Tired of Hard Water? Choose the Right Softener
If you’re tired of dealing with hard water, there are many softening solutions available.
Invented in 1903, water softening technology didn’t move into widespread use until the 1920s. The original salt-based technology removed calcium and magnesium from water, eliminating the minerals that left white scale (limescale) on everything.
Hard water requires more soap, is difficult to rinse clean and leaves residues on everything from skin and hair to faucets, glassware and laundry. It affects how food and drinks taste, and it can build up inside pipes, water heaters and plumbed appliances, reducing water flow and appliance lifespan.
To address hard water issues, it’s important to understand your options. The most popular technologies fall into two basic categories:
True water softeners remove calcium and magnesium from water and replace them with softer minerals such as sodium (salt) or potassium.
Salt-Based Ion Exchange. This is the original soft water technology. Water passes through a tank filled with salt, and in the process, the salt extracts calcium and magnesium by replacing two sodium ions for every one calcium ion. It removes problematic hard minerals, but increases salt levels in the water, so this technology is restricted in some states.
Potassium-Based Ion Exchange. Developed as an alternative to sodium, potassium exchange units work much like salt ion exchange systems. Calcium and magnesium are removed when potassium particles are replaced with potassium. These systems are popular with those who are concerned about the effects of adding salt to drinking water and the technology is accepted in most states.
Water conditioners use salt-free technologies to temper or descale the water rather than remove minerals.
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). Also called template induced crystallization (TIC), the core technology uses resin beads to convert hard minerals into microscopic crystals that don’t adhere to surfaces and wash away through normal water use. While it’s 90% effective in reducing scale, extremely hard water reduces performance and the technology is less effective in preventing scale buildup in water heaters, humidifiers and similar equipment where water sits or is stored.
Magnetic Field. A compact electronic device attaches to the main water line as it comes into the house. It generates a magnetic field that alters the electromagnetic properties of calcium-carbonate minerals. The altered magnetic field means calcium particles repel each other, which reduces limescale buildup in and on pipes, appliances and surfaces. Some studies show the magnetic effect only lasts for 48 hours then water reverts to its naturally hard state, so it’s most effective for water put to immediate use.
To find the right softener solution, have your water tested and work with an expert who can advise you on the technology, devices and systems that will work best for your household.