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How does a water softener work?

water_softener_diagramReceiving a so-called ‘soft water’ is not an easy task, as long as you face the problem of softening hard water. There are different systems that can assist with the issue, but to understand how they work, one should first know what hard water is. Then you’ll have a clear picture of why it is hard to eliminate the problem.

To tell the truth, one can’t give a direct answer to the question, as there are four types of water softening systems. They use radically different technologies to fulfill their tasks; we will speak about each type in particular. But first, we will talk about the nature of hard water.

The definition of hard water

Hard water is the raw water that flows into our homes through the pipes. The term ‘raw’ water means that it has a high mineral content of calcium and magnesium origin. The water picks up minerals from rocks, chalk and limestone when it is making its way through the underground tunnels and carries them to the places we live.

The level of water hardness differs throughout the territory of USA. The rating numbers rise from 3 to 20, and the average level is about 10.

Hard water and its ill effects

Some people believe that hard water is not safe to drink. The scientists, however, proved this statement to be a myth. Hard water doesn’t have any negative impact on health. The reason people want to get rid of it is the scale deposits it leaves on the surface. Practically, the harder the water, the worse negative effect it carries. You may see the list of adverse effects it creates:

  • Scale formations build up in a plumbing system. The result is the decreasing of water pressure and thus, the reduced flow of water.
  • Water heating equipment malfunctions.
  • Clothes lose their shape and color due to the wash in hard water.
  • Soap scum buildups inside the pipes.

The principles of water softeners’ work

As we already mentioned, there are four types of systems: magnetic systems, the reverse-osmosis systems, salt based systems, and salt-free systems.

Magnetic systems

It works in a way that the water is forced to flow through a magnetic field that reduces the effect of hard water. The benefit of a magnetic system is that it is small in size compared to others. It usually requires a console and a set of magnetic transmitters, which are attached to the pipes. But this method is very controversial, and studies still debate about its effectiveness.

The reverse-osmosis systems

The process is very similar to sea water desalinating: hard water flows through a very fine membrane that stops the minerals, not allowing them to go further. Pressure and a fine membrane are the main factors in this method. The main drawback is that it removes not just hard water elements, but beneficial ones too.

Salt-based systems

This type of system is considered to be the most efficient one. It performs a process, which scientists call the ion exchange. Hard water passes through a tank that is full of resin beads. Those beads contain sodium ions. When water flows through the beads, the hard minerals are being replaced with sodium ions, resulting in soft water. The system comes with a brine tank, the primary function of which is to wash hard water minerals in the resin tank. Other words, it serves for a regenerating process.

This method works better than the rest. However, the high sodium level in the water may turn to be a problem for some users.

Salt-free systems

This method doesn’t remove hard elements from water. But it changes their form, and the minerals become crystallized. Hard crystals cannot stick to any surface.