Understanding your home water softener
Water is one thing that most people in North America take for granted is going to be there when they turn on one of the faucets in their home. And in the majority of cases, it is there, ready to drink or use for showers, dishes or watering your lawn.
What most people don’t know is that in some, mostly rural areas while the water is still in the ground it picks up soluble bits of the different elements that it passes through. If you live in an area with higher than average levels of calcium and magnesium in the earth, your water will be hard. When your household water is hard, it has some noticeable effects in your home. Soaps and detergents may lose some of their effectiveness when the water is hard, because they combine with the minerals in the water to form a sort of curd. This curd ends up clinging to your skin, hair and dishes and can make your hair look dull. Hard water can also affect your laundry, making clothes stiff and rough. Aside from the soap situation, the mineral deposits will build up in your pipes, which lessens the flow to your taps and various appliances.
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The solution to the hard water problem is a water softener. A water softener is a water station that is installed in your home to remove the minerals from the water before they reach your taps. The water softener is plumbed into your home’s water system, and uses a process called ion exchange to trade the minerals for another substance, which is usually sodium. The water station that makes up your water softener contains a mineral tank that’s filled with little polystyrene beads, which carry a negative charge. Calcium and magnesium carry positive charges, so as the hard water passes over the beads, the minerals cling to them. The water softener also has a brine tank that must be kept full of sodium. Sodium holds a positive charge like the minerals, only it is less powerful. When a high concentration of sodium is flushed through the bead tank, the force and volume drive the minerals off the beads.
When a water softener is working normally, hard water flows into the mineral tank and the ions cling to the beads, replacing sodium ions, which go into the water. The water softener is usually on a timed regeneration cycle which back-washes to flush dirt, adds sodium to replace the minerals and removes the minerals out of the water station. Most water softener systems regenerate automatically, so you don’t have to give it a second thought. You will have to check the brine tank periodically and add sodium, as needed.
If you feel that your household is in need of a water softener, you can usually get a testing kit from companies that sell the water softening system. The hardness of your water is measured in grains per gallon or milligrams per liter, depending on the system of measurement you use. The higher the numbers, the greater the need for a water softener in your home.
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By: Adrianna Noton