What is a Water Softener? – You all may be asking the same question, what is a water softener? I believe, after reading this article you’ll finally get what it is all about. Moreover, we’re gonna cover about the reasons and signs why do you need one.
It’s may be easy to forget about the importance of water in our lives. In every house, water is not just for your diet, it’s an essential tool—a fluid medium which brings material from a place to the next one. A healthy household would have healthy and clean water.
Water softeners would work around things you might not be heard very often. Largely, the water softeners work through chemistry. You may know the term, ion, resin, and ion exchange. Well, we’re gonna explain more than that.
Water softeners are really needed in the area where it has hard water issues. With the help of water softener, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. It turns groundwater or hard water into soft water.
Signs If You Need a Water Softener Unit
Well, before we are going for more explanation, you might need to know if you really need a water softener in your house. Here are some signs of hard water you need to pay attention:
1. There’s Scale Buildup on Appliances
If there’s scale, it’s likely because of hard water. You may find scale on your coffee pots or tea kettles – and there some scale within the pipes too. This kind of scale would clog the plumbing so much. So, it’s very clear that hard water would result in scale buildup and defective plumbing.
With a water softener, you can get rid of these scale buildup because of its ion exchange technology.
2. The Dry Skin and Air
If you shower regularly with hard water, your skin and hair would begin to feel itchy and dry. The calcium and magnesium salts that are floating in your water are just too much. Even shampoo and soap is not really helping much.
3. The Faded and Gray Clothes
Doing laundry with hard water may cause another problem. After several laundries, you may notice that your clothes and bedsheets look faded or gray, that’s because of the water. So, a water softener is needed to filter the water for your laundry to keep the good quality of your water.
4. Stains on the Bathtubs and Sinks
If you see stains on the bathtubs or sinks, that’s the sign of hard water. It’s because the calcium and magnesium from the water are left behind. With a small amount of vinegar, you can remove them easily. But, you’re still gonna need water softener to prevent that.
5. Easily-Damaged and Brittle Glasswares
If you have noticed stains on your glassware, it’s kind of a big deal for those. Cleaning them can be a serious pain. The glassware would be brittle and easily damaged. Once again, a little bit of vinegar could do the work.
What Does a Water Softener Do?
Water softening is a technique that can remove the ions that cause hard water in other words, calcium and magnesium ions. During softening, the iron ions are also removed. Using a water softener unit is the best way to soften the water that can connect directly to the water supply.
Most people acknowledge water softeners as a special type of “filter” that removes ions in hard water using plastic beads. It also cleans itself periodically in a regeneration process.
There are three main components of water softeners: a brine tank, mineral tank, and control valve. For a smaller model, the brine and mineral tank are combined into one cabinet with the separated space.
If you need the water softener with large flow capacity systems, all of the components are separate stand-alone.
- Mineral Tank: Inside the tank is where the action will happen. The water filtration is installed inside the mineral tank. The calcium and magnesium ions are removed inside to get the water softened.
- Brine Tank: This tank is where you store the salt or potassium with the highly concentrated solution.
- Control Valve: The third component is the device for controlling the water flow into and out of the two tanks during regeneration.
How Does a Water Softener Work?
This is the most asked question that needs to be answered when dealing with a water softener. So, if you have a plan to buy a new water softener unit to take care of your hard water issue, you have to know what happens inside the machine.
In your home’s water, there’s more than just H2O. The difference of the water quality depends on the area of your environment. It can also be based on where you get the water from, is it from a municipality or your own well? Both of them are well-known for its hardness minerals contained.
Water is considered “hard’ because it has minerals (calcium and magnesium) in it. It’s clearly explained before. The reason why that kind of minerals contained in the water because of the dissolving of limestone, iron, and remnants that travel all the way to your house.
With a water softener, you can remove those hard minerals. The cleaning and laundry would never be so easy. The life of appliances of your house would be prolonged.
The Ion Exchange Process
The purpose of a water softener is to turn hard water into soft water. It happens through a process called the Ion Exchange Process. Well, this is where the remarkable science water treatment happens.
During the ion exchange process, things like magnesium, iron, calcium, and manganese are removed. Then, those minerals are replaced by sodium ions. Ions are molecules or atom that bring either negative or positive charge.
Iron, magnesium, calcium, and sodium are all carrying a positive charge but the sodium is a little bit weaker than the others. So, it allows the ion exchange process.
So how does this process work? it takes place by passing hard water over ion exchange resin beads, in a tank. In most modern softeners, the resin consists of plenty of small plastic beads. All of the beads are negatively charged exchange sites.
After all, the negative resin beads hold the positive sodium ions in order to be ready to be contacted with the calcium and magnesium in their travel inside the resin or brine tank. During this contact, the magnesium and calcium will displace the sodium ions from the sites of exchange.
This ion exchange process is become possible because of two reasons. The first one is that all positive ions shouldn’t have the same strength of positive charge. The second one is that the resin needs to have more strongly charged magnesium and calcium ions than weaker.
After that, the sodium ions are successfully displaced and then it will pass through the resin “bed” and finally reach out the softener outlet. That’s where the water softener gives you soft water.
The Recharging and Regeneration
Sometimes, you’ll find the resin sites of exchange are owned by magnesium and calcium. There will be no further softening exchange can happen at the moment. So, the resin must be regenerated because it’s already exhausted.
The regeneration of softener’s resin is done with a brine solution. When the regeneration starts, the water flow needs to be stopped. In this process, the brine tank comes in handy. It mixes water in the reservoir with the salt.
The brine solution contacts the resin beads that are loaded with magnesium and calcium ions flowing through the resin. Literally, the concentrated brine solution contains billions of the more weakly charged ions. So, there will be no problem if the magnesium and calcium are more strongly charged.
That’s why the sodium ions have more power to displace the calcium and magnesium ions that are smaller in number. When they are displaced, the positively charged sodium ions are will be attracted to the exchange sites that are negatively charged on the resin.
The resin is said to be regenerated completely when the sodiums ions take over all exchange sites. Now, it’s ready for the next water softening cycle. Those explanations would answer the question of “what is water softener regeneration ?”
Pros and Cons Using Water Softener
We already agree that a water softener is important for our household. It can give a big impact on the quality of our lives and appliances. But, it comes at a cost. The point is, water softening offers a solution to a myriad of problems relating to hard water.
Even though a water softener can give so many advantages for you and your home, there are also some disadvantages you need to know for consideration. Here are the pros and cons of using a water softener.
Of course, a water softener can bring some great advantages to your house. One of them is the disappearance of problems that are caused by hard water. As we know, the minerals you find in hard water would skyrocket the water bill, increase soap usage in your house, scale buildup, and plumbing fixtures’ degradation.
Without hard water, you’ll have healthier skin, last longer plumbing, and more
There are two big cons dealing with water softeners. The first one is the cost. The cost is depending on the type and size of the unit. Including the installation, water softener would cost from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. It’s not just that, you also need to buy the salt separately.
Then, the second one is the maintenance. You will have to deal with an actual maintenance effort. You can do it yourself or have the company to do it for you which would waste more money.
Well, all of that information may be very helpful to let you decide how much you need to purchase a water softener. Having hard water problem may be very frustrating. So, if you want to make the problem gone forever, I believe it would be worth the money to purchase one and its maintenance.
Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Water Softener
Some of the questions may already be answered above. Here are some more unanswered questions about the water softener.
- What is water softener salt?
It’s a salt that works in conjunction to remove minerals from your water with a water softener. It removes when the water passes through beads of resin in the tank. The salt is used to recharged the beads of resin periodically to keep the continuity of minerals removal.
- What is water softener salt made of?
It’s commonly made of sodium chloride (NaCl). It’s actually the salt people use for cooking seasoning. There’s also the alternative salt called potassium chloride (KCl), but it’s pretty uncommon.
- Is it okay to use the same salt quality to all water softener?
The answer is a no. Why? Because it depends on how hard the water you got. To begin with, you need the salt with higher quality.
- How do you know what size you need for a water softener?
Generally, you can just multiply the number of people that live in the house by 80 which is the average number of water gallons use per person per day. Then, the result should be multiplied again by the grains of hardness in your water after it tested. You’ll know the grain capacity that’s suitable.
- How much water do you need for regeneration?
In regeneration, you need to use about as much water as it takes to wash your regular amount of laundry. So, choosing the system capacity is so important.
- Is your home ready to be installed with a water softener?
It’s not always about the person, it’s about the house too. You might be already mentally prepared to have such an amazing water softener. But, the house needs to be physically ready. Make sure it’s closed to the water main, the available electrical outlet, and an easily accessible drain.
By reading the whole explanation about what is a water softener, you may now realize that you really need a water softener for your home. Well, do some more research about the best products or brands of water softener outdoor for consideration. Hopefully, you’ll live healthier soon.