If you’ve noticed a buildup of scum on your shower doors or dishwasher, or if you feel your home’s shower isn’t leaving you as clean as it once did, you might have a problem with hard water.
Here’s what you need to know. One of the best ways to alleviate the problem is to have a water softener installed to treat your water. Are water softeners bad for your health?
In this article, we’ll discuss in details about water softeners, why hard water isn’t good for your home and the difference between water softening and water conditioning.
Hard water is the result of too many minerals or metals – calcium, magnesium and the like – in your water. These metals are acquired by the groundwater through the dissolution of surrounding soil and rock.
Water hardness is calculated by grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). Industry standards define a grain as 64.8 milligrams of calcium carbonate, and if tests show your water is at 1 GPG or less, then you have soft water, with hard water being defined at approximately 7-10.5 GPG.
Hard water causes magnesium and calcium precipitate that is dissolved (scale) to accumulate inside pipes, industrial machines, water heaters, etc.
The scale lessens water flow and heat conduction, and can entirely clog pipes. Another negative effect of hard water is that it reduces soap’s lathering capabilities, and will react with soap to form a sticky, scum-like substance.
How The Process Works
If your home or business is plagued with hard water, one of the best ways to get rid of it is to have a water softener installed.
The appliance runs on the convention that calcium and magnesium ions will switch places with ions that result in softer water (i.e. sodium, etc.). The amount of sodium added to your drinking water is minimal and well below FDA standards.
The replacement of ion procedure is done within a tank filled with zeolite or resin (small polystyrene beads). The beads contain a negative charge, which bonds with the sodium ions, as they have a positive charge.
Water flows by the beads, and the sodium ions switch with the calcium and magnesium ions.
Even though the plastic beads “do all the work,” it’s important salt is in the softener. The reason is that calcium and magnesium replace sodium in the beads, and once this happens, the appliance will no longer be able to soften water.
The solution to this problem is for the water softener to enter a regeneration cycle to soak the beads in sodium chloride (the water softening salt), and the sodium will cause the magnesium and calcium to give way, and the beads will be recharged with sodium.
The regeneration process will result in a lot of salt water (approximately 25 gallons).
Softening or Conditioning?
Many use the terms “water softeners” and “water conditioners” interchangeably, but there are very big differences and uses between the two appliances.
Water conditioners remove sediment, chlorine, chemicals and other foreign materials while treating water hardness, and a water softener does not treat water for anything other than hardness.
Both appliances are capable of treating water hardness, but the result from each will feel different.
A water conditioner processes water through a device that prevents scale and produces a slight drop in pressure, and this causes the hardness minerals to be held in a state of suspension for three days.
The water flows through a catalyst which enhances the process, through the magnetic field which forces the 72-hour suspension and then through a KDF, which displaces chlorine, bad tastes and metals, and blocks bacteria growth.
So, are water softeners bad for your health? If you’re on a very low-sodium diet and you’re concerned about the amount of sodium in softened water, you may want to consider a water-purification system that uses potassium chloride instead.
Another option is to soften only the hot water and use unsoftened cold water for drinking and cooking.