Hard water is not particularly problematic to health, but it creates many other problems. Hard water is a reason why you will see stains in your sinks and bathtubs, why you have dry skin and irritation. Moreover, it also reduces the lifespan of water heaters and water pipes. In order to prevent all these problems, a water softener should be used.
Hard water has a high concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium, and a water softener removes them; some types of softeners neutralize them. This makes the water soft and life easy.
How Does Water Softener Work?
Hard water minerals are calcium and magnesium, and they are positively charged, so a negative charge on the water softener resin beads captures them and makes the water soft. A water softener consists of one or two tall cylinders and a brine tank.
The ion exchange process takes place in the tall tank. From the top of the tank, the hard water flows inside, the ion exchange takes place, and the leaving water is soft and safe to use.
The tall tank is known as the resin tank because it consists of microscopic resin beads. The hard water minerals are attracted to it but don’t get permanently attached to it.
Resin beads inside the tank have some maximum capacity, and once that capacity is reached, it can’t remove the hard water minerals anymore. The ion exchange of the hard water minerals takes place with the potassium chloride or salt pellets on the resin beads.
So to replenish the resin beads with the salt pellets first, those hard minerals need to be flushed out. That process is known as regeneration.
A resin tank is accompanied by the brine tank, and it is filled with salt pellets. They will be totally utilized over time, so it isn’t sealed so you can refill it. This saltwater from the brine tank flows inside the resin tank and removes those unwanted minerals, and replenishes the beads with new salt ions.
The wastewater goes to the drain from the draining hose. The regeneration process takes place mostly during the night. Once it is done, the softener will start softening the water.
This regeneration process is automatic in most water softeners. When the onboard controls find that a certain amount of water has been utilized, it starts the regeneration process automatically.
The time period of regeneration will vary based on the amount of water utilized. These water filters are available in various sizes and are installed either in the garage or in the basement.
Types of water softeners
Here we have listed down different types of water softeners available in the market.
1. Salt Based Water Softeners
A salt-based water softener uses salt ions to remove the hard water minerals. Those minerals from the water are replaced with sodium ions making the water soft. The process is known as ion exchange. They are a more traditional type of softeners that requires regular maintenance and regeneration.
In regeneration, the resin is filled again with the sodium ions once they get depleted. The resin will last for years. They don’t remove chemicals or bacterias.
2. Salt-free water softener
Salt-free water softeners don’t use salt to remove the hard minerals. For that matter, they don’t even remove the minerals. They effectively neutralize them so they don’t create build-ups on the faucets and sinks, and bathtubs.
As there is no salt, so no regeneration and virtually no maintenance is required, this means no bags of salt and no brine tank. This makes the operation cost-effective. And the absence of a brine tank means small size, so it will take less space. Many salt-free softeners can remove impurities too.
3. Reverse Osmosis Water Softeners
RO filter is the RO softener, and this is because the filter, along with most impurities from the water, also removes the hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium.
But the problem with them is the wastewater. To introduce back the necessary minerals removed, it comes with the extra stage. Moreover, other than RO membrane, there will be few other stages as well to give the purest water possible.
They use the Ro membrane to remove the minerals and impurities, and it removes most of the impurities at the microscopic level.
4. Magnetic Water Softeners
Magnetic water softeners referred to as descalers, don’t remove hard water minerals from the water. They alter the crystals of those minerals with the help of an electromagnetic field so that they can’t create build-ups.
They are new in the market. And it is not scientifically proven that it completely neutralizes all the hard water minerals in from the water.
How to choose the right water softener?
Same as the water purifiers, it is important that you get the water softener of the right size. A small softener won’t provide enough water while for a bigger one the money will be wasted.
The water softeners are available in many sizes, and you can choose one based on its maximum flow rate or the number of hard water grains it can bring out of the hard water in a day.
Typically an average person will use about 80 to 100 gallons of water per day, and it can vary based on your water requirements. A general estimate is that for a small family, a 33,000 grains water softener is enough.
A flow rate for a water softener means the maximum rate at which it can release the water or soften the water. If you want to determine the flow rate of your house, then a flow meter can do the job, but another simple way is to fill the one-gallon bucket and measure the time. If the bucket gets filled in 20 seconds, then the flow rate is 3 GPM.
A simple rule of thumb to determine the household water requirement is by multiplying the number of people with their daily water needs.
If you want to select the right water softener, then the knowledge of hard water minerals concentration and the daily water needs will make the selection much easier. The high GPM rating of the water softener reflects the bigger unit size and deep resins.