The hard water in Maryland is a common reason many homeowners have opted to install a water softener. If you’re considering installing a water softener, you may appreciate knowing what the appliance does and its benefits.

What Is a Water Softener?

You need to operate a water softener to filter the water throughout your entire home, which will eliminate minerals such as magnesium and calcium. The water softener does this by employing a process known as ion exchange.

In modern homes, hard water poses a significant issue. As mineral deposits, also known as scale, accumulate in your pipes, they can cause blockages. This scale buildup can reduce the internal diameter of the pipes, thereby impacting water pressure.

Scale can create significant problems for large appliances like dishwashers and water heaters. However, hard water will eventually damage even smaller devices that utilize water, such as a teakettle or a coffee maker.

Without a water softener, cleaning clothing becomes a challenge as they may appear dingy. Dishes washed in the dishwasher will have a film of scum on them. Scum will develop in your bathroom, particularly on your shower curtains. Bathing with hard water can adversely affect your skin, leaving it dry and sticky, and your hair will lack vitality.

The Basic Workings of a Water Softener

When hard water enters the mineral tank, it passes through a bed of spherical resin beads. The beads are typically made from polystyrene and get charged using a sodium ion.

These beads function as anions with a negative charge, while magnesium and calcium act as cations with a positive charge. Consequently, the water softener relies on the principle of attraction between opposite charges. The positive charge in the resin beads attracts the negatively charged magnesium and calcium ions. As the hard water passes through the resin beads, the beads effectively collect the mineral ions, extracting them from the water. Simultaneously, the beads release sodium ions. This process ensures the complete removal of hardness from the water, enabling the distribution of soft water throughout your home.

The Parts That Make Up a Water Softener

A water softener has three primary components. There is the mineral tank, the control valve, and the brine tank. These parts work together, removing the minerals from hard water. Additionally, these components monitor how the water flows into your home and periodically clean the water softener system using a process called regeneration.

How the Mineral Tank Works

The mineral tank is the chamber where the softening process takes place. The tank collects hard water as it enters your home. This is where the water gets filtered through the resin beads, which remove minerals like calcium and magnesium. From here, the soft water leaves the tank, travels through the pipes in your home, and reaches your household appliances.

How the Control Valve Works

The control valve monitors the amount of water that travels through the mineral tank into your home. The valve has a meter tracking the amount of water that comes into the tank. As hard water flows through the tank and resin beads extract the hardened materials, the beads lose their effectiveness in softening water. The control valve activates the regeneration cycle before the beads become overwhelmed with the mineral content. The regeneration cycle makes it so that the resin beads can once again function effectively.

The Brine Tank

The regeneration process in the water softening system heavily relies on the brine tank. Positioned adjacent to the mineral tank, the brine tank is slightly smaller. It contains a concentrated solution of salt or potassium, which restores the positive charge of the resin beads.

Your need to regularly add salt to the brine tank. Typically available in small pebbles or blocks, the salt dissolves into the water at the bottom of the tank. When the control valve indicates that sufficient water has passed through the softening system, causing a decrease in the resin’s softening capacity, the system extracts concentrated brine solution from the tank and pushes it through the resin in the mineral tank. A consistent supply of salt is essential for the brine tank to ensure the regeneration of the resin beads in the mineral tank.

The resin beads in the mineral tank are incredibly resilient. As long as they are periodically recharged from the brine tank, they can continue to soften your water for two decades, if not longer.

What Can a Water Softener Remove?

Water softeners remove calcium and magnesium from the water. These are the minerals that contribute to water hardness. The ion exchange process can also eliminate other positively charged ions.

Can a Water Softener Remove Iron?

Technically, yes. The water softener can remove dissolved ferrous iron via the same ion exchange process that removes calcium and magnesium. A water filtration system can remove precipitated iron. However, removing iron from the softener bed during the regeneration process can be challenging.

Are There Any Dangers of Drinking Softened Water?

Drinking softened water is perfectly safe. The resin beads introduce sodium into the water through the ion exchange process as they remove calcium and magnesium. However, the amount of sodium added to the water is minimal and not considered harmful. The amount of sodium added corresponds to the amount of calcium and magnesium extracted. As a general guideline, the water softener adds two milligrams of sodium for every milligram of water hardness.

The potential concern arises primarily in areas with extremely hard water, exceeding 400 parts per million (PPM). In such cases, using a reverse osmosis system to treat the water you drink and cook with can effectively remove sodium, addressing potential issues.

Will a Water Softener Benefit You?

If you have experienced a decline in water pressure due to scale buildup in your pipes or noticed stiffness in your laundry, dryness in your hair, and frequent appliance repairs caused by stubborn scale, a water softener can significantly benefit you. Hard water can be detrimental to water heaters. Without a softener, you may observe an increase in energy bills.

Water softeners are a worthwhile long-term investment, typically lasting approximately 15 years. However, with proper maintenance, they can last even longer. Factors, such as the water hardness in your location and the presence of iron and chlorine in the water, will influence the longevity of your water softener.

Providing Quality HVAC and Plumbing Services Since 1914

At HB Home Service Team, our team has roots stretching back to 1914. Since our founding, our focus has been serving our community by offering the best comfort services. We have more than 300 service teams, working in Central Maryland and the surrounding areas, to keep you and your family comfortable. We are employee-owned, have a wide product selection, and pride ourselves on price competitiveness.

Our services include HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance. We install heat pumps, ductless mini-split systems, and geothermal heating. Our plumbing services include general plumbing, emergency plumbing, water heater installation, and water softeners and neutralizers. We can help you with smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, or surge protection. We also specialize in well-pump services. Contact HB Home Service Team today and see why our community has trusted us for over a century.

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