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Soft Water Systems

Hard Water Versus Soft Water

Water is not created equally. Some water will be deemed hard and others soft. Is one type better than the other? If so, what type of water do you have in your home? Hard water is not always more preferable and vice versa. Depending on what you are using the water for, there will be advantages and disadvantages that are briefly outlined below.

Hard water contains relatively high amounts of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Rainwater is initially soft but as it makes it way through the ground and into waterways, it picks up minerals along the way. Along with its taste, this sometimes makes hard water more preferable for drinking.

Soft water contains few to no extra elements. Soft water is all natural water or produced with water treatment systems that remove its elements. Sometimes soft water has a salty taste and in some cases are not suitable for drinking. However, soft water can make your appliances last longer and reduces the usage of cleaning detergents.

Generally, soft water is great for cleaning and showering purposes while hard water is usually associated with a unique taste. Keep in mind that excessive hard water can cause scaling inside your pipes, water heaters, coffee makers, and even industrial machinery. The scale restricts flow through your pipes and is a poor conductor of heat. As a result, your pipes can become completely clogged. However, soft water can deteriorate metal equipment used in pools which will lead to the staining of concrete, vinyl, and fiberglass materials.

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The Different Types Of Soft Water Systems

Soft water systems are a type of water filtration system. They treat hard water by using salt and ion-exchange resins to remove calcium and magnesium. Resins are coated with a sodium solution, so when hard water comes into contact with the resin beads, the calcium and magnesium ions will migrate out of the solution to active sites on the resin. This allows them to be replaced by sodium ions.

There are also salt-free soft water systems alternatives available if you do not want to add chemicals or salt to their water. This alternative is more eco-friendly as they are easier to maintain, do not require rinse water and electricity, and are 100% salt-free.

By far, the most popular and commonly used type of soft water system is an ion-exchange or “cation exchange” unit. Depending on what your needs are, it’s important to understand the differences and where the strengths of each one are.

Salt-Based Ion Exchange Softener

This soft water system moves household water through two tanks: one with special resin beads and the other filled wth brine. This conventional soft water system substitutes sodium for hard minerals such as iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Salt-Free Water Softener

Instead of sodium, this softener regenerates with a potassium chloride salt substitute and is usually a descaler. So, it doesn’t reduce hard water minerals but prevents minerals from entering. This soft water system is not as efficient as its conventional counterpart but is better than having no system at all.

Dual-Tank Water Softener

A special feature of the dual tank water softener system is that it has two resin tanks instead of one. So, when one tank is in use, the other is regenerating. This allows softened water to be supplied continuously without any break in service. Also, because this soft water system operates on demand, they can be smaller than single tank units.

How Can You Install A Soft Water System?

The thought of installing a soft water system can be daunting. While different softeners have their unique installation methods, you will want to do some additional research to determine the exact materials you need for the job. Installing a water softener yourself allows you to work at your own pace. And while a new installation does require additional plumbing knowledge, it can be solved within a few hours by a certified and trained Hy-Pro Plumber.

The location you intend to install your softener also matters, and you will also need to consider the types of pipes you have. For example, whole house systems need to be installed as close to the place where the water enters your house as possible. At a minimum, the system should feed into the hot water heater or else the hard water can end up corroding the tank and shortening its lifespan. A key thing to be aware of is to not install your soft water system downstream from your water heater. The high temperatures can damage the unit.

Remember to always follow the instructions that come with your water system and to check that you’re conforming to building codes. Some codes will require a bypass or shut-off valve to be installed with the unit. Once you are ready to get started, here are the general steps to take to installing your salt based soft water system:

  • Shut off the water to your house. Open the lowest valve in your house to drain your pipes, allowing the water to run out.
  • Shut off your hot water heater and the power leading to it.
  • Locate the area along the main line where you want to install the water softener. This line must feed into the hot water heater.
  • Use a pipe cutter to cut into the main line. Tighten the cutter onto the pipe and rotate it until the pipe is cut through. Catch any water that comes out of the pipe in a bucket or container.
  • Install an elbow fitting in the line. If necessary, this allows you to feed the filter and have a bypass valve that will let you feed water around the filter.
  • Measure the pipes that lead to the bypass valve. Before connecting the pipe to the bypass valve, cut the pipes to fit and solder on any fittings.
  • Using compression fittings, attach the pipes to the unit. This should be automatically supplied.
  • Clamp the hose to the unit before feeding it to where it will drain. The end of the hose must be at least two inches above the drain hole to prevent the water from back siphoning. You can drain the water to a floor drain, utility sink, or sump pump.
  • Connect the overflow tube to the brine tank. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Turn the valve to the bypass position and flush out any debris.
  • Plug in your system and set the valve to the backwash position. Open the valve up slowly for water to come in and to release any air in the pipes.

Again, this basic installation method is for salt based soft water systems only. Different systems have different installation methods. It is important to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when in doubt. Call us to tell us about your project to learn how we can help.

What Are The Benefits Of Hiring A Professional?

Some crucial points to consider when you’re making a decision to hire a professional or not is the installation time. When you hire a professional, you can expect to devote about five hours on average. Two hours will be divided for the initial demonstration, another two for the installation, and one hour for the follow-up visit if necessary. Keep in mind that this can vary depending on the site.

In the initial demonstration, an experienced professional will inspect the plumbing site and discuss with you the best options and pricing. A month of two after the installation, the installation process, equipment, and ongoing in-home maintenance will be reviewed. Any questions you may have will also be answered during or before this time.

If you decide to install your soft water system yourself, you will be dependent upon your own knowledge. The first step is to figure out your water quality. How can you change it? To do this, you will need to measure the water qualities, determine how many of these qualities must be treated, and the size of the equipment needed. Next, comes the shopping. There are a variety of options available online and in-stores. Once prices are compared and a purchase is made, consider how you will install the equipment.

If you have any questions or are ready to tell us about your project, don’t hesitate to contact Hy-Pro Plumbing & Drain Cleaning today!

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