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Water Softeners Part 2 How They Work

hard water spotsPart 1  Recap: Hard Water

In Part 1 of our series on water softeners, we discussed the effects of hard water on your pipes and appliances. We also noted how hard water reduces the effectiveness of soap and detergents and leaves chalky-white streaks and spots on dishes.

Of all the solutions we explored, water softeners provided the most efficient and cost-effective means of getting the unwanted minerals out of your hard water while still leaving it palatable.

 

Water Softener Componentshard-water-solutions, water-softeners

Three basic components comprise a water softener system.

  1. Mineral Tank-This is where the action is. The mineral tank constitutes the heart of the water softening system.  It contains the resin beads necessary in the ion exchange process that removes calcium and magnesium from your hard water.
  2. Brine Tank-The brine tank holds an aqueous solution usually containing a very high concentration of sodium. Sometimes the sodium is replaced with potassium, depending on the needs of the homeowner. The brine tank plays a key role in the regeneration cycle, which we’ll discuss in a later paragraph.
  3. Control Valve-This important component of the system determines when it is time to clean the resin beads that have been accumulating calcium and magnesium from the hard water flowing though the system. We’ll compare the different types of control valves and timers available in a later paragraph, also.

How Does It Work?

Calcium and magnesium in hard water create lots of problems. Water softeners remove the calcium and magnesium from the hard water and replace them with a mineral that doesn’t cause scaling. The minerals trade places through a process known in chemistry as ion exchange. We’ll talk about the process in common terms, but for those interested in the science behind ion exchange we found a You Tube video and a website that give a great explanation.

 

Ion exchange–trading scale-producing calcium and magnesium for non-scaling sodium or potassium.water softeners, sodium chloride

  • Polymer resin (like plastic beads) fill the mineral tank. These beads are covered with sodium or potassium  ions.
  • Hard water flows into the mineral tank.
  • Because of their electrical charge, calcium and magnesium ions in the hard water attach to the negatively-charged resin beads.
  • Sodium or potassium ions detach from resin beads and release into the water when calcium and magnesium attach.
  • Softened water circulates back into the household supply.

What happens when the resin beads “fill up” with calcium and magnesium ions?hard-water-solutions, water-softeners

This is where the control valve and brine tank come into play. Calcium and magnesium eventually saturate the resin beads. This means that the beads can no longer attract these ions. They need to be cleaned. Water softeners clean the resin beads in a three-stage process called regeneration. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Backwash

The control valve reverses the water flow. This removes all debris  from the mineral tank and flushes it out the drain.

Step 2: Recharge

In step 2, brine (very salty water) from the brine tank pumps into the mineral tank and flushes the resin beads. The high concentration of salt in the brine forces the calcium and magnesium ions to detach from the resin beads. Calcium and magnesium ions move back into the water. The salt (either sodium or potassium ions) then attaches to the resin beads. Finally, the salty water, now filled with calcium and magnesium ions, flows into the drain.

Step 3: Rinse

Water softening resumes once recharging finishes. The mineral tank fills with hard water and ion exchange begins. When calcium and magnesium once more saturate the resin beads, the control valve initiates the regeneration process.

As you can tell, the control valve manages the entire process. In order to make the best choice, you need to know what’s available for you. Homeowners have a choice of types of valves to use.

Types of Control Valves

water softeners, hard water solutions

Automatic water softener control valves fall into three categories.

Some use an electric timer. The timer flushes and regenerates the water on a regular schedule regardless of the ion concentration. During the regeneration phase with this kind of timer, softened water is not available.

Another type of timer uses a computer. The computer monitors how much water passes through the mineral tank. When the pre-determined volume of water is reached, the computer starts the regeneration process. Systems with a computer timer generally reserve resin beads. This means that some soft water is available during the regeneration phase.

The third type of automatic timer uses a mechanical water meter. The water meter determines water usage. This means no water is wasted and the mineral tank recharges only when necessary.  When you add second mineral tank to this system, you can have soft water even during recharging.

hard water solutions

Take Your Pick

Water softeners come in all shapes and sizes, but each one provides you with a simple solution to your hard water problems. Not sure what’s best for you? Give us a call. We have the water treatment experts who can determine the perfect system for you.

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Water Softeners Part 1 Hard Water

What is Hard Water?

hard water scale

Water Hardness scale by Danial David, image source courtesy: alchetron.com

Hard water is water that contains minerals. How do the minerals get into the water? As water flows through the ground it partially dissolves minerals through which it flows. Dissolved mineral particles, such as calcium and magnesium, then flow along, suspended in the water. Although calcium and magnesium are the most common minerals found in hard water, some water also contains ferrous iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide gas. Water treatment experts measure the hardness of water based on how many grains of contaminant are found per gallon of water.

Is Hard Water Really a Problem?

   The short answer?

YES!

calcium depositsHard water can cause a number of problems. Chalk-like calcium and magnesium leave residue on the insides of pipes known as scaling. Scaling will eventually clog pipes and cause serious plumbing problems.These minerals also reduce the effectiveness of soaps and detergents. Calcium and magnesium prevent soap and detergent from dissolving completely. They also bond with the undissolved soap and detergent to form a sticky coagulated curd.

 

hard water spots

This clumping of soap and detergent makes rinsing difficult. stained sinkHair washed in hard water eventually becomes dull and listless. Dishes, clothing, and even cars sport chalky-white streaks and spots.

Ferrous iron creates the nasty-looking rust stains in your sinks and manganese, often found with ferrous iron, leaves even nastier-looking black stains. Sometimes hard water also contains hydrogen sulfide gas. You’ll know your water has this problem if it has that characteristic “rotten egg” smell.

So, What Can You Do if You Have Hard Water?

hard water

You can deal with your hard water issue in a few different ways. 

Filters: Some people choose to use home water distillation or reverse osmosis appliances. Others install water filters either under the sink or on the faucet. While distillation and water filters can improve the taste of drinking water, they are far too expensive to be practical solutions household-wide.

hard water solutionsAdditives: Powdered chemicals such as Borax and baking soda, prove useful in reducing hard water problems in laundry. Even so, they make water undrinkable. They can be harsh on clothing and sometimes contain phosphates harmful to the environment. These issues also make them a non-reliable solution for treating hard water on a large scale.

hard water solutions

Descaling: Speaking of scale, descaling is another option many people choose for dealing with the damaging effects of hard water on pipes and fixtures. Descaling addresses the results of hard water on pipes, shower heads, and faucets. It uses industrial strength chemicals to “eat away” at the calcium, lime, and rust deposits. One problem with descaling is that once you add it into your main water line, you have to be sure to flush the whole system thoroughly before drinking water or bathing.  The other problem is that the chemicals can also potentially cause corrosion to your pipes themselves. If you want to descale your pipes, your best bet is to call a professional.hard water solution

Water Softeners: By far the most popular method of dealing with hard water is a water softener. They use a process of removing damaging minerals from the water without adding any corrosive chemicals. Water softeners come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit any situation. Easy to use, water softeners provide demineralization on a large scale and are unquestionably the most cost-effective means of dealing with hard water.

 

How to Know if You Have Hard Waterhard water test

This DIY test may give you semi-accurate results, but if you want to know for sure how many and which kind of minerals are in your water, you need to get it tested. Hardware stores and many online stores sell test kits you can use to test your water. Of course, your plumber can provide the most accurate testing — for free. If you do have hard water, you definitely want to talk to your plumber about options for dealing with the situation.

 

 

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Water Softening 101

Water softening is the process of dealing with a hard water issue. “Hard water” is the term used when your water contains more minerals than is usual. Hard water is usually made noticeable by the way your shampoos and soaps do not dissolve in the water. This is because of the calcium and magnesium content. Water highly concentrated with calcium and magnesium can cause your pipes to clog and the inability to wash your hair adequately. It also, through clogging pipes, makes household appliance efficiency diminish such as in hot water heaters, washing machines, and any appliance water is sent through. This makes water softening important at home, but it’s also an applicable solution for certain industries. Having the right water supply, often a delicate balance of positive or negative ions, is important to breweries, water treatment facilities that make drinking water, soda companies, and more.

The best solution for the problem is to install a water softener directly to the water supply coming from the outside well or street. The water softener removes ions from the water, the positively charged calcium, magnesium, and sometimes iron as well.

How does it work? A water softener collects the hard water in what is called a conditioning tank where it meets an iron exchanger, a technology that removes the positively charged ions and replaces them with sodium and potassium salts. The water softener will also drain its waste. Water softeners can last you many years. A water softener installed in the 1980s may still work and only require the salt all water softeners require. There are 3 types of salt sold: rock salt, evaporated salt, and solar salt. Really the consideration for what type of salt you need to use will depend on the type of softener you have, how old it is, and how often you want or need to clean the technology. Salt level is kind of like keeping oil in your car. It needs to be filled half way at all times and should be checked monthly.

How much does it cost? If you are replacing a water softener, you have a lot of options to choose from and you can pay a premium for new technology. Many water softeners are electric, but some now operate on water power. After you have a working water softener, the real operating cost is only the salt you need to put in it. The operating cost is likely less than 10 dollars per month.

Is it safe to drink? Because only minerals that make the water hard are removed like calcium and magnesium, the water is usually perfectly safe to drink and may only contain 3% more salt than it did prior. All the elements you need to have in your drinking water will still be in it.

If you have additional questions concerning your water softener or the use of one, you can call a trusted local water treatment professional for assistance. They can test your water and recommend any necessary adjustments or replacements so you can drink and use the best water possible for you, your family, your plumbing, and your appliances!

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Reasons To Call A Water Treatment Professional And What To Expect

The loudest indicator you may want to get your water checked out is if it contains a funny taste, color, or odor. There may not be anything wrong with the water, just like seemingly clean water may have unwanted contaminants. Water that smells might have high levels of hydrogen sulfide or sulfur bacteria. Taste and color can vary along with many properties found in water. All these things can easily be explained with quick and simple testing.

If you’ve moved into a new home, especially if you’ve purchased a home, it’s a great time to test your water and make any adjustments necessary to optimize your water supply. If over time you realize that your water use appliances are working less efficiently or have residue build up, this is another indicator that your water levels should be checked and optimized for the life of your appliances, as well as other fixtures around the home. Another instance you may want to call a professional is if there is a resident in the home with a compromised immune system and you want to take the most precautions possible.

If you’ve found yourself in any of these situations, you can find yourself a local water treatment professional and make an appointment for them to come to the home and test.. Another option is to take a sample of the water yourself and mail it to a qualified laboratory for testing. If done in the home, the test only takes but ten minutes. Some of the things being tested for are the following: bacteria, micro-organisms, hardness, PH, acidity, alkalinity, sulfur, nitrite, nitrate, metals, chlorine and pesticides.

Once the results are obtained, you or your water treatment professional will be able to compare what you’ve got against the recommendations for safe levels of each element. From there you will be given the appropriate suggestions to modify your home to eliminate or balance any issues. This may include installing water filters (of many sizes, placements, types and purposes) or a water softener, and further water testing appointments in the future!

Somewhat common and potentially poisonous elements that could be found in your water include fluoride, chlorine, many types of pesticides and gasoline additives. These things can cause serious damage to vital organs with long term exposure. Testing is an excellent first step and beyond that, you may decide to just use the water for certain purposes and purchase drinking water you know is pure. A simple test is worth the time and expense if you aren’t already aware of what kind of water you are working with!

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Suspect hard water? There’s a test for that.

Different Ways Of Conducting Hard Water Test

knoxville-water-testing-in-homeWater is very important to us. You will realize that we normally use it for drinking, cleaning and so on. You need water on a daily basis. Water can be hard or soft. You will realize that hard water normally takes time to lather with soap. Hard water can actually frustrate you. It can make your dishes to be spotty and even affect your skin. It can make your skin to be dry. It can also affect other appliances in your home. If you spot any of these signs, you are living in a hard water zone. You will realize that very few people normally have water softeners. Most homes in the United States have hard water. This is the reason why you should test whether your water is hard or soft.

Testing your water’s hardness will go a long way in finding the best solution for your home. There are many ways of testing whether your water is hard or not. Some of those ways include:

1. Review your yearly consumer confidence report.

This confidence report is normally sent by July 1 from your water supplier. This report basically has details of where your water comes from and what’s in it. You can actually call your water supplier if you do not receive your confidence report on time. He or she will send it to you. If the water hardness level is not indicated in the annual report, you can contact your local water municipality.

2. Carry out some tests at home.

Put some water in a clean water bottle and add a few drops of basic soap. A good example is Castile. It is normally free of dyes and perfumes. Once you are done, shake the bottle vigorously for a few seconds. If you see milky water that lacks fluffy bubbles, it shows that your water is hard. You will realize that soft water normally has an abundance of bubbles.

3. Use hard water test strips.

You can actually buy these strips from any store or through an online retailer. These test kits normally cost between $5 and $20.These test kits can actually help you determine whether your water is hard is hard or not.

4. Use a third-party lab

You can actually send some water samples to a third party lab for more analysis.

5. Hire the services of Knoxville Water treatment.

We are professionals in this field. We can help you determine whether your water is hard or not. Once you hire us, we will come and do hard water test for free.