Water softening systems are special units or processes that remove minerals such as magnesium, and calcium from water. Usually, water from bores contains soluble minerals such as calcium compounds, magnesium compounds, and iron compounds. Water containing such compounds is called hard water. The presence of such soluble minerals increases the boiling point of water.
Major problems with hard water are:
- Minerals in hard water tend to become insoluble when heated. So they get deposited in pipe lines and harden. This can cause plumbing problems.
- They also form scales in the vessels or equipment in which they are heated. Therefore, there can be unsightly scales on faucets, toilets, sinks, etc.
- Because of such scales and deposits, more energy is needed to heat such water. It is estimated that increase in power bills due to hard water is nearly 15 to 20 percent.
- Another drawback of hard water is that soap does not lather easily with it. So people tend to use more soap with such water.
Therefore, water softening systems ensure;
- That plumbing systems remain clean and efficient
- That vessels and equipment remain free from scale formation
- That less soap is used for bathing and washing clothes
- That there is less power used for cooling or heating purposes
Hard water therefore affects water heating units in households and industries. The list of equipment that can be affected by hard water includes geysers, boilers, washing machines, reservoirs, air conditioning units, and pipes. Hard water can also affect cold water systems. Water softening systems are therefore essential to prevent any damage to such equipment.
Water Softening Systems Techniques
Water softening systems may consist of an ion exchanging unit. This unit replaces the ions of calcium and magnesium, with ions of other elements and eventually transforms these soluble minerals into insoluble compounds. The insoluble compounds are then flushed away into drains.
The ions of other elements such as sodium, or potassium, which do not cause any hardening of water, and which are not harmful for the purpose for which the water is needed, are used in this ion exchange. Therefore, softening systems use softening salts, such as rock salt, evaporating salt, or solar salt. These then interact with the soluble minerals present in the hard water, and remove or replace them.
Some softening systems use resins, while others may use zeolites. Such resins are organic compounds that are effective for ion exchange. In the resin based systems, hard water is passed over resins which contain positive ions such as those of Hydrogen and potassium, which replace undesirable ions in hard water.
At times lime softening techniques are used in the water softening systems. This entails using limewater so as to remove primary water hardening agents, i.e., magnesium and calcium ions.
Lime water is chemically calcium hydroxide. It helps to remove the undesirable ions. Some systems use chelating agents such as citric acid. Such chelating agents are ideal for personal care products like shampoos, soaps, and other laundry detergents. Such chelating agents are also good for preserving food.
There are a few softening agents that do not use any chemicals, nor do they generate any salts. Some systems may be based on electricity. It is possible to distill the hardened water. However, the major drawback of the distilling process is that it is a rather expensive way of softening water.
Some softening techniques are suitable for households, while others are suitable for industries. The degree of water hardening may also dictate which type of softening system should be used. There are water testing devices which help to determine the water’s hardness.
There are various types of water conditioners available in the market. Some of these may take some time to become effective, while others may be effective almost instantaneously. Most of the softening systems sold online come with lifetime guarantees. Even parts in these systems can be replaced.
Water conditioning systems based on salts, or reagents need to be checked regularly. At times they may have to be checked on a monthly basis. The process does leave some sodium in the water. Therefore, it may be harmful to drink it if too much sodium is there in the soft water. But other than that these systems provide several benefits. Therefore it is a good idea to invest in water softening systems.