Water Softener – Solution for Hard Water at Your Home
Do you depend on wells and borewells for your daily requirement of water?
Do your coffee maker and other utensils have scaly deposits after a period of usage?
Do you find it challenging to lather your soaps and shampoos?
Do you experience a reduction in the water pressure in your pipes?
If the answer is YES, you are experiencing hard water problems. What is hard water, and how do you deal with this issue? Read on to know more.
What is hard water?
Hard water comes from natural aquifers and other underground sources that collect minerals from rocks, especially magnesium carbonate, manganese, and calcium. You measure the hardness of water in terms of parts per million (ppm) or grains per gallon (gpg). How do you measure the degree of hardness of water? The Water Quality Association and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers stipulate the following benchmark calculations.
|Degree of hardness||GPG||PPM|
|Soft||Less than 1.0||Less than 17|
|Slightly Hard||1.0 to 3.5||17.1 to 60|
|Moderately Hard||3.5 to 7||60 to 120|
|Hard||7 to 10.5||120 to 180|
|Very Hard||Greater than 10.5||Greater than 180|
Hard water is water rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, and so on. These are natural minerals that do not typically pose any health risks, but they can damage your utensils, pipelines, electrical equipment, and so on. Over a period, the salt deposits on the inner lining of the pipes can clog the pipelines thereby reducing the pressure or the flow of water. This problem is visible in water heaters because heat causes the hard water minerals to recrystallize and form scales that eventually clog the pipes and sticks to the heater coils. These minerals can make washing clothes, dishes, skin, and hair a challenging task. Metals like iron and manganese can impart an undesirable taste and odour to water. How do you deal with it?
The use of a water softener can solve hard water problems. There are different kinds of water softeners available on the market. The most popular water softener is the Ion-Exchange water softener. There are other technologies available as well.
Salt-Based Ion Exchange Softener
The conventional household water softening appliance depends on an ion-exchange resin that exchanges the divalent Ca2+ and Mg2+ ions with monovalent Na1+ or K1+ ions. The ion-exchange resins are organic polymers that bind with divalent cations like Calcium and Magnesium as compared to the monovalent Sodium and Potassium ions. You have different resins that can deal with carbonates, bicarbonates, and sulphate ions by absorbing them and releasing hydroxide ions in return.
The system has two tanks, one with special ion-exchange resin beads and the other filled with brine. The water softening process is as follows.
- Connect the house water supply pipe to a control valve and timer at the top of the resin
- The water flows through the resin (usually styrene or divinylbenzene) that attracts positively charged mineral ions while giving off sodium ions.
- The heavy minerals like calcium and magnesium stick to the resin. Therefore, by the time the water reaches the bottom, it becomes soft.
- Pump this soft water through a riser tube and supply it to the household.
Over a period, the resin becomes ineffective because of the coating with calcium and magnesium ions. You need to recharge the resin to become effective again. The water softener comes with a timer or a controller that runs automatically to complete a backwash cycle.
- It reverses the flow of water so that water goes down the riser tube to the bottom of the resin tank.
- The water flows up through the resin beads. The unit flushes and expands the resin by washing the beads and carrying the minerals through the drainpipe.
- The brine tank connected to the resin tank helps in the regeneration process.
- As the water from the brine tank moves through the resin beads, it exchanges the sodium ions with hard-water ions and regenerates the electrical attraction property of the resin beads.
- Once the brine tank is empty, you have a slow rinse cycle followed by a rapid one. It expels the excess brine from the resin and sends it down the drain.
- The final step is to refill the brine tank using salt.
- Now, the machine is ready for water softening again.
It is an effective method of water softening, but you need to replenish the water softener salts repeatedly.
Salt-Free Water Softener
People might worry about the sodium intake when you have the salt-based water softeners at home. The amount of sodium added is minimal as compared to a healthy person’s regular diet. Nevertheless, people experiences problems with intake of sodium can switch over to the salt-free water softener that regenerates the resin with a potassium chloride salt substitute instead of sodium.
However, such an arrangement does not adequately reduce the hard water mineral content but prevents the deposit of minerals to the surface of vessels, pipes, and heater coils. In fact, you can call this arrangement as a descaling appliance rather than a water softener.
Dual Tank Water Softener
The standard design of the water softener is such that it disconnects from the water system while recharging. Therefore, it is out of commission during this period. It also explains why you set the regeneration cycle at night. However, it can be a problematic issue if you need soft water at night or if you have a large family at home. Under such circumstances, the dual-tank water softening unit is the best solution.
Such a unit consists of two resin tanks. When one tank is regenerating, the other one is in use. Therefore, you receive a continuous supply of soft water without a break. The significant advantage of such a unit is that you can have them in sizes smaller than the single tank unit.
These dual-tank water softeners work on a continuous basis. By using an adjustable valve and a meter, it is possible to switch the water supply to the second tank when the first one recharges. You can get a continuous flow rate of 21 gallons per minute when you use the dual-tank water softener.
You need the following infrastructure in place for installing a dual-tank water softener.
- Adequate space for installation of the two tanks
- It should be near the main inbound water line to enable supply of water to the entire house.
- If you install a model that requires electrical power, ensure to have an electrical circuit in the vicinity.
Check out the warranty on the control valve and the mineral tanks. Usually, you have a 3-year warranty for the control valve and a 10-year warranty for the mineral tank. A water softener of good quality should last for around 20 years.
Magnetic Water Softener or Descaler
The magnetic water softeners are plug-in devices that clips on to the incoming pipe and set up a magnetic field to change the electromagnetic properties of calcium carbonate minerals resulting in the repelling of these ions. Therefore, you do not have any scaling on the inner lining of the pipes. Hence, this device is also a descaling device and not a water softener in the real sense of the term.
Things to Note While Installing a Water Softener
Size of the water softener
When we speak of size, we refer to the unit’s ability to remove the ‘hardness’ minerals from the water without frequent regeneration. The ideal unit is one that will run for a minimum of three days between recharges.
The thumb rule is to multiply the number of people in your household by 75 (average usage of water, gallons per person per day) to arrive at the total amount of water you use daily. Now, multiply this figure by the PPM of the hardness minerals in the water to figure out the capacity of the water softener you need for your house.
Features and Controls
Understand the features and controls of the water softener you wish to purchase. Remember that the automatic water softeners require occasional refilling with salt.
- Timer controls – You have electronic timers that recharge the unit at a pre-set time and day based on your average usage. However, if your usage is unusually large on a particular day, it can affect your regeneration cycle. At the same time, it also tends to waste sodium and water because they regenerate at a fixed time irrespective of whether it is necessary or not. Usually, the recharging is in the early hours of the mornings.
- DIR controls – It is a better method because it regenerates only when there is a demand for regeneration. The Demand-Initiated-Regeneration (DIR) senses when the resin needs recharging. It is advantageous because it does not unnecessarily recharge the unit. It also saves sodium and water.
Water Softener Brands in India
Some of the best water softener brands in India are Zero-B and Kent. The Zero-B water softener does not require electricity to run. You can also find the localized brands in many places in India.
Installing a water softener is useful as it prevents scaling of appliances like water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, plumbing, taps, kitchen sinks, and so on. Your vessels retain their shine for a longer time. Your clothes remain fresh. Similarly, soft water is good for your skin and hair. Therefore, if you live in areas having hard water, it is advisable to install a water softener.