Water is an essential resource that is required by all living organisms for survival. We all depend on it for functions such as laundry, cleaning and preparing & drinking. It is usually readily available in 2 kinds; hard water and soft water.
What is Hard Water?
The easy definition of hard water is ‘water, which contains many minerals in it’. The minerals predominantly found in hard water are calcium, magnesium carbonate and manganese. These minerals that make water hard tend to bring unfavourable results to the water. Hard water can stain tubs and utensils, prevent proper lathering, leave some scale deposits on the coffee machine, and make laundry typically drab. It can also impact your electrical appliance’s correct function that utilizes water like electric kettles and offers a pale appearance to your clothes, skin, and even hair.
Hard water can originate from different sources where minerals can easily liquefy into the water. It for that reason generally has various levels of solidity, depending upon where it originates from. The hardness of water is measured in GPG (grains per gallon) or PPM (parts per million of mineral). 17.1 PPM are generally the equivalent of 1 GPG.
What Is Soft Water?
Soft water is the reverse of hard water. It is essentially water with very few minerals that cause water firmness, magnesium, and calcium. The significant source of soft water is rain. Rainwater is usually collected from roofing systems and then stored in tanks. Some cases can also be gotten from particular drain basins formed by hard invulnerable rocks that lack calcium. It can then be dispatched utilizing water bubblers.
Soft water is likewise gotten from hard water. This is through a technique called water softening. The water obtained through this process is then usually described as softened water. Though lacking considerable magnesium and calcium ions, it might include high levels of salt and bicarbonate ions.
What is Water Softening?
As already specified, this is just the process of removing magnesium and calcium ions from water. The procedure assists us in eliminating the issues produced by hard water, especially in your home.
Water Softening Methods
1. Ion-Exchange Water Softening
Salt-based ion-exchange water conditioners are the primary type of water softener used for domestic home water supplies. They work by removing hardness-causing calcium and magnesium ions from the water and replacing them with sodium or potassium ions that coat the resin beads in the ion-exchange tank.
The system needs to be ‘restored’ about when a week changes the water softening ions used up and eliminates the solidity ions that have replaced them. Ion-exchange water conditioners also can get rid of liquified ferrous (clearwater) iron from the water system.
This kind of iron is generally found in water drawn from deep wells and other groundwater sources. It does not color the water when it is moving; however, if the water is delegated for a long time, such as in a toilet bowl, the iron will respond with oxygen in the water to form a reddish-brown film or ring.
Each ppm of iron is equivalent to 3 to 4 grains of water firmness, and it is recommended that an ion-exchange water softener need just to be used for iron elimination if its concentration in the water does not surpass 5 to 6ppm; otherwise, an iron filter ought to be used in combination with the water conditioner.
In addition, if chlorine levels are high, these can cause the breakdown of resin beads in the water conditioner and split and damage the manifold or filter in the water conditioner tank. To avoid these problems, make sure that your water softener resin tank is filled with 10% cross-link resin beads, which have a better tolerance for chlorine than basic 8% cross-link resin beads.
A further alternative with ion-exchange water softeners is that of a twin-tank or dual-tank alternating system (this describes a system having two interconnected ion-exchange tanks in addition to the brine tank), so there is no danger of hard water bypassing the system during the regeneration process.
The majority of water softeners are fitted with a bypass valve so that water is still available at home faucets while the system is regrowing its resin beads with salt.
Some systems enable a restricted reserve of soft water to be held for usage throughout regrowth; however, this might not suffice. If there is no reserve set, or if it goes out, hard water will flow through the bypass valve into your household water network up until the regrowth procedure has been finished. The water softener comes fully ‘online’ again.
Suppose you set your water conditioner to regenerate in the early hours of the early morning and are particular that no family water will be required throughout this period. In that case, you will not benefit from a twin-tank system.
But, if your family water use is irregular throughout the day and night or if you utilize water throughout the night, such as having a shift-worker in the home or a pre-timed laundry washing device taking advantage of off-peak energy tariffs, then the option of a twin-tank water softener will guarantee that your family water system is protected from ingress of hard water.
When the resin in one ion-exchange tank is approaching saturation and needs regeneration, the system will automatically switch over to the other tank with full capacity. In this way, you will constantly have softened water streaming in your home water network.
Iron Pro water softeners are available in dual-tank alternating models with 10% cross-link resin at numerous capacities and represent a detailed solution for chlorinated water with iron concentrations approximately 6ppm.
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2. Salt-Free Water Conditioning: Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)/ Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC)
This type of water conditioning is reasonably brand-new in industrial use and is now available at domestic family scale. The innovation has been shown in regulated tests carried out by the University of Arizona to minimize lime-scale production in hard water by over 96%.
The procedure’s concept is that tiny ceramic polymer beads in an active media consist of websites or templates that function as anchors for calcium and magnesium hardness ions to collect into clusters of nano-crystals. When these clusters have grown to a certain size, but still tiny, they break away from the beads and are swept back into the water flow.
These crystal clusters are reasonably stable and insoluble, so they will not attach to other surface areas to form lime-scale. Any scale that does form will be ‘soft scale’ instead of lime-scale and is easily removed.
TAC is efficient for water firmness as much as 25gpg at a flow rate of 7gpm; it is ranked at much greater hardness, approximately 75gpg. Unlike ion-exchange systems, the TAC/NAC media requires to be secured from iron by a pre-filter. Also, the nano-crystals formed only last about two days before they separate, so the technology is just ideal for water that is being frequently consumed.
The Aquasana SimplySoft EQ-AST-WH entire home salt-free system uses TAC/NAC technology and has a ranked capacity of 6-years.
TAC/NAC systems’ advantages consist of lower upkeep requirements, simpler setup, much better water efficiency (no requirement regrowth and the accompanying water losses), and less environmental impact.
3. Salt-Free Water Conditioning: Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Reverse osmosis is a process of forcing water through a series of exceptionally great filters under pressure, to filter all impurities out of the water, down to molecular level. The resulting product resembles pure water, with all chemicals and organic dissolved solids, consisting of hardness-causing calcium and magnesium ions, having been gotten rid of. As such, it can be considered a kind of water softening.
However, most domestic RO systems only cater to one water point in the home, with a dedicated faucet for RO water different from the rest of the household water supply. This indicates that hard water will still be going through the water heater and warm water system, producing lime-scale places where it is most damaging.
Utilizing a light industrial RO system such as the iSpring 500 Gallon/Day Commercial Grade Tankless RO Water Filter System with a storage tank and a shipment pump, you can offer enough pure softened water to your entire house for as much as 6 individuals at the suggested average of 75 gallons per person per day. A system such as this one has 4 pre-filters to remove sediment, iron and chlorine before the water goes into the RO chamber, allowing longer and more efficient operation.
There are, however, a couple of things to remember with an RO system, including the truth that it takes 2 or more gallons of hard water to produce one gallon of softened water, so water intake will always be greater than with other systems. Although RO will eliminate unwanted hardness minerals, it will likewise remove all other minerals and nourishment from the water.
This water might not be healthy to consume in the long term without reintroducing desirable minerals and salts. Finally, the RO membrane/s will need to be back-washed and cleaned regularly; luckily, the above system will do this immediately.
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4. Salt-Free Water Conditioning: Chelation
Chelation is a method of conditioning hardness-causing ions in water to not integrate with other chemicals in the water to form the so-called lime-scale. This procedure has been utilized for treating water in commercial applications for several years, such as in factories, laundries and dining establishments, but has just fairly just recently become available for domestic scale usages.
The primary distinction between ion-exchange and chelation is that the latter process does not get rid of firmness ions from the water, but merely customizes their charge state to become inert and less reactive with other chemicals. For this factor, systems using this procedure are correctly referred to as ‘water conditioners’ instead of ‘water softeners’.
The benefit of this is that calcium and magnesium ions stay in the conditioned water and can offer health advantages when consumed. There is no increase in the salt content of the water for those on low-sodium diets for health-related reasons.
Other advantages of this salt-free process are ease of setup, no water wastage, minimal upkeep, sodium usage or ecological effect.
Water conditioners utilize an active component, such as a kind of food-grade citric acid or polyphosphate, impregnated in an exchangeable cartridge, to condition or ‘sequestrate’ calcium and magnesium solidity ion, as well as those of iron and manganese, so that they will not react with other free ions to form lime-scale.
Any scale that is formed is quickly removed or gotten rid of and, in truth, existing lime-scale is gradually broken down and gotten rid of by the crystals that might form. The sequestered ions likewise do not form ‘soap residue’, and any marks left on glass surfaces can quickly be rubbed out.
Unfortunately, the conditioning only lasts for a restricted period, and water left to stand for several days, or is continuously distributed in a heating unit, will tend to lose its ‘conditioning’ and the firmness ions will re-activate. For this reason, water conditioning must only be utilized for water that will be utilized within a day or 2.
Because salt-free systems do not eliminate hardness ions from the water, water hardness tests performed on ‘conditioned’ water will reveal little difference in arising from the initial ‘tough’ water supply, making it challenging to establish the efficiency of the system.
The most typical sign of a used-up water conditioner cartridge is increasing water solidity in the form of soap residue, so it is best to guarantee that the cartridges are changed without delay and routinely.
The 3M AP904 with a ranked capability of 100,000 gallons and an expected cartridge replacement duration of 12 months is among the highest capacity salt-free water conditioners readily available. Unfortunately, the water solidity level at which this system is rated is not suggested in its literature.
The Aquios FS220 system has a rated capacity of 40,000 gallons with a maximum hardness score of 22gpg and an expected cartridge life expectancy of 4 to 6 months.
The Nuvo H2O Home system has a rated capacity of 35,000 gallons with a tested hardness rating of 15gpg, and an expected cartridge lifespan of 6 months.
In terms of value for money, based on the requirements available, the 3M AP904 appears to be the leader in this field, followed by the Aquios FS220 system. Both of these systems likewise use chlorine taste odour reduction.