There are a variety of options for softening your home’s water
Contrary to popular belief, many homes use softeners in their water systems. In the United States, about a third of households have such systems. Depending on your home’s layout and design, there are many different methods to soften drinking water. Though replacing a system can be expensive and time-consuming, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each type before making a choice about what will work best for you.
Salt-based systems generally rely on the addition of sodium chloride (common table salt) to help maintain taste and odor quality. Salt-free systems do not contain any sodium chloride; instead they rely on other minerals that can be added to offset the loss of minerals from hard water sources or add minerals that may not naturally be present in water (such as magnesium chloride or calcium carbonate). For example, calcium chloride is often added in combination with various colored additives that change the coloration and flavor of the softened drinking water while maintaining mineral content. Reverse osmosis (RO) is another method of treating hard water using very small membranes that filter out impurities while allowing contaminants such as lead to pass through into the softened drinking water.
While there are no pure measures for effectiveness based on scientific evidence or independent testing results, some experts recommend replacing your current system every five years in order to prevent possible breakdowns that may cause problems later down the line (such as slow response times or corrosion issues), particularly if you live in an area with hard well water. To ease up cost concerns regarding replacement parts and maintenance costs over time, many people choose a combination system such as reverse osmosis followed by carbon filters; these kinds of systems aim to optimize chlorine removal by removing both chlorine from tap water (using RO) and converting chlorinated contaminants within tap potable into less harmful byproducts such as trihalomethanes via chemical reactions with chemicals within carbon filters (#8 & #9).
Water softening is the removal of calcium, magnesium, and certain other metal cations in hard water. The resulting soft water is more compatible with soap and extends the lifetime of plumbing.
Soft water is easier on your skin and hair, better for your laundry and dishes, and it doesn’t leave mineral deposits in your water heater or pipes. Softeners work by removing the minerals that create hard water through an ion exchange process. Hard water enters the softener tank where it comes into contact with resin beads; these beads are coated with sodium ions. Each sodium ion attracts a hard water molecule–magnesium or calcium–and as they mix, they form a soft, soluble substance that can be easily rinsed away by the running water. The softened water then flows out of the tank and into your home’s plumbing system.
Hard water (or water hardness) is formed when calcium and magnesium ions are disslved in water.
Water hardness is generally caused by the presence of dissolved calcium and magnesium ions. Magnesium and calcium are two of the most common elements found on earth, so it’s not surprisingly that they’re also present in a lot of water sources.
Hard water can be softened by removing these calcium and magnesium ions. This can be done with a process known as ion exchange, which essentially replaces those hard-water ions with sodium ions.
Ion exchange is typically used at a commercial scale to reduce water hardness. Homeowners can also soften their water through this method, but there are some downsides that may make home ion exchange unfeasible for some people.
The two main types of water softeners are salt-based systems and salt-free systems.
The two main types of water softeners are salt-based systems and salt-free systems. The latter, as the name suggests, don’t use salt to remove hard minerals from water. Instead, they rely on a filtering process that reduces hard mineral content in the water that is then circulated through the home’s plumbing system. While most households will benefit from a salt-based system, some people with certain health conditions may have difficulty consuming foods cooked or prepared using softened water. In these situations, a salt-free system may be the better choice for you and your family members.
Salt-based systems work by removing the hard minerals through a process called ion exchange.
These salt-based systems work through a process called ion exchange. Ion exchange is when the minerals in hard water (calcium and magnesium) are swapped out with sodium or potassium ions within the softener system.
For example, the Calgon method uses a resin that attracts the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water and exchanges them for sodium ions.
Another type of ion-exchange water softener uses a mineral tank and a brine tank. The mineral tank is filled with small polystyrene beads called zeolite. Zeolite has sodium ions bonded to it. When the hard water passes through this tank, calcium and magnesium replace the sodium as they bond to the resin beads. These minerals stay behind in the mineral tank while sodium-enriched soft water flows into your home’s plumbing system.
Salt-free systems use a technology called template-assisted crystallization (TAC) to convert the hard minerals into microscopic crystals that stay suspended in the water.
Template-assisted crystallization (TAC, for short) is a process that converts hard minerals into microscopic crystals. These crystals stay suspended in the water where they cannot cause damage to pipes and appliances. TAC does not remove the hard minerals from the water; it just keeps them from forming sediment inside pipes and on surfaces.
While these systems are considered salt-free because they do not use salt directly to soften water, don’t confuse this with a filtration system. Salt-free systems do nothing to filter or purify your water, which means all contaminants are still able to pass through into the rest of your plumbing system.
A third type of water softener uses reverse osmosis to remove salt from saturated or brackish water.
A third type of water softener uses reverse osmosis to remove salt from saturated or brackish water. These systems are common in the treatment of drinking water and are very effective at removing salt from your water. However, these systems require regular maintenance and can be very expensive. They also require a lot of space for storage of the membranes used in the process.