To understand soft water, we need to know what makes water hard. Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. It’s a natural result of minerals like calcium and magnesium accumulating during the water cycle, and it can happen with well water and even city water. The more calcium and magnesium dissolved in the water, the harder the water becomes. This is why certain cities and counties within the same state can have varying degrees of water hardness.

What is hard water?

When water is referred to as ‘hard’ it simply means that it contains more minerals than ordinary water. Calcium and magnesium are generally the two main minerals referred to when dealing with hard water. When the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium increases, so does the degree of hardness in the water.

Why would I want to remove hardness in my water?

Hard water is known to clog pipes and complicate soap’s ability to dissolve in water. Due to increased hardness deposits (or scale), hard water also significantly decreases the life of your water pipes, household appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, A/C unit, etc), as well as any plumbing fixtures in your home. These can all cause costly repairs if damaged by hard water. Installing water treatment in your home, such as a water softener, can aid in eliminating these negative effects.

What is water softening?

When water contains a significant amount of calcium and magnesium, it is considered to be hard water. Water softening is a technique that removes the ions that cause the water to be hard. In most cases a water softener removes the calcium and magnesium ions; however, iron ions may also be removed during the softening process. The most efficient and reliable method of water softening is to connect a water softener unit directly to the water supply.

Why do I need a water softener?

Hard water is known to clog pipes and complicate soap and detergent’s ability to dissolve in water. Hard water can also increase calcium and lime-scale deposits and buildup, which can significantly reduce the life of many household appliances. Having hard water can also increase the cost of domestic water heating by about fifteen to twenty percent. Having softened water in your home significantly increases to life of your hot water heater, dishwasher, laundry machines, faucets and plumbing fixtures and many more. Softened water also contributes to an increased performance and longer lifespan of solar heating systems, air conditioning units and many other water-based applications.

How long does a water softener last?

A water softener’s lifespan depends greatly on your individual water chemistry; however, a good water softener will last many years. Many reliable water softeners need little maintenance besides occasional check-ups and adding salt.

How does a water softener work?

Water softeners work through an ion exchange process. Softeners remove the positively charged ions calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) through the use of negatively charged resin filter media. Softeners are also sometimes applied to remove iron. Many softener devices are able to remove up to five milligrams per liter of dissolved iron. Softeners can operate automatic, semi-automatic, or manual. Each type of rated on the amount of hardness it can remove before regeneration is necessary. When a water softener regenerates, it collects the hardness minerals that have collected on the resin and flushes them away to a drain. At this time, it also recharges the resin so it can continue to remove the hardness effectively. When an ion exchanger is applied for water softening, it will replace the calcium and magnesium ions within the water with other ions (for instance sodium or potassium). The exchanger ions are added to the softener reservoir (in this case called a brine tank) as sodium or potassium salts (NaCl and KCl). The sodium or potassium is then rinsed away with clean water as to not add excess amounts into your home’s water.

Which type of salt should I use?

There are several types of salt available for use in water softeners. Rock salt, solar salt, and evaporated salt are all good to use. Pellets or block salt are not recommended as many contain an adhesive that can cause your unit to malfunction over time. If you are concerned about your sodium intake, potassium can be a good alternative to use.

Is it harmful to mix salts in my water softener?

Generally, it is not harmful to mix salts in the water softener. However, it is always best to allow the existing salt in your tank to get low before replacing it with an alternative salt.

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