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Saturday, May 05, 2012

HOW A WATER SOFTENER WORKS


I'M SO SOFT



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. 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. I borrowed some of that info off of the web by the way.

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 orzeolite. 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.
3. SLOW RINSE - In this step the valve switches to direct the water back to the correct flow direction and slowly rinse away all the rest of the brine and calcium and magnesium. The reason for slow rinse is to keep the beads fluffed up to ensure good flow all around the beads.
4. FAST RINSE - This step's function is to give a good final rinse and be sure the resin is all compacted back into the bottom of the resin tank.
5. SERVICE MODE - Now the drain valve closes and the service valve opens back up and the timer or flow meter starts over, depending on how your softener is setup.


BORROWED IMAGE FROM WEB



Usually the softener will use about 25 gallons of water to go through a full regeneration cycle.   A newer softener set to 25 GPG will go through about 2 bags of salt per month.  During the regeneration cycle there is no soft water, for this reason it is a good idea to setup your softener to regenerate at night or early morning around 2:00 am or so. This is a good time because it gives the softener ample time to go through its cycle uninterrupted and usually the demand for water at this time in the morning is very minimal. There is however, still water to the house through the bypass valve.  This is how most of the home water softeners work there are a couple different styles but this is the most common. Some models come as a combined unit and some come as two separate units with the brine tank and resin tank being separate.  Both units do the same thing, it is a matter of preference and space. If you do not have a lot of space you might want to go with the combined unit.
 Usually the outside water spigots are not connected to the soft water.  This is because your outdoor spigot is usually used for watering a lawn or garden and soft water is not needed.  It is not very economical to water the lawn or garden with treated water.  It is nice to have soft water to wash your car with, it dries better without spots.  I have seen where people have put an extra valve in so they can turn off the hard water and turn on the soft water to their outdoor spigot.
Water softeners can be installed by the homeowner in most cases, it is an easy project if your are a little handy.  Please check your local plumbing code and make sure you do not need a licensed plumber to install your softener before attempting this.

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OLOE