A water softener reduces the levels of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium contained in ordinary water. Because this what people mean when saying "soft" water-water that has low levels of calcium and magnesium, the two minerals that define the level of hardness of water. When more calcium and magnesium dissolves, the degree of hardness of the water increases, The hard calcium and magnesium ions cause two major kinds of problems. The metal ions react with soaps and calcium sensitive detergents, hindering their ability to lather properly and forming an unwanted precipitate, the "bathtub ring". Furthermore, the presence of "hardness ions" also reduces the cleaning effect of detergent formulations.
More seriously, calcium and magnesium carbonates tend to adhere to the surfaces of pipes and heat exchanger surfaces, reducing the fluid flow in the pipes or even jamming them. In boilers, such deposits can prevent the heat from being transferred to the water. All this explains why a water softener is very important for every household. A water softener prevents the negative effects of hard water by removing the calcium and magnesium ions that cause the water to be hard. The water softener unit is connected directly to the water supply. It basically collects those hardness minerals in its conditioning tank and from time to time flushes them away to drain.
Often, the water softener has an ion exchanger that replaces calcium and magnesium ions in the water with other ions like sodium or potassium. A water softener of good quality can last for many years, even up to a decade, with a little maintenance, besides filling them with salt occasionally. Here is the principle way of operation of a water softener. It contains a large cylinder loaded with a few pounds of plastic beads which are coated with a material that can absorb certain chemicals, like calcium and magnesium. They are called resin beads and contain sodium ions on their surface.
When hard water passes through a bed of these beads the already mentioned ion exchange takes places-the sodium ions on the surface of the beads are replaced by the calcium ions in the water. But the softened water is salty, not good for drinking. This is good reason for having a separate source of drinking water which has not been softened. The water softener operates at night while you sleep. A timer runs the system through a cycle which prepares the resin beads for another day of softening water. It automatically flushes the calcium from the system and settles the bed of beads into a compact bed so that it works efficiently the next day.
The price of a water softener ranges from $400 to $1200, and a bag of salt costs another 5$. These expenses are definitely worth it, because they concern the health of you entire family. Some of the well known companies in this sector are Kinetico water softeners, Culligan, Kenmore and General Electric.
Jerry Cahill, publisher and webmaster. See current work at this Water Softener Web Site.