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PLUMBING • DRAINS • COOLING • WATER QUALITY
Thursday, 10 September 2015 19:10

The ABC of Plumbing - How a Water Softener Works

A water softener is designed to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium that cause "hard water". These minerals dissolve into the groundwater from surrounding rock. When you have hard water in the home you will find that the mineral scale shows up on glassware and in your tub and shower. When severe enough, hard water scale can harm you home's plumbing system by clogging pipes and reducing the effectiveness of your water heater. It can also make laundering clothes more difficult by reducing the effectiveness of soaps and detergents.

The Answer to Hard Water is a Water Softener

A water softener is a mechanical appliance that is attached to a home's plumbing system. Using a process called ion exchange the minerals in the water are exchanged for sodium. A mineral tank filled with tiny polystyrene beads that create a negative charge. Because the minerals in the water carry a positive charge, they will cling to the beads as the water flows through the mineral tank.

Water softeners have a separate tank with a brine (liquified salt) solution. When the brine is added to the mineral tank the sodium ions, which also have a positive charge, it saturates the beads and displaces the magnesium and calcium "softening" the water.

The sodium attaches to the beads, replacing the calcium and magnesium, which get rinsed down the drain. Once rinsed of minerals, the tank is flushed of brine and refilled.

Have questions about hard water in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.

Hard water can cause problems for homeowners in both increased energy usage and a shortened lifespan of appliances. The two minerals most commonly found in hard water, calcium and magnesium, make heating water less efficient. It requires more energy to heat mineral heavy water compared to clear, purified water.

Hard Water and Plumbing Problems

Hard water can also cause limescale build-up, drastically restricting the water flow in your pipes. Steel pipes are the most prone to this problem, copper and PVC are not as susceptible to limescale build up. Over time this scale build up can lower water pressure in your home's plumbing, eventually leading to costly damage to pipes and plumbing fixtures. As the flow in pipes becomes more restricted, the limescale buildup will happen at a faster rate.

The areas that you may first notice mineral build up are in areas around shower heads, plugs, faucets and valves. Slowly dripping faucets can cause scale build up on sink surfaces and could damage the rubber washers that are required to keep the mechanism water tight. If this occurs, the washers can sometimes be difficult to replace.

Valves that are found in various appliances, such as ice-makers, washing machines and dishwashers can also end up with scale build-up. If small amounts of limescale build up around the valves, they may not be able to completely close, which can allow water to leak.

Hard Water and Water Heaters

Heating elements in water heaters can also quickly form mineral deposits. When there is limescale between the heating element and the water it will act as a barrier, preventing the water from heating up efficiently and causing the burners to work overtime. Mineral deposits from hard water can also dramatically reduce the lifespan of a water heater by clogging pipes, valves and drains.

Have questions about hard water in hour home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.

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