Perhaps you have heard of hard water versus soft water. Today might be the first time you hear about hard and soft water, and you might wonder what makes the two different. Hard water contains heavy minerals like calcium and magnesium. Soft water results from systems that remove calcium and magnesium minerals from your water supply. Follow along to learn more about water softening systems and what one can do for you and your home.
What is a water softener?
A water softener is an entire-house system installed to mitigate the damage done by hard water throughout your home. This system creates soft water by eliminating calcium, magnesium, and other hard minerals commonly found in household water supplies. A water softener system will use an ion exchange process to remove harsh minerals from water and create soft water.
Hard water can damage nearly everything in your home. The lifespan of your pipes, coffee maker, washing machine, dishwasher, and water heater can all be drastically shortened by hard water. The purpose of a water softener is to lessen the damage to your house and appliances usually caused by hard water.
How does a water softener work?
A home water softener system will utilize an ion exchange process to turn your home’s hard water into safer soft water. Every water softener system will have a chamber filled with resin beads. These resin beads are negatively charged with sodium ions. Calcium and magnesium minerals are positively charged.
When hard water flows into the water softener’s tank, filled with negatively charged resin beads, the positive calcium and magnesium minerals are attracted to the negatively charged resin beads. As water passes through the beads, the minerals attach to the beads as water continues to pass through them.
This process results in soft water passing through and flowing out to the rest of your home. With a water softener system in place, hard water enters the home, and the soft water is what will flow throughout your house.
What are the different parts of a home water softener system?
Generally, home water softening systems consist of three different water softener parts:
The mineral tank of the water softening system is where most of the magic happens. This tank is where hard water becomes soft water. Hard water enters the system from the outside and is stripped of minerals as it passes through the mineral tank. Once it leaves the mineral tank, softened water flows out of the tank and into your home.
The control valve measures the water that enters the water softener system. The system needs to keep track of the amount of water that flows through it. Over time, the negatively charged resin beads that aid in softening water will lose their negative charge. The control valve will be calibrated according to water usage in the household. When a certain threshold is met, the control valve will start a regeneration cycle to keep the system running at maximum efficiency.
The brine tank aids in the regeneration and maintains the efficiency of the water softening system. The brine tank is filled with a sodium or potassium solution as a smaller, separate tank. When the control valve registers that the resin beads are losing their potency, it will flush the tank with solution from the brine tank. This process effectively recharges the resin beads for continual efficiency.
How much is a water softener?
Depending on your location, water softeners could be a luxury or an absolute necessity. The hardness of water can vary drastically. If you live in an area where hard water is expected, a water softening system could be necessary for the well-being of your house, appliances, and family.
The total cost of a water softening system will depend on multiple factors, including the type of system, labor and material costs, and more. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $6,000. The price can vary dramatically depending on the type of water softening system you install and whether you install an entire-home system or a single point-of-use system.
A water softening system may seem like a hefty upfront cost; however, it can pay for itself relatively quickly, especially in areas where hard water is prevalent. Hard water can quickly cause your home and your water-using appliances to degrade. By installing a water softening system, you could prolong the life of your home and all of your water-using machines.
Home Water Softening. (n.d.).