been little rain all year round. We first bought the house in February 2013, in the middle of the wettest winter since records began, but the water was very hard even then. The whole system is still the same as when we bought the house, and never having had either a borehole or hard water before, it has taken us time to understand how the system works. We also have a pool, and although we know that the irrigation system is separate from the house supply, we do not know about the pool. That's why I think we need someone expert in borehole systems to advise us. As for water softening, the only experience I have had is with dishwashers, where one can control the level of softening needed, is this not possible with domestic systems? Of course, it is no use getting a softener that is too small, but perhaps one that was suitable for our maximum needs could be adjusted when our need is smaller? Sorry if I sound clueless, it's probably because I am! Linda.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Slightly backtracking, if you are concerned about water quality then you could consider building a cisterna (underground water storage tank). Then with some guttering on the house you feed it with rain water for the months that rain water is available. If you build a big enough storage (50,000 litres is useful) then the stored quantity will last well into the summer months and you can just use the borehole to a minimum just to 'top up' during the high summer.

Soft water (rainwater) has the effect of eating away at calcium in the pipework so is itself a natural descaler. You would save electricity running the borehole for all water requirements.

We have a large cisterna here (Algarve) and before we had a pool almost didn't need to use the borehole at all - we could run all summer on stored rainwater.
Thank you for your suggestion. However, our house is not very big, and although we have gutters, there has been little rainwater to collect in the last couple of years in Alentejo. And wouldn't an underground cistern need a pump, just as a borehole does? And do you mean you use this collected rainwater for all domestic requirements? It would be a very good idea for irrigation and topping up a pool, but I'm not sure I would want to drink stored rainwater, especially after it had been collected from a dirty roof! Linda
 

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Thank you for your suggestion. However, our house is not very big, and although we have gutters, there has been little rainwater to collect in the last couple of years in Alentejo. And wouldn't an underground cistern need a pump, just as a borehole does? And do you mean you use this collected rainwater for all domestic requirements? It would be a very good idea for irrigation and topping up a pool, but I'm not sure I would want to drink stored rainwater, especially after it had been collected from a dirty roof! Linda
Just to muddy the waters further, you can always collect rainwater for the pool plus the irrigation and additionally the washing machine, dishwasher and toilets. We do, I would not want to drink it but it does help in reducing the amount of water going through the softener which helps cost wise.
HTH

Rob
 

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Hi,
It gets more complex as different softeners (there's electronic and non-electronic types) need "regeneration salt" at different times and use water during regeneration. The way forward is to install a medium sized easily available softener which as a water meter or install a separate water meter in the feed pipe from your borehole to your house on only the domestic supply. If you have 2.5+ bar water pressure out of the softener when the water is flowing and your dwelling is 1 or 2 story that's just OK. You will notice the difference between soft and hard when trying to washup, so just keep an eye on things and do a "regeneration" salt cycle when the water seems hard. The more electronic ones often have auto-regen. If the softener is too small a second one can always be added in the future in parallel to the first one. When the softener is being fitted have a "de-scale" done of the water heater if possible.
 

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Chapter 2

Here is a link which is for illustration only and there is no endorsement or recommendation from me (get Australian ones if possible)

Kit solar termossifão - JUNKERS P 200L - Leroy Merlin


This is a style of solar water heater typical to PT and either goes on a frame or suitable roof, your softened domestic water goes in the lower end of the panel and the hot stuff comes out the upper end of the tank when you open a hot tap and feeds the gas boiler/water heater. Some decisions/compromises on position, direction, angle, tank and panel size need to be made but it is also possible to have two in parallel so try one and modify later if you think two would be better. Plumbing is an art which is relatively technically straightforward but need a bit of practice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Chapter 2

Here is a link which is for illustration only and there is no endorsement or recommendation from me (get Australian ones if possible)

Kit solar termossifão - JUNKERS P 200L - Leroy Merlin


This is a style of solar water heater typical to PT and either goes on a frame or suitable roof, your softened domestic water goes in the lower end of the panel and the hot stuff comes out the upper end of the tank when you open a hot tap and feeds the gas boiler/water heater. Some decisions/compromises on position, direction, angle, tank and panel size need to be made but it is also possible to have two in parallel so try one and modify later if you think two would be better. Plumbing is an art which is relatively technically straightforward but need a bit of practice.
Thank you so much for all your help! John and Linda
 
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