All About Water Treatment Systems: Ion Exchange

Ion Exchange WaterTreatment

Private well, water treatment is your responsibility. Learn about ion exchange systems.

The EPA recommends annual testing to monitor the health of your well and using water treatment systems to ensure safety. Depending upon your geography, your well may have occasional, unexpected issues arise. Many contaminants can enter your well naturally as rainfall and snow melt pass through the rocks and soil on the way to your aquifer.

If your soil contains minerals like hydrogen sulfidearsenic, magnesium, and iron, as water passes from the surface into underground aquifers, these minerals are dissolved and carried into your water supply. These calcium and magnesium ions are known as hard water. Hard water, while not a significant health risk, can be a nuisance. Hard water can cause scale build up in pipes, restricting water flows shortening the life of your plumbing system. Hard water can also cause staining of fixtures, dishes, and affect detergents effectiveness causing it to clump and not clean properly.

Ion exchange is a water treatment system that addresses these problems. Let's explore some frequently asked question about ion exchange and how it works to remove mineral contaminants from your well water.

What exactly is ion exchange?

Ion exchange is a water treatment method where one or more contaminants are removed from water by exchanging ions with another inert or desired substance. Both the contaminant and the exchange ions need to be fully dissolved and have the same positive or negative charge. The water is circulated through a charged cation exchange resin which then removes the undesirable ion usually exchanging it for another positive ion, typically sodium. The treated water is then passed to a storage tank, the resin balls are washed in a brine solution to recharge them, and the process begins again.

What are the benefits of ion exchange treatment?

Ion exchange treatment is designed to address the issue of minerals in the well water. By removing these minerals, scaling or the buildup of solidified minerals in your plumbing is reduced or eliminated. This can improve water flow and lengthen the life of your pipes. There are two basic types of ion exchange, water softening which removes calcium and magnesium and deionization or the removal of all minerals from your water. Deionization can be further improved when used in conjunction with additional treatment like activated charcoal filtration.

Are there different types of ion exchange systems?

The basic system consists of three tanks. One holds a brine solution used to charge, wash and recharge the resin balls. The second introduces the ionized resin balls to the water and is where ion exchange takes place. The final tank stores the treated water for use in the home.

The difference lies in the resin balls and the exchange ions used. This is generally accomplished by using different salts for ion exchange. Deionization treatment followed by RO, filtration, or activated charcoal filtration can create a total water purification system.

What about maintenance for an ion exchange system?

Ion exchange systems require minimal maintenance over the life of the unit. Regular recharging by adding sodium is the most frequent maintenance. In terms of the system, occasional replacement of the resin balls may be necessary as the unit ages, or if bacteria growth is problematic. Annual cleaning, or semi-annual cleaning to remove salt deposits will add years of service. If your system is used in conjunction with another type of water treatment like filtration, it may require more regular maintenance like filter replacement.

How do I know if an ion exchange system is the right choice?

Annual testing will determine the composition and levels of any minerals present in your well. Ion exchange treatment can reduce the nuisance factor of mineralization or hard water. If you have scaling in your pipes reducing water flow, spots on dishes, pots, and pans, or staining of your walls or fixtures ionization or water softening may be an appropriate treatment. If you are looking for a total treatment system, ionization followed by filtration through activated charcoal or other treatment like RO, can provide your family with a complete water treatment solution.

The best course of action is to speak with your well water professional about your water testing and water treatment needs. Call us to a well water arrange test. A Skillings & Sons technician will analyze the results and provide you with information on all of your treatment options. Remember, your well health is your responsibility. Have your well tested annually and contact your well water professional to learn more.