1-2-3 At Rayne Water Systems, we believe it’s not enough to just match our customers’ to the right equipment for their needs, but to educate them on how it works, and how a particular water treatment device will improve their situation. We’ve often been asked by our clients exactly how their water softener works, and whether it’s a good investment in the long run. Knowing this information will not only give you insight into water treatment, but will also keep you on your toes when less-than-reputable dealers come around offering seemingly magical water treatment products that have no foundation in science.

How Ion Exchange Water Softening Works

As we explained in an earlier post, what we’re doing when we soften water is removing the dissolved hardness minerals in the water, most commonly calcium carbonate. The softening process most commonly used by the water treatment industry for removing dissolved hardness minerals—for reasons of effectiveness, affordability, and reliability—is ion exchange water softening. In ion exchange softening, a water-tight tank is filled with a certain amount of tiny, sand-colored ion-exchange resin beads. These resin beads have the opposite electrical charge as the dissolved minerals in the water, and when the hard water water passes across the surface of those beads, the dissolved mineral ions are attracted to the surface of the beads, exchanging places with sodium or potassium ions originally located on the surface of those beads.

Now the hardness ions only have so much space to cling to on the resin beads before every space is taken, so to reset the process and allow the resin to continue softening the water, a process called regeneration takes place. At its simplest, regeneration simply means the tank holding the resin beads gets saturated with a brine of consisting of water and either sodium or potassium ions. This brine allows the sodium or potassium to switch places with the hardness ions on the surface of the resin. This brine is then drained out of the tank and hard water brought through again, which the resin will then be able to continue softening. This is the basic principle of ion exchange.

Automatic Water Softeners

In an automatic softener, the entire ion exchange softening process is automated. The typical auto softener consists of a main (resin) tank, and a brine tank. As long as the brine tank is kept filled with an adequate supply of salt, and the moving parts of the unit, mainly the control head, are kept in good working order through regular preventative maintenance, then the unit can run essentially indefinitely (although the actual service life depends on the build quality of the softener you choose).

Portable Exchange Water Softening

Portable Exchange water softening is an alternative to an automatic softener, and is typically used in regions where having an automatic unit is not feasible, or when a customer would rather not have to deal with regular salt delivery. With portable exchange, a fresh tank of ion exchange resin is delivered to a location and hooked up so that it can soften the water (the frequency of tank changes is determined by the hardness and usage patterns of the customer’s water). When the tank is no longer able to soften the water, a fresh tank is brought to replace the spent tank, which is taken to a central area for regeneration under controlled conditions.

Why is Soft Water a Good Investment?

Soft water is one of the best upfront investments you can make as a homeowner to save yourself money down the road. Just like the old saying “you have to spend money to make money,” spending money now on a quality water softener ensures that you’ll save much money down the road due to avoiding the common costs (both big and small) of hard water.

1) Protects Your Pipes

Hard water will wreak havoc on the pipes in your house if you do nothing about it. As gallon after gallon of hard water runs through your house, the dissolved minerals make deposits inside the pipes. Those initial deposits, in turn, lay the foundation for the mineral deposits that come after and, before long, pressure or flow problems come to the surface, requiring thousands of dollars in repair costs—costs which could have been easily prevented if you’d installed a water softener when you first moved in.

2) Protects Your Appliances

Just like hard water can cause you problems with your pipes, any appliances that come in contact with hard water can suffer the same fate. Everything from water heaters to washing machines, from dishwashers to coffeemakers can suffer problems at the hands of runaway hard water. No one likes to have to replace appliances unless they have to or want to, so considering that a water softener will keep scale growth to a bare minimum, it’s a wise investment that will pay off in saved appliance repair or replacement costs.

3) If You Use Detergent, You’re Already Paying for Soft Water

You already pay for soft water when you put that scoop of detergent in the dishwasher or washing machine, as most detergent companies include chemical water softeners in their formulas to ensure that their product works no matter what kind of water it encounters. Wouldn’t you rather use a fraction of the detergent you use and still get spot-free dishes and clean clothes? Investment in a water softener makes your soap much more effective, since it doesn’t get turned into soap scum by the minerals in hard water, meaning less soap is required to deliver an equivalent amount of cleaning power.

The Next Step is Yours

A good investment is often a difficult thing to find, as many people are hesitant to share a good tip with someone else, for fear of diluting their own advantage. But at Rayne Water Systems, we make a point to make potential customers aware of what they’re missing out on by not using a water softener to protect the investment you’ve put into your house, and how to continue saving money in the long-term. We’ve done our job. And if you’re reading this, you’re only one step away from enjoying the many benefits of an investment in soft water.

To schedule a free consultation with a Rayne Water Systems water treatment professional on how easy it is to soften your water, and for a free, basic, no obligation water hardness test, visit www.raynedrops.com or call us toll-free: 800.594.3300