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News / Understanding Basic Water Conditioning

What is hard water? Simply stated hard water is water that contains dissolved hardness minerals that are picked up during the hydrologic cycle. This process begins as soon as water hits the ground after rain. As water filters through the ground it dissolves a little bit of everything it comes in contact with. Hardness comes from the following minerals.
> Limestone
> Chalk
> Marble

Areas that are rich in these minerals will have hard water.

Why is hard water a problem?
Water that contains hardness creates two primary problems in the household water supply.

1. The hardness will turn to a hard scale where water evaporates or rises in temperature. This can happen in water heaters, pipes and at plumbing fixtures like sink faucets and stools.

2. Water that contains hardness will react with soap and cleaning products to form soap curd. This is soap that has come out of solution and turned into a solid. Soap curd is very sticky and collects on everything it touches. Soap curd is responsible for the following problems.
Dull Laundry Foggy Shower Doors Dry Skin
Limp lifeless hair Water spots on fixtures Clogged drains

Iron is the other key ingredient. If you have a well providing your water supply iron will more than likely be present. Anything that causes stain is referred to as iron by most people. Actually there are many different things in water that cause a stain such as:

Ferrous-clear                                                           Tannins

Manganese                                                              Bacterial - Living

Ferric-color                                                              Hydrogen Sulfide

Most iron begins a ferrous iron which is clear before being exposed to air the oxidizes and becomes ferric iron red in color. Iron is normally found as a mixture of ferrous and ferric because of some oxidation that occurs in the ground. The third type of iron is bacterial iron. This is a micro organism that feeds on ferrous iron and converts it to ferric iron. This bacterium is easy to identify with the eye.
Anywhere that water stands in the open air, such as a stool holding tank, or a shower stall you will find a slippery gel substance and often times an oil slick on the water surface that has a rainbow effect.

This is showing the presence of bacterial iron and could be a sign that basic water conditioning alone may not solve the complete problem.
Basic rules to follow:
Ferrous iron will come out through the ion exchange water softener.
Ferric iron can be managed with an oversized softener to a degree.
Bacterial iron needs to be addressed separately.

Water Conditioner ratings on iron apply to ferrous iron.
Bacterial iron is usually only a problem where water stands in the open air. Iron filters will solve the bacterial iron problem, but some simple tricks can manage the problem without the expense and maintenance of equipment. Use automatic toilet bowl dispensers and refill with bleach. Chlorinate the well occasionally and flush the lines to the outside.
How a Water Softener Works.
There are three components to a water softener:
1. Resin tank-contains resin that treats the water.
2. Brine tank-contains the salt and water to make brine to regenerate the     resin.
3. Control valve-Operates system

The resin in a water softener is a porous bead made from polystyrene. It has a negative charge and collects positive ions, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. Sodium also has a positive charge, but during regeneration the resin beads are bombarded with so much sodium the positive charged calcium, magnesium, and iron are forced down the drain. The resin beads only hold so much sodium after regeneration, the less charged sodium is released when the calcium, magnesium, and iron make contact with the resin.
The amount of resin in a water softener determines the size of the softener.
Resin is measured in cubic feet. If one try’s to determine size in grains it can be confusing. Each manufacturer can claim different grains of capacity in grains. Brand new one cubic foot has 42,000 grains of removal capacity. Regenerated resin contains the following capacities:

Capacity @ Setting
Capacity Per Pound
Lb. Of Salt    

As you can see a manufacturer could say their softener was 42,000 new or they say 38,000.

It’s best to measure by the cubic foot for comparisons. As you can see if you set you’re water softener at 30 pounds at each regeneration it would be very inefficient. Most one cubic foot water softeners are set at 8 pounds of salt per regeneration to get the most efficient use of salt.

What makes resin good?
Bead size and shape, beads are referred to in mesh size and there is a standard range of acceptable mesh sizes. Standard, resin range is 16 mesh to 40 mesh. Good beads should always be in this range. The shape of the beads should be a perfect sphere; broken beads will appear jagged in shape.
Why is this important?
Resin leakage-If beads are broken up they can get past the distributor and into the house, have loss of capacity after time, and loss of ability to handle iron.
When assessing the quality of a softener one must know the resin quality!

Resin Tanks
Resin tanks are made of steel, stainless steel, and fiberglass, all are roughed and strong. The stainless steel and fiberglass Eli mate any corrosion. Stainless and steel tanks tend to condense more than fiberglass. A resin tank should be covered by an insulted jacket or have a drip pan under it, if located where floor damage could result from condensation.

Standard distributors have one tube going down from the valve to the bottom of the tank. There must be 50% free board (the distance between the top of the resin bed and the top of the tank) with a standard distributor. This freeboard is used during back washing when the resin bed is expanded up to the fill space.
Turbulator distributors have one tube going down, from the valve to the bottom of the tank, and another goes up from the bottom to 14" below the tank neck. The freeboard is 10" with a Turbulator; the Turbulator pulls resin from the bottom of the tank and redistributes it to the top of the bed during backwash. This process does not require the 50% free space like the standard distributor. The Turbulator offers more bed depth for a given size system than a standard distributor. The greater the bed depth the greater the iron control, because there is more contact time with the water passing through the bed. The scrubbing action of the Turbulator helps get the iron off the beads. Turbulator are used on 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0, cubic foot resin beds.

Brine Tanks
Brine tanks are used to mix salt and water to make brine.

Important brine tank components
Seamless design on tank Brine well
Salt grid Overflow tubing
Overflow protection valve Air checks

Salt Types
1. Purified also called evaporated, comes standard or with iron inhibitor     added, mined by pump method.
2. Solar, evaporated sea or from the Great Salt Lake.
3. Rock Salt, unprocessed and dirty.

The cleaner the salt, the less frequently brine tanks need cleaning!
Potassium may now also be used. The cost is more, and it is not as effective on iron.

Control Valve
Types of Valves:
Manual: Operator initiates and changes cycles (just about obsolete).
Semi Automatic: Operator initiates cycle and unit automatically shuts off.
Automatic: Fully automatic-operates on a set schedule without attention.
Demand Initiated automatic: Fully automatic-operates on water usage.

Materials of Construction:
1. Brass Casting-Hand machined, last forever only internal parts may require     replacement, very rugged.
2. Plastic Molded-Injection Molded-very cost effective, non-corrosive, but can     be somewhat susceptible to cracking.

Regeneration Types
Timer Control -Scheduled, set 5-6-7 or 12 day scheduled determined by calculation.
Advantages: Easy and very reliable, less to go wrong, cost effective.

Disadvantages: Unit charges whether it needs it or not. Unless you use the exact same amount of water every day, unit can charge too much wasting to much salt and water, or may not charge enough, causing unit to run out of soft water.

Meter Control-Single Tank
A meter is set by gallons, to trip the system into regeneration.
Advantages: Cycles are based on water consumption saving water and salt.

Disadvantages: Initial cost is higher, reserve capacity could make unit inefficient with a consistent water consumption pattern.

Meter Control-Twin Tank
A meter is set by gallons, to trip the system into regeneration, one tank is fully exhausted before the control valve is switched to a second stand by tank.
Advantages: The most efficient method of conditioning water, regeneration water is soft not hard.

Disadvantages: Initial cost is much Higher.

Water Conditioners have 4 different Valve Styles:
Hydraulic- Liquid driven
Solenoid Operated- Uses solenoids and diaphragms
Cam Driven-Motor rotated cam emerges plungers and pistons
Positive Driven- Piston is direct driven to cycle position [This is the system we feel is the best and our systems use]
The valve with the least number of moving parts will have the lowest rate of service, and will be the easiest to service. Usually this is the positive or cam driven.

Mechanical Systems verses Electronics
Mechanical systems are easy to diagnose, and service, and can almost always be serviced on site. Also mechanical systems repairs are usually less expensive. Electronic systems usually cannot be repaired on site and may need to be completely replaced if problems occur. Also Electronic systems are susceptible to changes in conditions, where there are placed, such as basements or garages where humidity and condensation are present.

Cabinet one piece models verses Two piece models
Cabinet models have the brine tank and resin tank all together, which can cause salt bridging, because the resin tank can condense making the salt wet turning it hard so it can’t drop down to dissolve. Also with the cabinet models being one piece, just about makes it impossible to ever clean out the brine tank out. Also the salt, and the water being so close to the control valve, can cause the control to corrode. Although cabinet models save space, a two piece unit with a compact brine tank can make the system just as efficient on saving space.

The preceding information is to help you understand water conditioning.
We hope you buy a system from us, but if you don’t we hope this information will make you more informed, and will get the system you need at a competitive price.

Have Questions? Send us an e-mail at: info@w-s-p-s.ca