All About Water Treatment Systems: Water Softeners

Well Water Treatment, FAQ's on Water Softeners

Learn How Water Softeners Can be Used To Treat Hard Water Problems for Well Owners.

If you own a home with a private well it's your responsibility to make sure that your water supply is safe and clean. There are many potential contaminants that can affect your water quality. The best solution is to test your well annually to make sure that your water supply is safe.

Hard water is a very common problem that while not a health risk, can be a nuisance. Hard water is generally the result of dissolved calcium, magnesium or other minerals in your water supply. It occurs naturally as water passes through soil containing minerals like limestone, chalk or marble. Installing a whole house water softening system can resolve the problem quickly and affordably.

Let's answer some frequently asked questions about water softening systems.

What is a water softener?

A water softener is a system that removes the dissolved ions in water that cause it to be “hard.” In most instances, this is calcium and magnesium ions. Some water softeners will also remove and iron ions that may be present. There are several different approaches to removing minerals from your home's water including point-of-use filtering by distillation or reverse osmosis, adding chemical softeners like borax or washing soda, or running it through a point-of-entry water softening system.

What are the benefits of a water softener?

Hard water, while not a health risk can be a real nuisance. Hard water causes scaling in pipes, slowly narrowing the pipe opening and restricting water flow as scale builds up. It can also cause staining and spotting on fixtures, pots, dishes and sinks. Minerals in the water can also reduce the effectiveness of soap and detergents. Instead of dissolving, the soap combines with the minerals present and forms a coagulated soap curd. Because less soap is dissolved, more is required and the curd clings to skin and hair. In the laundry, the soap curd can actual trap dirt in the fabric making it stiff and rough.

A whole house water softener removes the minerals before they enter your home's plumbing. That means no more staining, scaling or build-up. Appliances like dishwashers and washing machines need less detergent, require less maintenance and will have longer lifespans. The water flow through your pipes is unimpeded, and clothes, dishes and you are cleaner!

Are there different types of water softeners available?

While there are several different approaches to water softening such as chemical additives and reverse osmosis, all treatment systems use the same operating principal. They trade the minerals for something else, usually sodium. This aforementioned process called ion exchange.

The heart of a water softening system is a mineral tank. It is filled with small polystyrene beads called resin or zeolite. These beads carry a negative charge. Calcium and magnesium both carry positive charges. When hard water flows into the mineral tank the calcium and magnesium ions, attach to the polystyrene beads removing them from the water. The soft water then passes into the plumbing and is delivered to your faucets. When the beads are saturated, it is then flushed with a light brine solution which also has a positive charge. This cleans the beads and resets the system. Most systems have an automatic regenerating system that utilizes an electric timer which flushes and resets the system on a regular basis. Because water systems use sodium to treat hard water, your drinking water may have a slightly salty taste. This is why some homeowners opt to install a point-of-entry water softener along with a second point-of-use system like distillation or reverse osmosis to provide water for drinking and cooking.

What about water softener maintenance?

Modern water softening systems are relatively maintenance free, but regular cleaning and checks can lengthen their lifespan. For the most part the brine tank will require some minor general maintenance such as checking the salt level. As a general rule, most modern systems can go for 5 to 10 years without a major cleaning.

How do I know if a water softener is right for me?

While hard water poses no risk to health, it is a nuisance. It can shorten the lifespan of appliances, disrupt the cleaning ability of soaps and detergents, and stain pots, dishes, and fixtures. The best way to determine if you need a water softening system is to have your water tested to determine the exact concentration of minerals. Contact your well water professional to arrange for testing. They can analyze the results and explain the costs and treatment options available to you.

A water softening system is an affordable way to treat your well water and remove minerals. It can save money over time by eliminating scaling in your plumbing, lengthen the life of your appliances, and reduce staining of fixtures. Before installing any water treatment system make sure to have your well tested to make sure you are aware of any additional problems that may be present. The best course of action is to contact a well water professional. They can help you to ensure that your family will enjoy a healthy, safe supply of water in your home.