What is “hard” water anyways and why do we need a “water softener?”
We say water is “hard” if it contains a lot of calcium, magnesium or other minerals. Groundwater picks up these materials by dissolving them from surrounding soil and rock water softener hub in my area. The industry measures water hardness in terms of grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). A grain is defined as 64.8 milligrams of calcium carbonate. If water tests at 1 GPG (17.1 mg/L) or less, it is considered soft water. Water around 1-3.5 GPG (17.1-60 mg/L) is between soft and slightly hard water and 3.5-7 GPG (60-120 mg/L) is moderately hard. Hard water is around 7-10.5 GPG (120 – 180 mg/L), and very hard water is above that [source: Water Quality Association ].
When water evaporates it leaves behind all the dissolved solids, such as the calcium and magnesium, and other minerals it may have picked up from the ground. So this is why it accumulates in and on your appliances.
Soft water has less surface tension and thereby increases soap’s ability to lather hence reducing the amount of soap needed, saving you money and possibly helping pay for your water treatment long term. When hard water mixes with soap it leaves behind soap scum and “lime” deposits in your shower, and on your sink.
A water softener works on an ion exchange principal. The ion exchange takes place within the resin tank full of small polystyrene beads, also known as resin or zeolite. The beads are negatively charged and the positively charged sodium ions are bonded to them. As the water flows past the beads, the sodium ions exchange places with the calcium and magnesium ions, which carry a stronger positive charge.
After a designated amount of time or gallon of water pass the beads in the softener have reached their maximum capacity of calcium and magnesium from the ion exchange process and need to be regenerated. At the set time or gallon amount the softener will regenerate. I will guide you through a regeneration cycle step by step.
1. BACKWASH – First the valve on top will reverse the flow and close the valve going to the water supply for your house. This redirects the water flow and fluffs up the beads in the resin tank.
2. BRINE DRAW – In this step the valve stays as above and the brine valve opens allowing the salt solution to flow in up through the beads and forcing the calcium and magnesium ions to be pushed off the beads and recharging them with the sodium ions. The drain is also open allowing good flow across the resin.