We call water “hard” if it contains a lot of calcium or magnesium dissolved in it. Hard water causes two problems:
It can cause “scale” to form on the inside of pipes, water heaters, tea kettles and so on. The calcium and magnesium precipitate out of the water and stick to things. The scale doesn’t conduct heat well and it also reduces the flow through pipes. Eventually, pipes can become completely clogged.
It reacts with soap to form a sticky scum, and also reduces the soap’s ability to lather. Since most of us like to wash with soap, hard water makes a bath or shower less productive.
The solution to hard water is either to filter the water by distillation or reverse osmosis to remove the calcium and magnesium, or to use a water softener. Filtration could be expensive to use for all the water in a house, so a water softener is usually a less costly solution.
The idea behind a water softener is simple. The calcium and magnesium ions in the water are replaced with sodium ions. Since sodium does not precipitate out in pipes or react badly with soap, both of the problems of hard water are eliminated. To do the ion replacement, the water in the house runs through a bed of small plastic beads or through a chemical matrix called zeolite. The beads or zeolite are covered with sodium ions. As the water flows past the sodium ions, they swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions. Eventually, the beads or zeolite contain nothing but calcium and magnesium and no sodium, and at this point they stop softening the water. It is then time to regenerate the beads or resins. There are many other brands as zeolite isn’t the only one. Some have higher life spans when they are manufactured and some resins are designed specifically to remove certain undesirable chemicals and pollutants in our water supplies. But for the ease of explanation let’s focus on this one for softening sake.
Regeneration involves soaking the beads or resins in a stream of sodium ions. Salt is sodium chloride, so the water softener mixes up a very strong brine solution and flushes it through the resins or beads (this is why you load up a water softener with salt). The strong brine displaces all of the calcium and magnesium that has built up in the resins or beads and replaces it again with sodium. The remaining brine plus all of the calcium and magnesium is flushed out through a drain pipe.
There are so many types or brands of water softeners in the industry, just as there are many kinds and types of resins used to soften the water. The old adage “you get what you pay for” can offer its own set of challenges. Since there are several kinds of resins used and several kinds or brands of heads used to control the water softener, this is where things change as far as price goes. The larger the tank the more the expense.
In addition to this the larger the family doesn’t always mean the need for a larger tank. If there is little hardness in the water, then you wouldn’t need a large softener. Generally speaking here is a good rule of thumb to follow. If you have 2 people in the home which has 10 grains of hardness per gallon, a 48K unit would provide you with 4800 gallons of soft water. However that same 48,000 grain unit would only provide a family of 2, 2400 gallons of soft water if the grains of hardness per gallon would be 20 instead of 10. Does this make sense?
There are so many variable when it comes to softening water and as you well know, all homes are not the same, all families are not the same and all water isn’t the same. So take into consideration all the factors that make water hard and let me help you get the soft water system you deserve.
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Guardian Soft Water, Utah Water Softener Systems
13571 N Grove Drive
Alpine, Utah 84004
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