Water Softener FAQ’s

Water Softener FAQ’s
1. What is hard water?
When water is referred to as “hard” this simply means that it contains a higher level of certain
minerals than ordinary water. Two of these minerals are calcium and magnesium. The level
of hardness of the water increases when more calcium and magnesium dissolves into the
water supply, thus increasing the hardness of the water. Water hardness is measured in
ppm (part per million) or GPG (grain per gallon), 17.1 ppm equals 1 GPG. To give you an
idea of water hardness levels in the U.S. see the chart below. Levels can vary within the
stated hardness areas and testing should be done for specific amounts in your water.
Due to the nature of the water bed sub-soil
structure, water hardness may vary from one
source to another within general area.
2. What is water softening?
When water contains a significant amount of calcium and magnesium, it is called hard water.
Hard water is known to clog pipes and to complicate soap and detergent dissolving in water.
Water softening is a technique that removes the ions that cause the water to be hard, in most
cases calcium and magnesium ions. Iron ions may also be removed during softening. An
effective way to soften water is to use a water softener unit and connect it directly to the
water supply.
3. What is a water softener?
A water softener is a unit that is used to soften water by removing the minerals that cause
the water to be hard. The process a softener uses is to replace the “hardness” minerals with
sodium or potassium chloride. This process is called ion exchange.
4. Why is water softening used?
Hard water can damage pipes, plumbing fixtures, ice machines, coffee machines, and other
appliances with the residue calcium carbonate creates also called scale build up. These
damaging effects can increase domestic water heating costs by about 15%-20% due to the
inefficiency of the appliance and also create damage repair expenses. Soaps and
detergents dissolve less easily in hard water therefore don’t lather or work as well. Over
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time, the scale compounds and is very difficult and costly to remove. The scale also may
breed bacteria. Water softening is an important process, because the hardness of water in
households and companies is reduced during the process. Water softening can prevent
these negative effects. With the use of a water softening system this means expanding the
life of these appliances and also household plumbing. It also contributes to the improved
operation and longer lifespan of solar heating systems, some types of air conditioning units
and many other water-based applications.
5. What does a water softener do?
A softener uses sodium chloride (salt) or potassium chloride and water to recharge or
regenerate with the exchange of hardness minerals for sodium. A water softener replaces
the “hardness” minerals with sodium or potassium. As the hard water passes through the
resin, the hardness minerals (ions) attach themselves, dislodging or swapping places with
the sodium/potassium ions. When the resin, has no sodium/potassium ions left, it is
exhausted and can soften no more water until recharged. The resin is recharged by
regeneration or flushing with salt or potassium water. Additionally, these softening units
require water for backwashing and a brine tank for the salt water mix for regeneration.
Softeners are sometimes applied to remove small amounts of iron. The softeners are able to
remove up to 5 mg/l of dissolved iron.
6. How long does a water softener last?
A water softener can last many years. Some softeners that were supplied in the 1980’s may
still work and many need little maintenance, other than filling the brine tank with salt
7. Which types of salt should be used in my softening system?
For water softening pelletized sodium chloride or potassium chloride are used. Sodium
chloride is the traditional form used but potassium chloride, although typically costing slightly
more, may be considered more environmentally friendly. Although the amount of salt added
to the water when sodium chloride is used is minimal, as discussed in greater detail in the
Crystal Quest® Water Basics FAQ’s, if someone is on a salt restricted diet potassium
chloride may be an alternative and should consult the advice of their physician. For
additional information on salt used by Crystal Quest® please visit these websites:
www.nasalt.com, Natures Own.
9. How often should salt be added?
Salt is added to the resin tank during the regeneration cycle from the brine tank. The more
often the softener needs to regenerate (higher hardness levels), the more often salt will need
to be added to the brine tank. Initially 50 pounds of salt is placed in the brine tank with
replenishing as needed, on average bi-monthly but this varies on water hardness and water
usage therefore should be checked monthly. To guarantee a satisfactory production of soft
water, the salt level should be kept at least half full at all times.
10. Why doesn’t the water become soft when salt is added to the brine tank?
Before the salt starts working in a water softener it needs some resistance time within the
brine tank to create brine, since it slowly dissolves. When regeneration is immediately
started after adding salt to the brine tank, the softener may not work according to standards.
It could also indicate a problem with the salt that has been applied.
11. How much does it cost to operate a softener?
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There are different types of softeners available and as a result costs vary. Costs greatly
depend on the type of softener and also on the hardness of the water that needs softening as
well as water usage. When water is very hard and is used heavily, the softening costs will
rise. Generally the cost of water softening is due to the cost of salt. Normally this averages
around $3.00 per person a month. For consideration purposes on average a water softener
is backwashed and regenerated weekly for 5-10 minutes per session using 5 gallons per
minute thus the water used during this process is 25-50 gallons per backwash weekly. This
will vary on water hardness levels and frequency of backwashing. The cost involved in
softening water with a water softener is usually far outweighed by the benefits and cost
savings obtained through using softened water.
12. Do municipalities soften water to residents?
Although municipalities have the opportunity to produce softened water, they do not always
do so. Hard water problems are most likely to occur when water is heated. As a result, hard
water causes very few problems to the water company, especially since only cold water runs
through their piping. In many cases the waters hardness level is also not on the stated
municipals water quality report often you must inquire individually for this secondary test
13. Is softened water safe to drink?
Softened water still contains all the natural minerals that we need. It is only deprived of its
calcium and magnesium contents and some sodium or potassium is added during the
softening process. That is why, in most cases, softened water is perfectly safe to drink. In
areas where water is extremely hard, sodium levels may be higher elevated after the
softening process. As mentioned earlier if someone is on a salt restricted diet they should
consult the advice of their physician.
14. Can the salt from the softener enter the drinking water?
As discussed in the Crystal Quest® Water Basics FAQ’s and in various locations within this
document salt can be added to the water with the use of the traditional softener but the
amounts of sodium are relatively insignificant and should not pose a health problem. This
amount will vary based on the water hardness of the raw water supply. On average, less
than 3% sodium uptake comes from drinking softened water. For comparison of the amount
of salt that may be added to you water we can consider one slice of bread that contains
about 114 mg of salt or an 8 oz. glass of milk having 120 mg of salt. If your water contains
10 GPG (grains per gallon), and if you consumed a total of one quart of softened water per
day, your intake of additional sodium would be 75 mg less than the one slice of bread or 8
oz. glass of milk. If sodium is of concern to you or if someone in the home is on a sodium
restricted diet should follow the advice of a physician or consider using potassium chloride.
15. Will softening drinking water deprive it of essential minerals?
Softening does not deprive water of its essential minerals. It only deprives water of minerals
that cause water to be hard, such as calcium, magnesium and some iron.
16. When does the softener resin need to be replaced?
When the water does not become soft enough, one needs to first consider problems with the
salt used or mechanical malfunction of the softener control valve. When these elements are
not the cause of unsatisfactory softening, it may be time to change the resin. Through
experience we know that ion exchange resins last several years.
17. Does the brine tank need cleaning?
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Usually it is not necessary to clean out a brine tank.
18. Can brine from softeners damage a septic tank?
The Water Quality Association has performed studies on this subject. These studies have
indicated that a properly placed septic tank that works adequately cannot be damaged by the
brine that is discharged from a water softener. Softened water can sometimes even help
reduce the amount of detergents discharged into a septic tank. Consulting your professional
licensed plumber for help in accessing this is suggested.
19. Can a softener be used with lead pipes?
Lead pipe plumbing systems have to be replaced before softened water can flow through
them. Although lead pipe systems in hard water areas may not cause a problem, it is
advisable to replace them anyway. When naturally or artificially softened water ends up in
these lead pipe systems, it may cause the pickup or “leaching” of lead. If replacing the lead
pipes in your home is not an option an additional whole house tank which addresses the
removal of lead should be used with the softening system.
20. Can a water softener be taken along if I move?
With modern systems, it is very possible to take them along when moving. Installation
techniques involve quick fitting connections, similar to those used for laundry machines. All
that has to be done is closing of the water inlet and outlet valves of the softener and open the
bypass allowing the raw hard water to flow around the system and into the home.
Afterwards, the softener can be removed, moved to its new location and reinstalled there.
21. Can the waste water be directed into a garden?
Direct discharge of either sodium or potassium chloride brine should be avoided.
22. Is softened water any help for dry skin conditions?
There are cases to be noted, in which people with dry skin conditions have benefitted from
water softening, because soft water is kinder to the skin and hair. Softened water helps
unclog your pores and keeps your skin smooth and healthy. Individual results will vary.
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