Water Treatments MN | Water Softening | Water Purification

Water Softeners – They Make Good Sense and Good Cents

To explain why water softeners are beneficial and how they work, one needs to understand the differences between hard and soft water.  Hard water contains large amounts of calcium and magnesium — two minerals that cause the soapy scum on glasses and lime residue on bathroom fixtures. While suitable for drinking and gardening, hard water can cause mineral build-up in water heaters, pipes, dishwashers and showerheads, reducing its flow. Soap and shampoo’s ability to lather is reduced, and laundry becomes stiffer and duller in appearance.

What is Hard Water?

As the table shows, water hardness is measured with five different classifications and can be expressed in mg/litre or parts per million (ppm) or grains per gallon (gpg).

Water hardness classifications

Classification Water Hardness
Soft below 17 mg/litre or ppm (0 – 1 gpg)
Slightly hard 17.1 – 60 mg/litre or ppm (1.1 – 3.5 gpg)
Moderately hard 61 – 120 mg/litre or ppm (3.6 – 7 gpg)
Hard 121 – 180 mg/litre or ppm (7.1 – 10.5 gpg)
Very hard over 180 mg/litre or ppm (over 10.5 gpg)

How to Decide if You Should Buy a Water Softener

Above 121 mg/litre, you may want to consider a water softener. Generally speaking, groundwater (well water taken from aquifers in the ground) is hard. Some municipalities in Canada use groundwater to supply water to residents. Residents, in small or rural communities, may not have municipal water service and get water from private or communal wells.

The most crucial step in deciding whether your home should have a water softener is to find out if your water is hard. If you have municipal water, call your water department or utility. If you have a well, contact a water-softening company that can conduct a test and classify its hardness.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

A water softener uses a medium that serves to exchange “ions” of calcium and magnesium with sodium and potassium.

This occurs in four steps:

  1. To do the ion replacement, the water in the house runs through a resin bed of small plastic beads or zeolite. The beads are covered with sodium or potassium ions. As the water flows past the ions, they swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions. Eventually, the beads contain nothing but calcium and magnesium, and softening stops. It is then time to regenerate the beads or zeolite.
  2. To regenerate, the beads need to regain their sodium or potassium ions by being flooded with a salty, brine solution that is rich in sodium or potassium.
  3. Once completed, the calcium and magnesium, dirt and sediments are flushed from the beads and into the drain in a process called backwash.
  4. The final phase rinses the mineral tank with fresh water and loads the brine tank so it’s ready for the next cycle.

Automatic water softeners are usually programmed to recharge at specific times that will not disrupt the occupants. It is more water-efficient to have a metered model that will regenerate only when required.

What Are The Benefits Of A Water Softener?

A water softener reduces water hardness, making it easier to shower and clean fabrics and dishes. With softened water, less soap is needed for bathing and laundry. Skin feels cleaner and clothing softer. Pipes, fixtures and appliances have less scale build-up. With less build-up, appliances can operate efficiently. Mineral-derived odours may be reduced; and, there are fewer deposit stains on bathroom fixtures.

Water Softeners – They Make Good Sense and Good Cents

The Water Quality Research Foundation in partnership with the Battelle Memorial Institute recently completed a study on the energy efficiency impact of water softeners. This study revealed that softened water helps save energy because it doesn’t cause buildup of scale the way hard water does. Many people only recognize the problem of hard water when they are scrubbing away water spots and calcium buildup on the bathroom faucet. The unseen effects of hard water, however, are much more damaging than those unsightly water spots.

Consider the water heater, one of the largest energy-using appliances in our homes. This study found that water heaters using hard water generate 1 to 2 lbs of scale each year, while those using soft water generate NO scale. It takes just a few weeks to generate hard water scale build up. This buildup makes appliances less energy efficient and shortens their usable life span. Installing a water softener can actually make household appliances last significantly longer and raise their energy efficiency.

The Water Quality Association issued press release on June 3, 2009 that summarizes a study on hard water and shower heads. This study shows that untreated hard water can rapidly lead to clogged showerheads, in some cases as soon as a year and a half of regular use. In the study, after just one week of constant testing with hard water, more than three-fourths of showerhead nozzles became clogged. After the same length of time, showerheads using softened water performed nearly as well as on the day they were installed. Some might argue that a plugged shower head conserves water, but it isn’t much of a shower.

Contact a Minnesota Plumber, that is an expert in water treatment systems and they would be more than happy to test your water to make certain it is not only safe for you and your family to drink. They can also present you with a plan for  making it more acceptable and useful for your other needs as well.

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