Did you know that the average Arizona resident uses about 146 gallons of water every single day? That’s a lot of liquid, so it’s important to know if and how your water's quality could impact you.
Over half of the cities in the United States suffer from some level of water hardness, and Phoenix is in the top six! Within Arizona, other cities like Chandler and Gilbert have the highest hard water data in the state. The good news is you can use water softeners to minimize and even eliminate the issue.
But how does a water softener work, and is it the right choice for your home? Let's dive in and find out.
What Is Hard Water?
Signs of Hard Water in Your Home
How Does a Water Softener Work?
Water Softener vs Reverse Osmosis Systems
Water hardness has nothing to do with how the liquid necessarily feels or acts. You wouldn't normally notice it if it weren't for its effect on things like your pipes and even your hair.
Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. More specifically, it will have higher amounts of calcium and magnesium. You may see other dissolved minerals in it too.
All these minerals come from the source of your water and the soil it comes into contact with. Even though water treatment plants purify your water, they don't strip away the mineral content.
While hard water may not be harmful to your health, it can wreak havoc on your home. Hard water shortens the life span of your appliances, water fixtures, shower heads, faucets, etc. and results in frequent repairs. It can be a major drain on your wallet!
You may not be sure if you have a hard water problem in your home. In fact, certain cities can have much higher levels depending on the soil content in their area.
Some signs of hard water include:
Powdery residue on your washed dishes
Dry and itchy skin after a shower
Limp and dull hair
Rough and stiff clothing
Filmy residue buildup in your bathroom
Scale buildup or residue is what happens when a coating of solid calcium carbonate forms. This can happen on the outside of your faucets as well as inside of your pipes. While it isn't dangerous, it can cause clogs and other issues.
Another issue with hard water is that it can erode the pipes in your home’s plumbing system.
Water softeners remove the minerals in your water supply that make it "hard." When you install a water softener, you're using it a lot like a chemical filter. Instead of catching the minerals with a physical mesh filter, it uses resin beads to trap the calcium and magnesium.
The end result is "soft water" or water that has the extra minerals removed.
Water softeners work through the ion exchange process.
With some systems, you have two tanks. One tank has resin beads that attract the minerals in your water supply and pull them out. The brine tank holds highly concentrated salt brine (or sodium ions) that replace the calcium and magnesium.
It's called the ion exchange process because it removes the hard ions and replaces them with ‘softer’ ones. Without salt, you can't fully remove the hard minerals. You can also substitute sodium chloride with potassium chloride.
This softened water is then carried throughout your home like normal. Water passing through your taps is now clean of any extra minerals.
The only downside is that softened water contains extra sodium content. It may add as much as 7.5 milligrams of sodium per quart of water for every grain per gallon (gpg) of hard minerals you've removed.
The regeneration cycle is necessary to replace the sodium and potassium ions that were lost. It's normally programmed to happen at times of the day when the demand for water is low. The salt brine is released into the resin tank where the calcium and magnesium ions bind to the sodium ions.
In the backwash cycle, all the brine and hard minerals are drained out of the system so it can start fresh the next day. If it doesn't wash out, then the resin won't be able to bind to new calcium or magnesium ions.
If you see something advertised as a "salt-free water softener" you should know that it isn't actually doing what it says. In most cases, these are actually water conditioners that minimize the effects of minerals on your pipes.
These are a great option if your main concern is how your pipes handle hard water. However, you may still see spots on your dishes and experience itchy skin after a shower.
You may wonder what the difference is between water-softening solutions and something like reverse osmosis systems.
Reverse osmosis does not remove any calcium and magnesium ions from your water supply. Instead, it focuses more on improving the taste of your water. This is useful for anyone who notices the difference in the taste of hard water or maybe dislikes other chemicals their city may put into the water.
The same applies to any kind of water filtration system, such as the ones you can attach straight to your kitchen faucet. While it removes larger particles, it doesn't work on dissolved minerals.
If a water softener sounds like the answer to your hard water problems, we can help. At Parker & Sons not only do we offer the latest, most advanced water softener and RO systems, but we can test your water and help you decide if a water softener is right for you. Give our team a call today!