What is Hard Water and How do Water Softeners Solve the Problem
Hard water is a problem that exists in many Anaheim & Orange County households. For example, in the US up to 85% of households would find, if they had their water supply tested, that they have a hard water problem.
What Makes Water Hard?
Hard water is caused by aquifers and other underground sources that collect various dissolved minerals from rock. Calcium, magnesium carbonate and manganese are particularly common and these are the minerals that are mainly responsible for giving a home’s water supply its “hard qualities”.
There are those that do choose to have their water tested for hardness before they invest in a remedy for the problem like a water softener but in actual fact it is not that difficult to tell whether or not hard water is a problem in your home.
What Problems Does Hard Water Cause?
Hard water can be a real nuisance and can cause all kinds of problems around your home and even affect your health. Here are just some of the things that can happen in a home that has an untreated hard water problem:
- Damage to Your Plumbing System – One of the things that hard water can really adversely affect is your homes plumbing system. As they are heated the mineral deposits in hard water reform into a scale which, over time will clog pipes and reduce the function of the whole system. The difficulty is that many people fail to realize that this is a problem in their home until their heating system breaks down, calling for expensive repairs.
- Damage to Household Appliances – Hard water not treated by a water softener of some kind will also cause nasty scaly deposits on your other household appliances. Coffee makers, kettles, even dishwashers are prone to this scale build up and eventually it ruins them. Again this is not a problem that some people realize right away exists. However one accidental glimpse of the messy build up in a kettle is unappetizing enough to send them seeking out water softener reviews in an attempt to see what can be done to remedy the hard water situation.
- Cleaning Your Home (and Your Body) is Much Harder – Hard water is also difficult to use in general. The calcium and magnesium react with most household detergents making them ineffective by limiting their lathering capabilities while leaving a hard to shift film behind. The same holds true for most soaps and shampoos. Even the most expensive of these products is less effective when used with hard water.
The effects of hard water not treated by a water softener on your home are visible though. The dishes that never quite come clean, the ring around the bathtub, the gray, stiff laundry are all caused by hard water and the deposits it leaves behind.
Damage to Your Skin – Hard water is not really a major health hazard but there is one health problem associated with hard water and that is for those who already have sensitive skin it can make skin red, dry and flaky. And for those who have a skin condition like psoriasis bathing, washing or showering in hard water can make the problem much worse.
Water Softening Systems – The Permanent Solution to Hard Water Problems
The only real solution to a household hard water problem is to have a water softener installed. When Orange County homeowners first begin reading about water softeners the explanations about how they work can seem quite technical but it is really not all that complicated.
A standard whole house water softener uses ion exchange – also called cation exchange – to soften hard water. It substitutes sodium chloride (aka salt) for the troublesome calcium, magnesium, iron and other minerals found in hard water.
How Water Softeners Work
Although there are several different types of water softener systems with different water softener ratings and capacities all of them operate in the same basic way. The average whole house water softener consists of:
- A resin tank
- A brine tank
- A control mechanism to make the whole thing work.
How Water Softeners Work
Usually the home’s water supply pipe is connected to the water softener’s resin tank. The unconditioned, hard water flows into it and is passed over “resin beds” rows of small plastic like beads that are made from styrene and divinylbenzene.
These beads have a negative charge which attracts all the positively charged mineral deposits, pulling them out of the hard water. At the same time the beads emit sodium ions. The hard water minerals are left trapped on the resin beds and the newly soft water then flows out of the water softener and back into the home through the standard water pipes.
Because the minerals that are removed from the hard water build up on the resin beds all water softeners have a system for periodically cleaning its resin beds to ensure maximum efficiency and water softening. This is where the brine tank comes into play.
The brine tank helps clean and regenerate the resin beds by facilitating a backwashing cycle. During what is called the “brine draw” salty water is pumped into the resin tank. As it flows over all the resin beads it replaces the hard water minerals with sodium ions, making the resin beds effective again, once the excess sodium has been washed away at the end of the process.
The brine tank does need to have actual salt added to it in order for it to function. The average water softener needs about 3 pounds of salt per gallon of water processed to function properly so a part of the regular maintenance of a water softener is replenishing the salt supply.
Which particular model of water softener will work best in your home will depend on a number of different factors. These include:
- Where you live. Urban water usually being harder to treat than that supplied to rural homes, many of which use well water rather than a municipal supply.
- The actual size of your home and
- The number of water dependent functions and appliances it contains
Once they have a water softener installed in their home most people notice the difference almost right away. They have cleaner dishes , their white laundry actually comes out looking white and their shampoo actually lathers the way it does in the commercials! For most homeowners who have one of our Anaheim plumbers install a water softener, how they ever put up with hard water in the first place is usually the only question they have left!