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Water softening is the removal of calcium and magnesium ions from water through a process known as ion exchange. This is achieved through the use of a polymer based resin bed. The hardness is removed while a sodium particle is given out. Water softeners come in two distinct types; salt based water softeners and salt-free water softeners.
Salt-free water softeners
These are also known as water conditioners. Salt-free systems are not referred as true water softeners because they do not remove the hard minerals. Instead, they prevent the minerals from sticking onto the pipes. The water conditioning that takes place during this process is template assisted crystallization and normally changes the form of water. The minerals in water that causes hardness are converted into crystals that cannot adhere to the pipes. These softeners do not require a metered valve because the system does not capture anything and works as a conditioner. Therefore, there is no need to remove any minerals.
– Cheaper to buy than the salt based water softeners.
– Very suitable for people who do not like using chemicals to clean their water at home.
– Easy to install with easy to follow instructions.
– The maintenance costs for salt-free water systems are very minimal and almost next to zero. This is because they do not require electricity or magnets to during the water softening process.
– Water from these systems do not have the slimy feel associated with salt based softeners.
– Some people do not find them as effective as salt based water softeners because they it does not remove the elements that cause build up of lime scale. This means that the body is still exposed to calcium and magnesium.
– It can take long for the water cleaning process to produce desired results. Salt based systems happen much faster since they use electricity.
– Not effective in areas where water sits such as water heaters.
Salt based water softeners
With this system, the minerals that create hardness in water are removed leaving the water soft. Salt based water softeners use a process called ion exchange to soften the water. The calcium and magnesium minerals in water are removed and replaced with salt or sodium. These water softeners require an electric metered valve for washing the captured minerals outside.
– This system ensures that magnesium and calcium are completely removed from the water.
– With the removal of magnesium and calcium, there is no worry of limescale build up that is sticky.
– Water based systems and appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines tend to last longer when using salt based water softeners.
– Salt based systems produce water that is smooth and slick. It is, therefore, easy to produce foam during laundry or bathing.
– More expensive to install compared to salt-free water softeners.
– With the way it works, it requires more maintenance.
– Since it uses salt during the softening process, it means more maintenance costs since it has to be bought regularly.
– Some people do not like the slick feel of water that comes from these systems.
The ideal situation for using salt based water softeners is when there is a very high build up of hard water levels. The level of water hardness can be determined through having the water tested. For those who prefer a cheaper method for water softening with less maintenance, then a salt-free system suits them best. Salt based water softening systems are banned in some states due to the huge amount of brine discharged to ground water.
Benefits of water softening
Water softening comes with many advantages. It extends the life of water based appliances, clothes, and plumbing. According to a study published in the journal of water use, water heaters that use hard water, lose more than half of their efficiency in a 15-year lifetime. Those heaters that use soft water retain their original efficiency. Shower heads that use hard water have been observed to lose 75% of their flow rate in a period of 18 months or less. There is also less use of soap.
There are benefits and cons for using any type of system. However, the right choice is determined by a few things. The tastes and preferences, the budget and home circumstances are some of the determinants of the water system to be chosen.