Water is referred to as hard water if it has too much magnesium, calcium or other chemicals in it. Such materials are plentily available in the soils as well as the rocks within the ground. Water dissolves and absorbs them from such sources. The standard measurement for hard water is GPG (grains per gallon) or mg/L (milligrams per liter). Soft water tests at 1 GPG (which is the same as 17.1 mg/L) or less. Hard water, on the other hand, is approximately 7 to 10.5 GPG while very hard water tests higher than that. Water that is between soft and slightly hard can test at 3.5 to GPG.
The Problem with Hard Water
Hard water negatively affects the ability of soap to lather, whether in a dishwasher, sink, shower, or washing machine. It also reacts with the soap to produce some sticky residue. Using hard water requires the use of too much soap.
Dissolved magnesium and calcium precipitate out of such water in the form of scale building up on the sides of plumbing pipes, water heaters, industrial machinery, coffee makers and kettles among other devices. Scale occupies space in pipes restricting the amount of water passing through. It is not a good heat conductor as well. To eliminate such problems, water softeners can be used to combat hard water, and save the sanitary named showers, faucets, toilets, baths etc.
A Technical Explanation on Water Softeners
How Does Water Softeners Work?
Water softeners work on a simple principle according to the Water softener guy, whereby magnesium and calcium ions exchange their places with other ions that are more desirable (commonly sodium ions). This is an approach that does away with the two aforementioned hard water problems because sodium reacts quite well with soap and does not precipitate out into water holding equipment. Again, the process adds very little sodium to the water hence the water remains healthy.
The Ion Replacement Process
It happens in some tank full of resin (small polystyrene beads). Negatively charged beads get joined to sodium ions that are positively charged. Sodium ions change places with magnesium and calcium ions, which have stronger positive charge, as the water flows through the beads.
Why Water Softeners Are Loaded Up with Salt?
Magnesium and sodium get to replace the entire sodium within the beads for a number of cycles, after which such a unit cannot any longer soften the water. The softener must go through a process of regeneration to fix this problem. It does this by soaking the beads in a strong water and salt or sodium chloride solution. The pure sodium in the brine solution displaces the magnesium and calcium ions within the beads recharging the beads with sodium. Upon regeneration, the water softener does away with the brine that is remaining as well as the magnesium and calcium via the drainpipe.
Many home water softeners utilize the plastic bead & salt approach. The timing on when to regenerate is the key difference between them. Some of them utilize mechanical water meters for measuring water utilization and kicking on the recharge procedure at a time when sodium exhaustion needs it. Others utilize a computer, which judges bead depletion on the basis of water utilization. Other water softeners utilize electric timers, which flush and recharge on regular schedules.