Salt-Based Water Softener
Hard water is caused by the presence of ions including calcium and magnesium in the soil that are collected by water as it travels through the ground, along streams, and in rivers. The highest concentrations of common hardness-causing ions are throughout the Midwestern states with gradually decreasing levels as one travels toward the Coastal areas of the US. For this reason, water softeners are more common in the Midwest.
The structure of calcium and magnesium in water creates deposits that build up inside of pipes and accumulate on the surfaces of plumbing fixtures and on the bottom of pots and pans that are used for boiling. Calcium and magnesium ions also cause detergents to lose much of their lathering capacity and can result in the formation of soap rings around tubs. In addition, hard water makes the clothes washing process more difficult and often requires that above average amounts of detergent be used.
The process of softening water may use a variety of techniques that either remove calcium and magnesium ions from the water completely or alter their structure so that they no longer impart their negative effects. A salt-based water softener is one that uses the sodium or potassium ions found in salt to remove hardness causing ions completely. Systems that do not use salt to soften water generally work by altering the chemical structure of calcium and magnesium so that they are unable to form the troublesome deposits characteristic of hard water. Before making a purchasing decision, it is often a good idea to review the positives and negatives of both a salt-based water softener and a saltless water softener.
Traditional Salt-Based Systems
Water softeners that use salt to remove hardness causing ions from water have been employed in both commercial and residential settings for many years. These systems usually consist of two tanks that have separate, but complementary tasks. One of the tanks contains a resin bed that pulls ions from hard water as it passes through the tank. The other tank is referred to as the brine tank because it houses the salt that is used to wash the calcium and magnesium from the resin bed so that it can be directed to the waste water system. All resin beds have a capacity limit when it comes to removing ions and the bed must be washed so that the system can continue to function. The process of washing the resin bed with a salt solution is known as regeneration and it occurs on a recurring schedule.
Positives and Negatives of Salt-Based Systems
A salt-based water softener is very effective when it comes to removing hardness causing ions from water. Individuals who choose to use a salt-based system in their home will find that many of the concerning effects that result from hard water often disappear completely. This translates into decreased use of detergents and the absence of the limescale and soap deposits that are characteristic of hard water. While these systems are highly effective, there are some downsides that must be considered before settling on any one particular product.
One of the most concerning negatives associated with a salt-based water softener is the fact that it replaces calcium and magnesium with sodium or potassium. The ions that cause water to become hard have been shown to be beneficial to human health and may help prevent some diseases. In addition, the salt that is added to the water eventually ends up in the plumbing network that transports waste water out of the home and into the environment. This results in higher than normal concentrations of salt in the environment that has been shown to cause damage to natural ecosystems and farm land. The environmental effects of these systems has cast a negative light on the salt-based water softener and has led some communities to ban their use in all settings.
Another important downside associated with these types of systems is the need to routinely replenish the salt contained within the brine tank. While it is easy to find salt in local stores, it can be a hassle to have to buy large amounts and remember to replenish the tank when it is needed. The fact that so many of the saltless water softener systems being sold require little upkeep has made them a popular alternative to traditional softening strategies.
Again, it is important to carefully consider the positives and negatives of each type of product before making a purchasing decision.
Top Salt-Based Water Softener Reviews
1) The WS4M with Fleck 5600SXT valve – Uses an integral microprocessor based control. The programmable control utilizes high efficiency regeneration to minimize salt consumption. The beige colored resin tank is poly lined and fiberglass reinforced. The standard softener is a “two tank” configuration with a separate poly brine tank in almond. Includes a turbulator type distributor at no extra charge! A system by-pass valve is included.
2) The WS5M with Fleck 7000 control – Uses a high flow – low pressure drop 1.25″ valve, the softener can handle up to 35 GPM. The programmable control utilizes high efficiency regeneration to minimize salt consumption. The beige colored resin tank is poly lined and fiberglass reinforced. The standard softener is a “two tank” configuration with a separate poly brine tank in almond. A system by-pass valve is included along with the purchase of any unit.
3) The salt-based WS1SM-48K Autotrol 255/460i control – 48,000 grain capacity microprocessor based metered softener. It uses a standard flow valve with a microprocessor based 460i control system. The programmable microprocessor control makes use of a very high efficiency regeneration process and effectively minimizes the consumption of salt. This softener also comes with a turbulator type distributor and comes with an 18″ diameter by 33″ brine tank with grid and float assembly.