Water softeners are usually considered a necessity in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, as most residents find themselves having to deal with the problems associated with the extremely hard water of our region. Hard water can build up and do damage to pipes and appliances which use water, so it is important to do something to soften your water to prolong their life. But what type of water softening solution is the best? We have put together an overview of the most common water softening options, including salt-free water softeners, traditional water softeners, reverse osmosis systems, and distillation, and have presented the pros and cons of each. If you require a water softening solution for your home, contact the local experts at WaterSmart today.
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Salt-Free Water Softener
Salt-free water softeners use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride during regeneration, using a technology called chelation. According to Hometips.com, this process is actually more of a descaling process than a water softening process. In the chelation process, the metal ions magnesium and calcium (the minerals that cause hard water) are bound to a chelating agent. These minerals are not actually removed from the water, but they are suspended in the water which prevents them from being deposited onto the surfaces of water-using appliances, fixtures, and pipes.
- If, for health reasons, you are on a sodium-reduced diet, you may want to consider this type of softener. It is important to note though that most health concerns are related to excessive sodium chloride, not sodium bicarbonate, which is the compound that results from using a salt-based softener.
- Scale can still build up in areas where the water sits, such as inside your water heater.
- Potassium Chloride is usually more expensive to buy than water softener salt.
- Generally not as effective as a conventional water softener, however it is better than having no softener at all.
Salt-Based Ion Exchange Softeners
Salt-based Ion Exchange Softeners are the most common type of water softener. A salt-based softener works as follows:
- Hard water (containing positive calcium and magnesium ions) enters your water softener.
- The negatively charged resin beads attract the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions like a magnet.
- The positive ions attach to the resin beads as the negative sodium ions on the beads are released into the water, making it soft.
- After a while, the resin beads will fill up with hardness ions and they won't be able to attract anymore. Your water softener will go offline and salt brine will regenerate the resin beads by washing away the hardness ions and replacing them with a fresh layer of sodium ions.
- Once the regeneration is finished, the water softener can then go back online and start softening water again.
There are two basic styles of salt-based water softeners: side-by-side units and single canister units.
1. Side-By-Side Salt-Based Ion Exchange Softener
A side-by-side salt-based ion exchange softener uses two separate tanks: a resin tank and a brine tank. The resin tank is where the main regeneration cycle takes place. It contains resin beads which attract the hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium like a magnet, effectively removing them from your water. The brine tank contains the water softening salt which is used to regenerate the resin beads.
- Water softener salt is usually less expensive than potassium chloride
- These units are relatively easy to clean
- Overall this is the most economical water softening solution when considering initial purchase and maintenance costs
- Some people are concerned about the addition of sodium to the drinking water. However, the amount of sodium added is minimal compared to a healthy person’s normal diet and most health concerns are related to excessive sodium chloride, not sodium bicarbonate which is the compound that results from using a salt-based softener
2. Cabinet Ion Exchange Softener
The cabinet ion exchange softener has all of the components of a water softener including the salt tank enclosed into a single container.
- This type of softener can be very bulky and heavy. You will not want to move it often
- They can be difficult to clean so you should consider using a very high purity water softener salt in order to cut down on how often you need to clean it. For more information about the different types of water softener salts, check out our infographic
A reverse osmosis system uses a filter that has pores which are large enough for water molecules to pass through, yet small enough to prevent the hardness ions such as calcium and magnesium from passing through. These hard ions are left behind and flushed away with excess water.
- Reverse osmosis systems do not need to use salt or potassium chloride to produce soft water, so there are no added ions. This is a good solution for people concerned about additional sodium
- These systems remove many other harmful chemicals from your water. Click here to find out more. http://watersmartsystems.com/blogs/best-reverse-osmosis-system-canada-2017
- Many people find that a reverse osmosis system also improves the taste of the water
- The membranes used in the filtering process need to be regularly replaced
- Uses more water than other softening systems to operate
- RO units are usually more expensive than ion exchange softeners, but much cheaper than distillers
Water can also be softened by distillation. This is the process where pure water is separated from the other components found in tap water by evaporation, condensation, and collection of the resulting pure water.
- The resulting pure water is free from any hardening minerals as well as other harmful substances.
- Distillers are too expensive and the process takes too long to make them a viable alternative to water softeners and reverse osmosis systems.
The Water Smart Difference
WaterSmart has been servicing the KW region for more than two decades, so we understand the special water softening requirements of this area. Our customers have come to recognize us as a company who provides superior customer service combined with the highest quality products at the best prices. Contact the water softener specialists at WaterSmart today.