removing dissolved Calcium and Magnesium hardness ions
May help with: removing iron and manganese ions which cause “rust” stains
Not for: anything else
Water softeners have been sold for years as a solution to
scaly rings in the bathtub, deposits in the water heater and anemic dishwater
suds, generally without exaggerated health claims.
Water softeners are “ion exchangers”. In the softener, hard water flows through a
tank filled with synthetic resin beads.
Millions of sodium ions are loosely attached to each bead. The passing water exchanges its
"hardness" ions, mostly calcium and magnesium, for the
"soft" sodium ions on the beads and then flows on to the
faucets. When the resin becomes
saturated with hardness ions, it must be “regenerated” in order to work again. During regeneration, salt water from a brine
tank flows through the resin and it exchanges hardness ions for sodium
ions. During the backwash cycle of
regeneration, accumulated hardness ions and excess brine go down the drain.
Water's hardness Is usually expressed as grains per gallon
(gpg), equivalent to the amount of calcium carbonate in the water. According to Industry benchmarks:
soft or slightly hard water = 1-3 gpg
moderately hard water = 3-10 gpg
very hard water = 10 gpg or more
A softener is designed to remove calcium and magnesium the minerals
that lead to soap-curd deposits in the bathtub and sinks, dull-looking laundry,
spots on dishes, scaly deposits on faucets and shower heads, scale inside the
water heater and pipes.
If you decide a water softener is what you need, shop
around. Contact two or three dealers to
find out what equipment they recommend and what it will cost to have it
installed. Prices vary dramatically,
depending on where you live and the complexity of your water problem.
There's no reason to choose one brand or model over another
on the basis of softening performance.
A dealer can tailor his unit’s softening capacity to the hardness of
your water and your pattern of water consumption. Choosing a softener, then, is largely a matter of selecting a
unit that’s easy to maintain and handy to use.
A water softener shouldn't require much care and feeding
beyond the periodic addition of salt.
Be sure the softener you choose has an opening that’s large enough and
low enough to make refills easy.
A matter of control
Assume any water softener will do an
acceptable job of removing minerals. The simplest and cheapest softeners run on a timer that
regenerates on a fixed schedule. That may be fine if your daily water use is
reasonably predictable. Overall,
however, timer-only units tend to use salt and water inefficiently. Demand-control
softeners can be set to
regenerate in line with your pattern of water use. That means the softener will use less salt and waste less
water. The fanciest controls, on top
of-the-line units, may be more than you need.
Controls on less expensive units work just as well and are less daunting
to adjust or reset.