The only solution to a hard water problem is to remove all of the calcium and magnesium. The most efficient and healthiest way to do this is by installing a water softener. A water softener is plumbed into your home or offices water supply system, typically at the point where the water enters your home or office. Through a process called ion exchange, a softener will trade the “hard” particles for “soft” particles.
The ion exchange tank is the primary component of a water softener. This tank contains small polystyrene beads, called resin. These beads carry a negative charge. Hard water passes through the ion exchange tank; positively charged calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions that cause hardness are attracted to the negatively charged polystyrene beads. Dissolved sodium chloride (salt), called brine, supply Sodium ions to the resin. Sodium ions are held loosely to the resin with a low positive charge.
The stronger charges of the calcium and magnesium ions replace the lesser charged sodium ions. The freed sodium ions are then released or “traded” to the water.
Over time the exchange medium will become saturated with the calcium and magnesium ions from this “trading” process. When the exchange medium releases all its “soft” ions it is said to be “exhausted.” The exchange medium needs to be recharged when this occurs. Recharging the resin is done simply by back-flushing with the salt brine solution from the salt storage tank.
As the brine solution rinses the resin, it releases the bond between the “hard” ions and the resin, removing the calcium and magnesium. During the final rinse the salt solution is broken down into its components, sodium and chloride. The chloride, calcium and magnesium are then washed away and out the drain. Once the calcium and magnesium are replaced by fresh sodium ions the system is now recharged.
Water softener maintenance consists mainly of replenishing the brine solution with salt. The amount of salt needed will depend solely on the hardness of the water and water usage per month. The brine storage should be cleaned on occasion. The float assembly and brine valve should be checked on occasion and clean if necessary. Reconditioning of the ion exchange tank may be done periodically; the amount and/or type of impurities present in the water will determine the frequency of reconditioning. Like any other mechanical appliance, over time plastic parts and rubber gaskets will need replacing.
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