Hard water may not be harmful but it is disgusting to use. When used with soap, the mineral ions prevent the formation of lather thus making laundry difficult. If there are white deposits on your taps or pipework, chances are that you have a hard water problem. Worse still, hard water causes scale cakes in heaters making them fail. Water softeners are designed to remove these ions or change their chemical properties.
Types of Water Softeners
It is the presence of metal ions such as calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium that makes water hard. Water ion exchange softeners work by releasing ions of a different covalence to combine with the ions in water. Three salts are mainly used to provide these ions, from which the respective water softeners are named. These include sodium, potassium, and hydrogen. A sodium ion exchange softener exchanges sodium ions for those of the hard minerals.
Potassium chloride may be used as a substrate in place of sodium to form a salt-free water softener. However, these softeners do not remove mineral ions from the water but prevent the formation of scales on surfaces. This saves you the nuisance of spotted dishes or white deposits in sinks and bathtubs. Salt-free softeners are great options for people restricted from intake of sodium.
Electronic softeners are relatively new in the market and are yet to be universally accepted. The plug and play devices are connected to the outside of the incoming water pipe from which they charge the metal ions in the water. This changes their properties, making them impossible to settle on pipes and surfaces.
Water Softener Regeneration
The operation of salt-based softeners leads to the formation of a hardness solution in the resin of the unit. This residue must be removed either manually or automatically in a process called regeneration. In a non-electric softener, the unit relies on the incoming water pressure to get rid of the residue. Other units are metered in that they regenerate after a certain volume of water has been softened. A timed softener regenerates at preset periods.
Salt-based softeners may be cheap but they cut water supply during regeneration. This can be inconveniencing especially if there are high water demands. This problem can be addressed by installing a dual-tank softening system. One tank is used for regeneration when the other is used for water supply. This ensures a continuous supply without the inconveniences of the single tank units.
Ion-exchange water softeners are the most pronounced units due to their effectiveness. However, there are several other softening options that are as much effective. The choice for a softening unit narrows down to the water demand and individual preferences.