A Brief Guide to Water Softeners

A Brief Guide to Water Softeners

Water softeners are treatment systems designed to reduce hard water. These devices use ion exchange to reduce the mineral count in your water supply. Choosing a water softener can be a little daunting, so here we offer a brief guide to softeners.

Understanding Hard Water

The first step in understanding water softeners is to first understand hard water. Water is a universal solvent, and it can pick up minerals as it travels through rock formations to the groundwater. Hard water is water that contains a high mineral count, specifically calcium and magnesium, although some other minerals can contribute to hard water.

The mineral levels determine the water hardness, with low levels being commonplace and high levels creating problems around the home. The hardness minerals create scale deposits inside pipes, fixtures, and water using appliances. This can lead to clogged shower heads, slow drainage and even compromised appliance efficiency. Scale can be particularly problematic inside water heaters where the high temperatures cause scale to form more quickly.

How do Softeners work?

Depending on the specific device, water softeners can work in two ways. Salt based softeners replace magnesium and calcium ions with sodium. The devices have a resin tank that becomes filled with hardness minerals that are periodically flushed away during a regeneration process. This will eliminate most scale in your home to save money on plumbing repairs, appliance breakdowns, and energy bills. You may also notice that your water develops a slick feel and soaps, shampoos and detergents tend to more easily create suds. This type of softener can eliminate spotting on dishes, and you may notice your clothing feels softer and cleaner after being washed.

Salt free softeners or water conditioners recondition water rather than removing mineral ions. Inside of using ion exchange, water conditioners feature crystal structures that attract dissolved hardness mineral and hold them in the media filter.

Water conditioners use a more complicated scientific process and neutralize mineral ions without introducing any traces of sodium. Additionally, these systems don’t require electricity, so some homeowners consider them to be a greener method of water treatment.

Do You Need a Softener?

Before you choose a water softener or conditioner, you need to determine if this is the most appropriate method of water treatment. While you may have noticed water spots and scale accumulation, hard water may not be your only water quality issue. This means that installing a water softener may not solve your water treatment problems. For example, if you have a high iron content, the nonferrous iron can bond with any microorganisms in the water, which means your softener will have virtually no effect. Therefore, it is important to have your water tested. A full water test will highlight the specific contaminant levels in your supply, so you can determine if a water softener is sufficient for your needs or if you need a more tailored treatment solution.

If you have concerns about your water quality, you should speak to a water treatment technician. An experienced professional can not only test the contaminant levels in your water, but can guide you through the treatment options best suited to your specific requirements.

By Mark Williams (NicMar President Mark Williams holds degrees in Applied Science and Industrial Thermodynamics, along with Agricultural Mechanization and Systems Engineering from Ohio State University.  He also holds the highest possible industry ranking, being WQA (Water Quality Association) LEVEL 6 Certified.)


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999 Baltimore Road York SpringsPA17372 USA 
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