The “hardness” of waters is determined by the number of calcium and magnesium minerals presents. The higher the number of grains per gallon, the “harder” your water is. These minerals are picked by “soft” rain water, as it travels down through the soil to the underground water table. Water that comes in contact with limestone (calcium and magnesium rock) has a much higher content of these hard minerals. “Soft” or “softened” water has a greatly decreased number of these troublesome elements.
There are numerous benefits of a water softening system. Not only does food taste better, but dishes are sparkling – instead of grey and dingy as a result of hard water washing. Hair and skin are softer and cleaner – instead of dried out and coated with mineral deposits and soup residue. Appliances and pipes operate more efficiently and freely (and last a lot longer too!) – instead of being clogged and burdened by lime scale and other mineral buildup. Kitchen and bathroom fixtures and surfaces stay shinier and scum-free – instead of being covered with unsightly spots, film and rings.
With softened water, cleaning and washing is much easier, more sanitary and a lot less expensive. This is because less soup, shampoo, detergent and other cleaning agents are needed to develop subs or lather. Without soapy or filmy residue and buildup around tubs, sinks and faucets, bacteria has a tough time living and breeding.
You can find out the hardness level of your water by bringing a sample to your Authorized Water Soft Dealer. He or she has the equipment and the know-how to analyze and explain the results of your water test, determine the type of water treatment system best suited to your softening needs, and specify the proper softener size based on your water usage habits. Don’t just assume the condition of your water source. Inaccurate guessing could cause unnecessary wear and tear on a system that can’t adequately handle your water treatment needs.
The three major components in a water softening system are the Media Tank, the Control Valve and the Brine Tank. The control valve, attached to the top of the media tank, directs hard water down into the media tank where softening resin beads are kept. When hard water contacts the beads, the hardness minerals (calcium and magnesium) are exchanged for the sodium ions that are held on the surface of the beads. This process is called Ion Exchange. The hardness minerals that are taken from the water during this exchange are temporarily held on the beads and the sodium ions replace them in the water. The soft water then leaves the media tank through a vertical distributor tube that runs up through the center of the tank and back into the control valve, where it is directed into the plumbing system, ready for use throughout the house.
The water softening system never really “runs out” of sodium ions because of a regeneration process that eliminates the hard minerals from the media tank, and replaces them with sodium ions that were displaced.
At a time determined either by you or the system (depending on the kind of system you own), the control valve allows water into the media tank, but the flow of water is reversed. This step is called back-wash, and its purpose is to agitate the beads, lifting and separating them in order to loosen and wash accumulated sediment particles down the drain.
The next step is called "brine and rinse". The control valve pulls brine solution from the brine tank and slowly rinses it down through the media tank. This solution is strong enough to detach the mineral ions from the resin beads, and rinse them away while new sodium ions from the solution cling to the beads. The control valve then lets in more water to rinse excess brine from the tank, at the same time delivering a fresh supply to the brine tank so that new brine solution can be made ready for the next regeneration. This entire process takes less than two hours, and is usually scheduled at a time when it is likely that water will not be used. After the regeneration cycle is over, the control valve returns the system to the service mode, and water can once again be processed through the system.
Not at all. The amount of sodium ions it takes to soften your water is so small that it will not register as a salty taste. Your sodium intake from softened water is very small as well. In most cases, you would have to drink three quarts of softened water to equal the sodium intake of two slices of white bread.
Whether you have an AUTOMATIC or a DEMAND system, you will need to set the present time of day. This orients the control valve to know “real” time so that it will regenerate at the proper time of day (usually set at 2:00 a.m.)
The difference between these two models is the way in which regeneration frequency is determined. With an AUTOMATIC model, you must determine how often the system needs to regenerate, based on your water usages and unit capacity, and set the system to regenerate accordingly.
Then a DEMAND model mat be what you need. This system does not require you to determine how often the water softening system needs to be regenerated. Based on the capacity of the unit, the number of people in the family, the water’s hardness and the amount of water used, it regenerates whenever it needs to. This is extremely convenient as it does not require you to reprogram or remember to manually regenerate your system for occasional overuse situations.
In a nutshell, the DEMAND system is more convenient and efficient in the way it operates. It does cost more initially, but it will save both salt and water in the long run.
Water Soft units also feature a bypass valve which makes water softener servicing a snap by allowing water to bypass the softening system entirely. It is also a money saver when you want to use a lot of water that doesn’t need to be softened – when watering the lawn, for example.