Hard water is a term used for water with high mineral levels, particularly calcium, manganese and magnesium. When using hard water, you may notice that whitish debris or stain is left behind once the water dries up.
However, it’s understandable that you would want to get rid of hard water for good. Hard water doesn’t just cause stains, they make bathing and laundry more difficult as well. Hard water is also unsuitable for plants when the soil content is already acidic. You’re also likely to be pestered by salespeople who will try to sell you overly complicated machines to treat your water. Learn more about your options and make informed decisions when dealing with hard water with these tips.
How “Hard” is Your Water?
When considering your options for treating hard water, you must first determine exactly what mineral levels in your water you’re dealing with. You can go visit your water testing lab and have the mineral levels tested. Hard water hardness is determined by grains found per gallon or GPG. The classification goes as thus:
- Soft Water: 0-1 GPG
- Slightly Hard Water: 1-3.5 GPG
- Moderately Hard Water: 3.5-7.0
- Hard Water: 7.0-10.5
- Very Hard Water: 10.5 and above
Water with a hardness reading of 3.5 and above, under the classification of “moderately hard water” is generally recommended for treatment.
Ion Exchange Water Softener
The simplest way to get rid of hard water is to get an ion exchange water softener. Sounds hi-tech? It’s actually quite simple. The water softener unit is made of two tanks, a resin tank and a salt tank. The resin tank is filled with small plastic beads with a permanent charge called sodium ions, which is used to exchange the calcium and magnesium present in your water. For the beads to be reusable, they must be soaked in salt water, which is where the second tank comes in. The brine in the water takes away the magnesium and calcium from the beads and replaces them with new sodium ions.
Some people do not like using salt tanks, as it adds salt in your water, although there’s still no hard proof that the minimal salt added can be detrimental. Potassium chloride is used as an alternative to salt. People with hypertension should first consult with their doctor if getting an ion exchange water softener will be appropriate for their special needs.
When buying a water softener, you should consider the volume of water your household uses daily. One person uses an average of 87 gallons of water daily. You should also calculate the hardness of your water and how hard your ion exchange water softener should work. Multiplying the number of gallons you use daily with the GPG should give you the demand of grains the water softener should deal with daily. For example, for one day of water usage with a GPG of five will give you 435 grains per day. In a week of water usage, that will be 3,045 grains per day, and that’s just for one person. Make sure that the water softener that you purchase will be able handle the required volume of water.
Ion exchange water softeners have different methods of recharging. One method is to have a time clock where recharging is done on a schedule. Another is by electronic sensing, where the unit will recharge only after sensing that enough resin need to be recharged. Others use computer technology to calculate when to recharge.
Polyphosphate feeders have a simpler process than the ion exchange water softener. Polyphosphate feeders work by having housing units with polyphosphate crystals inside where the water flows through, dissolving the crystals. The polyphosphate then coats itself around the iron, calcium and magnesium in the hard water. This will then prevent the usual problems that we run into with hard water.
If you’re operation on a private well, take note that bacterial love feeding on phosphates, and if you’re already having bacterial problems, this is not the appropriate solution for you. Polyphosphate feeders also are not suited for high volumes with hot water applications.
In some cases called “temporary hardness,” water attains a hard water quality caused by hydrogen carbonate or bicarbonate ions. Boiling the water in a kettle, a process called as “furring of kettles” will make the deposit calcify at the bottom of the kettle, creating a scale-like formation that gives it its name. You’ll also end up with soft water that’s ready to use.
Lime-Soda Ash Treatment
This treatment was developed by Thomas Clark, involving adding slaked lime or calcium hydroxide to the hard water supply. The combination causes the hydrogen carbonate-based hardness to actually harden and precipitate, making it removable via filtration.
Sodium carbonate works on the same principle as the lime-soda ash treatment. Adding sodium carbonate to hard water that contains calcium sulphate forms a bond that will make the calcium carbonate sink to the bottom, making it filterable.
Magnetic or Electronic Water Conditioners
Magnetic and electronic water conditioners function as water softeners by creating an energy field that will allow water to flow through. However, the particles that create the water’s hardness will react to the energy field and are altered. disallowing them from precipitating and attaching to bodies or fixtures. These will then go down the drain.
These water or electronic water conditioners are actually quite controversial as some skeptics say that there is a lack of scientific evidence that the efficacy of the process is sound.
Making an informed decision is key when deciding how to treat hard water in your household. Asking different opinions from your neighbors, plumbers and water professionals also help. Once you’ve had your hard water problem resolved, it’s also a good time to start working on how to get rid of the pesky hard water stains that they’ve caused. Good luck!
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