Water Softeners

Hard water is a common problem. Elements, such as calcium and magnesium, present in tiny particles in water, cause deposits of lime scale to form on the inside of pipes, reducing the bore and the efficiency of water flow.

Flow can become so constricted that it may eventually fail; on some heating systems, this can also present hazard from burst pipes containing scalding water.

In hard-water areas, up to 75 per cent more soap has to be used to produce a satisfactory lather, compared with soft-water areas, such as where water supplies are from mountain streams.

Electrical and gas water heaters, kettles and other appliances are all prone to scaling in hard-water districts. Clothes, when washed, can present less than a ‘shining-white’ look; skin and hair textures are also improved by using soft water. Crockery may also be less smeary and have ‘sparkle’ where soft water is used.

A water softener extracts the ‘hardening’ particles chemically. A unit can be fitted to filtrate the entire domestic supply, or just to condition the cold storage water. ‘Hard’ water then remains at the kitchen sink, for drinking, and for the garden tap.

The unit is plumbed into the rising main. The installation position is very much a question of choice. Hot storage water, mixed with hard water, will, obviously, be semi-hard. A car washed with soft’ water will, however, be easier to clean and less prone to leave ‘water rings’.

A water softener consists of a cylinder with an inlet and an outlet, connected across the rising-main cold-feed. The softening process is carried out by the flow of incoming water through a resin bed, which removes particles that cause water hardness. The resin bed is cleansed or rejuvenated by salt from a reservoir, which is afterwards flushed out at a third, drain, connection.

The entire action of the unit, which is electrically controlled, is automatic but may be overriden manually. Running costs for an average unit are minimal.

A typical unit works on a multi-cycle phase. The resin ion-exchange bed exchanges the hard-water elements, such as calcium and magnesium, for sodium, which is soft and does not leave a deposit. The full process takes about 35 minutes.

Units are made in various shapes and forms and provide for the needs of households of various sizes. Units can be fitted in a kitchen, utility room, bathroom, or wherever there is reasonable space. Under-sink versions are also made. Some models incorporate the salt reservoir; on larger models, this is a separate unit.

Some units are complete with a special by-pass kit, which allows the unit to be switched out at will.

Where there is unusually heavy demand for soft water, a manual button enables this to be reset outside the normal phase of operation.

The unit is simply connected using standard fittings. This means first shutting down the mains stopcock and cutting into the cold-water feed.

If it is not possible to fit the unit directly into the cold feed, it may be necessary to re-route this to the position chosen to locate the water softener.

A typical unit, such as the Sofnol water softener, works on a five-cycle principle.

These are:

Cycle 1: Downflow conditioning. The flow of tap water keeps the resin bed tightly packed so that, as it conditions, it also filters out rust, iron and other suspended solids.

Cycle 2: Upflow backwash. The upward flow of water loosens the resin and washes away the iron, rust and other minute particles trapped during the first cycle. A controlled flow rate ensures the proper cleansing of the resin.

The backwash must be properly controlled by the unit so that the solids are effectively flushed away. This could otherwise result in clogged controls or a fouled resin bed.

Cycle 3: Downflow brining. Brine next flows in at the top of the resin tank and is separately controlled to ensure optimum salt effectiveness. Some makes combine the backwash and brining functions.

Too slow a backwash function, and a brining phase which is too fast, can waste salt and water and not condition the resin bed properly.

Cycle 4: Downflow slow rinse. This phase removes minute particles.

Cycle 5: Downflow fast rinse. This flushes away any pockets and concentrations of salt and iron left in the resin bed after the slow rinse. The unit is now regenerated and ready to perform a fresh cycle.

Where the unit supplies the cold-storage cistern, the demands on this will control the operation of the water softener, within the capacity of a given model.

10. November 2011 by admin
Categories: Featured, Handyman Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Water Softeners

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