A water softener is an ion exchange system. It is not a water filter as many people believe. They also often call them water softeners, since they are used to remove lime from water, the main cause of scale. Scale, apart from being harmful to health, produces incrustations in pipes and electrical appliances that require water to function. It also produces a particular color that dyes sanitary accessories and damages the cleaning of floors, glass, and mirrors.
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Types of Softeners: Timer vs. Meter
Softeners are divided into two basic categories, with timer and meter.
Water softener with timer
A timer-controlled softener, the most basic, works as a timer in a kitchen. You preselect the day you want the softener to regenerate and when that day arrives the softener runs its regeneration cycle, usually in the early morning hours.
The person installing the softener should consider the capacity of this, that is, how many liters of water can be treated between the regenerations and how many days it will take the inhabitants of the house to use that amount of water. Based on those estimates, you will adjust the timer accordingly . For example, if the softener can treat 1,000 liters of water between each regeneration and the family will use about 200 liters of water per day, the softener could be configured to regenerate every five days.
Water softener with meter
With a meter-controlled softener, it determines how many liters of water are used and will regenerate by being close to that mark. For example, the meter establishes the capacity of the softener for 1,000 liters and will regenerate the night before those 1,000 liters run out. If you leave the city for a week and do not use water, the softener does not regenerate . With a timer model, the softener is regenerated as scheduled, whether water is used or not.
Which water softener system is better?
Although measurement systems have become very sophisticated and are sold as “green” devices that save salt and, consequently, protect the environment, the reality is that each system has its advantages and disadvantages.
Other important aspects of water softeners:
Greater economy and less environmental damage will occur if the softener is supplied with a smaller dose of salt and allowed to regenerate more frequently. While it is true that this saves salt, it is equally true that it uses more water. The same amount of water is needed to regenerate a low dose of salt than a higher dose. Regeneration requires approximately 250 liters of water depending on the size and configuration of the softener.
Elimination of iron and manganese
Water softeners are often used to remove small amounts of iron from well water, and they are very good at this if the conditions are right. The main condition is that the iron must be in its ferrous state, that is, the water must be clear when it enters the softener. If a softener is used to remove iron, it must be regenerated more frequently. There should be no more than three days between regenerations if the iron load is significant.
What this means is that having a meter-style softener makes no sense if the iron is being removed. It is much more practical to use a less expensive timer model and simply configure it to regenerate every three days.
Next, let’s see what are the advantages and disadvantages of removing iron and manganese from the water with a softener :
- The softening resin can be recycled and reused.
- Ion exchange can systematically remove dissolved iron and manganese from water to extremely low levels.
- Softeners have lower backwash water requirements than oxidizing filters.
- The removal of iron and manganese is not affected appreciably by the pH of the water or other factors.
- The softening will not work satisfactorily if there are iron bacteria or water of oxidized color, if only occasionally. If particles are present, a sediment pre-filter is often placed before the resin tank.
- A water softener will not eliminate the smell of hydrogen sulfide.
- Water softeners produce brine that must be discarded. If you do not have a sewer were to pour it, it is likely that the removal of the waste brine is done directly on the ground. This can contaminate the groundwater and subsequently your own well or the wells of your neighbors downhill.
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