It is easy to ignore the importance of water in our lives. Indeed, we need water in our diet, but in homes, it is just a tool. It is a fluid medium that can carry different materials from one place to another. And the reasons why they can do this kind of job very well is that, they are very good at keeping things, by either dissolving or suspending them.
Unlike most of the house tools, water doesn’t have a manual instruction for us to read about it. If they have one, you’d already know why your dishes are covered with white spots when they get dry, why your shower water leaves a film in its place and why a clean water can clog up your house’s plumbing system.
Effects of Hard Water
While water is below the ground, it picks up different kinds of minerals on its way out. This will simply mean that your water is probably contaminated with different unknown earth minerals and unsafe to drink. One of these earth minerals can be magnesium and calcium, and they are the ones behind the water’s inability to function well. These kinds of mineral makes our house water hard.
One negative effect of having hard water is that detergents and soaps lose their effectiveness. Instead of being dissolved completely, the minerals in the water combine with soap and forms a coagulated curd soap. Because lesser soap is being dissolved, it even require more. And the insoluble curb, which is very sticky can hand and cling to skin and can actually prevent the cleansing. The washed hair will seem lifeless and dull.
In laundry, things are not much better. The soap curd can actually stick in your clothes as they are washed in your washing machine. This can trap the dirt in fibers and can roughen and stiffen your clothes. In addition to that, the insoluble deposits of soap can leave white spots on things you wash such as dishes or your family car. A film of soap can also build up in the windows, tubs and tiles of your shower and bath.
The main reason why you should be concerned about the hard water is that, its effect on your house’s plumbing system. The magnesium and calcium deposits can possibly build up inside your pipes that will greatly reduce the flow of water into your faucets and appliances. In your water heaters, hard water can generate large mineral buildup that will reduce the life and efficiency of your heater.
The Fix or Solution
The simple solution to hard water problem is to remove the magnesium and calcium in your water. The most popular chemical remover is the water softeners.
Typically, a water softener is a kind of mechanical appliance that is plumbed into the water supply system of your home. All the water softeners follow and use similar operating principle: They trade the earth minerals (magnesium and calcium) for much safer minerals, which is usually, sodium. The trading process is called “ion exchange”.
The mineral tank is considered as the heart of water softener. It is filled with little polystyrene bead, which is also called as zeolite or resin. These beads actually carry negative charges.
The magnesium and calcium found in ground water both carry positive charges. This will only mean that the earth minerals will be attracted to the beads as they pass through the heart of the water softener. The trading sodium ion also carry positive charges, however not as concentrated as the charge of magnesium and calcium. When a strong salt solution is used to flush through the mineral tank that has the bead with saturated magnesium and calcium, the total amount of sodium ions is just enough to remove the magnesium and calcium ion on the beads. A water softener has a separate tank for salt solution whereas the salt solution is created.
During the normal operation, the hard water moves directly into mineral tank and magnesium and calcium ions move to beads to be replaced with sodium ions. Sodium ions will be mixed in the water. Once the beads have already saturated with magnesium and calcium, the system will enter the phase 3 cycle of regenerating. Here is the process:
- Backwash Phase – Reverses the flow of water in order to flush the dirt out of the tank.
- Recharge Phase – The concentrated salt-solution will be carried from the salt tank to mineral tank. The sodium will replace the saturated magnesium and calcium, and this will be drained.
- Last Phase – The mineral tank will be flushed and the salt-solution tank will be refilled for the next process.
The Brains of Water Softeners
The most popular model of water softener features an automatic system for regenerating, while the most basic model has an electric timer that will flush and recharge based in the fixed schedule. During the recharging process, the water softener isn’t functional.
Another control type of water softener uses a computer to watch the water being used by the system. When the right amount of water had reached the mineral tank in order to deplete the sodium beads, the computer will trigger the regeneration. These kind of water softeners usually have reserve capacity of resin, in order for it to become functional even during the recharging process.
The last control type of water softener uses a mechanical meter to measure the usage of water and trigger or initiate the recharging. The advantage of using this kind of water softening system is that, it doesn’t require electrical components and the recharging of mineral tank is only done when necessary. When this kind of system is equipped with 2 mineral tanks, the water softener system would be fully functional, even when the other one is recharging.
Judging the Hardness of Water
Generally, the companies that sell water softeners provides test kits in order for their customers to determine the hardness of water. For testing sources commercially, you can check your yellow page directory under the “water analysis”
The hardness of the water is measures in GPG (grains per gallon), or mg/L (milligrams per liter). Measured water that has 17.1ml/L or 1 GPG below can be considered as soft water and water that measures from 60 to 120GPG is already considered as very hard. The effectiveness of water softeners depend on the incoming hardness of the water. 100 GPG waters may already have the possibility to reduce its effectiveness.