Is your home plagued by hard water? If so, you’re in very good company. In fact, about 80% of the homes in America have hard water – and it can really impact everyday life – from cooking to cleaning to doing laundry.
Hard water makes it difficult to rinse the shampoo from your hair, and leaves skin feeling slimy. You may notice that dishes fresh out of the dishwasher remain covered with with spots and even clothes require more laundry detergent than normal to get clean. Hard water is hard on everything, whether you’re bathing, using appliances or cleaning.
What Exactly is Hard Water?
Hard water is water that contains a lot of dissolved minerals (like calcium and magnesium). It can build up in your plumbing, clog pipes and reduce the efficiency of appliances. The amount of minerals that make your water hard varies, but it can be anywhere from 3.5 grams per gallon to more than 10 grams per gallon.
Rainwater doesn’t contain minerals, but as that water travels through the ground to reach our lakes, ponds and aquifers, it runs into chalk, lime, calcium, and magnesium, which can eventually end up in your tap water. Some geographic locations are more prone hard water because there’s simply more mineral-enriched ground for the water to travel through.
Hard Water Solutions
Solving the hard water problem requires a water softener system and the two that are are most common are salt based water softeners and electronic water conditioners. Both work quite differently:
A water softener like the GE 30,000 Grain Water Softener is an appliance that’s installed usually where the main water line comes into the home. All water passes through the softener first, before entering the home’s plumbing system.
Salt-based Water Softeners
Salt-based water softeners work by exchanging sodium ions for hard water ions. The system uses resin beads to “attract” the minerals (calcium and magnesium) by giving the minerals an opposite molecular charge. Since calcium and magnesium are both positively charged molecules, the resin beads provide a negatively charged material to pull them out of the water and extract the positive calcium and magnesium. The minerals make an exchange with the salt, which then cycles them out leaving you with conditioned water on its way to your plumbing system.
Salt Quality Counts
Salt-based water softeners provide a highly effective and permanent solution to your hard water problem. However, the systems need to be maintained, and do use salt. However, if you use the best quality salt, maintenance can be greatly reduced. The best quality water softener salt pellets are compacted and specially formulated to build in the water softener brine tank, helping to keep your water softener clean and trouble-free.
If the salt is not of good quality, an “salt bridge” can occur when a hard crust forms in the tank and creates an empty space between the water and the salt, which prevents the salt from dissolving into the water to soften it. It can also lead to “salt mushing” when dissolved salt recrystallizes and forms a sludge on the bottom of the brine tank. This thick layer of salt keeps the water softener from properly cycling creating a serious blockage in the tank. So for these reasons and other, be sure to use a good quality salt for your softening system.
Do Salt-Based Water Softeners Add Salt to Water?
With all this salt going into your water, you may be starting to think that this salt must be really bad for your health. In actual fact, a salt-based water softener does NOT add salt (sodium chloride) to your homes drinking water! Instead, it exchanges sodium ions for the troublesome hardness ions, and adds sodium to the water supply in the form of sodium bicarbonate. During the water softening process, the softener is separated from the household water supply by an automatic bypass valve, making sure that no salt enters the house.
Electronic Water Conditioners
This type of water softener is not really a softener at all, which is why the ternchaly correct term is “water conditioner.” An electronic water conditioner uses a completely different process for removing the hard minerals from your water. Instead of exchanging the minerals for salt, the conditioner manipulates the molecules using nanotechnology. The conditioner emits electronic frequencies that cause the hard water minerals to lose their electrostatic charge. Once that happens, the minerals can no longer cling to your homes plumbing system. As the water flows through your plumbing, it acts as a de-scaler for your plumbing and will, over time, dissolve the mineral deposits.
While not for every home, this salt-free water conditioner system by ScaleBlaster offers the convenience of a very simple installation, that won’t even require a plumber. To set up the water conditioner, a wire connected to the conditioner is wrapped around the main water pipe, and conditioner turned on and immediately begins working. The system needs virtually no maintenance and of course, does not require salt.
Why Fix Hard Water?
Whether you select a salt-based water softener or an electronic water conditioner, you’ll be able to put the hassles of hard water behind you. With no water spots, or soapy, slimy feeling that won’t go way, you’ll use less water. Your clothes will come out cleaner and your appliances will last longer and be more efficient.
Bottom line, you will feel cleaner, look brighter, and be happier with your new soft water.