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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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Reverse Osmosis Water Filters

            Water, anyone?

Who doesn’t love a glass of cool, clear water on a hot day? Unfortunately, many people who go to their sink for a glass of refreshing, clean, clear water find themselves disappointed — or even kind of grossed out. Water taps across the country spurt odd-smelling water. The water often has unidentifiable particles of … well, something… floating in it and even sticking to the sides and bottoms of the glasses. No thanks! If this describes the water from your tap, it’s time to invest in a water filtration system. One of the most popular types of drinking water filtration systems is the reverse osmosis water filter system, or RO, for short.

What is Reverse Osmosis?

You usually hear about  reverse osmosis as a way to make ocean water drinkable by removing the salt.  Dictionary.com  says reverse osmosis is the process of producing pure water by forcing water with salt or other solid particles in it through a semi-permeable membrane. In order to really understand reverse osmosis, we need to talk first about regular osmosis.

Osmosis

Osmosis occurs when water moves through a semi-permeable membrane from an area of higher concentration of water particles to an area of lower concentration of water particles.

   Think of it this way:

You have one cup of fresh water and one cup of water with salt mixed into it. You pour the salt water into the left side of this U-shaped glass beaker. Then you pour the fresh water into the right side. A very thin plastic membrane filled with thousands of very tiny holes sits in the center of the bottom tube of the beaker. When you pour the cups of water into each side of the beaker, the fresh water flows to the side of the salt water.  The water level in that side of the beaker rises. This happens because there are more water molecules in the fresh water compared with the water molecules in the salt water. The fresh water moves toward the salt water to even up the number of water molecules.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis occurs when you apply  pressure to salt water. The pressure forces the salt water up against the membrane. The salt particles are too large to fit through the membrane openings and only the small water particles are pushed through. The membrane effectively filters out the salt and contaminants, allowing the now-clean water to pass through and mix with the fresh water on the right-hand side.

So how does all this work in a home drinking water system?

How reverse osmosis water filters work in your home

If you want to install a reverse osmosis system for your whole house, we can help with that. Most families, however, choose to start with a much smaller reverse osmosis water filter system that fits underneath the counter.

The reverse osmosis water filter system is connected to your water supply and the system processes the water  through a series of 3 to 6 tube filters before it passes into the storage container.  A separate faucet, installed on your sink, draws clean, filtered water from the storage tank. Some folks don’t want to install a complete reverse osmosis water filter system under their sinks. Most stores also carry a counter-top model of the reverse osmosis water filter system. This unit sits on the counter and connects directly to the faucet.

Now what?

Not sure if you want to try a DIY install for your reverse osmosis water filter system? Or maybe you need help figuring out what type of water filter system is best for you. Whatever your water purification needs, Knoxville Water Treatment can help. Give us a call today and start treating yourself to the best water you can get!

 

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Considering Installing A Water Filter?

Okay, you’ve tested your water or know it can be better and you’re considering purchasing a water filter. You’ve seen water filters attached to faucets in other’s homes, but did not realize how many different kinds of filters there are and how differently they can be installed! This quick read article can hopefully assist you in sorting your thoughts and narrow your choices. They are listed from simplest technology to most complicated and basically in order of value as well. If any hesitation regarding the right choice for your home and family, consider calling your local water treatment professionals.

What If I Just Purchase Bottled Water?

What if you’d rather not deal with the fuss getting a water filter that does or doesn’t do the job and just purchase bottled water? After some research you’ll find that bottled water is one of the least cost effective, environmental and healthy options available for clean water. The cheap plastic, often containing BPA and other unhealthy elements, can easily leach into the water itself and the water is not much cleaner than tap water when you consider all its pitfalls.

Pitcher Filters

Water pitchers that contain a water filtration system within the lid can be easy traveling or quick options, but over time the charcoal filters can get very expensive quickly. It does not remove all toxins or the worst kinds from the water and requires constant filling to keep up with your family. Faucet attachments that contain the same filtration (charcoal) are just as ineffective and costly. There are better options on the market.

Reverse Osmosis Filtration

This technology is also a charcoal filter that needs replacement parts over time, but runs the water through more than the previous options. It removes major contaminants, including arsenic, chlorine, heavy metals, and other bacteria. It usually attaches below the sink and has a holding tank. It can be more time efficient than the previous options, but still takes an hour to make one gallon of drinking water. It’s got the same cost con associated with the replacement filters and is worst socially because it wastes a ton of water that it rejects during its process.

Water Distilling At Home

Water distillers are very effective at removing chlorine, heavy metals, bacteria and other toxins from your drinking water. Unfortunately they are large and expensive. They use a lot of electricity which only adds to its cost. Due to a loss of mineral deficiency from using certain filters, you can experience negative side effects. This is something to consider when going with this or any of the previous filtration options.

Solid Block Carbon Filters

This technology is the answer to previous issues with other filters. The pitcher filters and faucet filters use the same kind of technology except the charcoal in theirs is not solid and that’s where they remove less toxins. Solid block carbon filtration systems are units that take up some counter space, but remove the most toxins with the least amount of replacement. The unit itself can be costly, but the filters cost less than previous options do over time. The best thing about this option is that it does not require electricity or running water and will make any water safe, including rain water, pond water, and even salt water. It even removes food coloring from water and comes out clear!