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Hard water is a common problem experienced by many homeowners across the United States. A water softener is necessary. While many homes never have any issues with water hardness, others suffer from large amounts of scale buildup, clogged pipes, damaged appliances, and decreased detergent effectiveness. Although there are typically no negative health effects that have been associated with hard water, many homeowners are compelled to purchase and install a system for softening the water in order to protect their home and eliminate the frustrations that it causes.

Before selecting a water softener system for the home, it is important to have a basic understanding of how different types of softeners work so that an informed decision can be made about the most appropriate product.

In general, most water softener s  fall into one of two categories that include salt-based systems or alternative salt-free systems. Products that utilize salt to remove hardness causing ions from the water tend to be more effective, but they may increase the amount of salt in the water and contribute to adverse environmental effects. Contained within the salt-based softener is a resin bed that facilitates a chemical exchange as water passes through the system. Calcium and magnesium are the two most common ions that cause hardness and they are largely removed by the softening process. Additional ions such as iron may also be removed as the water passes through the softener. Once the resin bed has reached maximum capacity, a regeneration process passes salt through the system so that the ions are removed from the resin. The fluid that results from regeneration is then directed into the waste water drainage system and is transported to either a treatment facility or to the septic system that has been installed near the home.

Homeowners who have decided to purchase a salt-based system will have a few different products to choose from. A meter installed on the top of most salt-based softeners is responsible for keeping track of how much water has passed through the softener and when a regeneration cycle is performed. An automated meter is often required in order to comply with local building codes because it detects when regeneration is needed and works to conserve both water and salt. An alternative option to the metered system is the time clock system. These softeners allow the homeowner to set a specific day and time for the regeneration cycle to occur. In most cases, a timer system costs more because it does not conserve water, salt, or electricity. Most professional installers will recommend the automated meter to their customers because of its low maintenance and efficiency.

Although salt-based water softeners are the most common type of system used, there are several non-salt alternatives that may be appropriate in situations where hardness is only a minor concern or when environmental impact is of significant importance. The most popular non-salt systems utilize technology such as nucleation assisted crystallization, chelation, magnetohydrodynamics, and electromagnetism to alter the structure of the magnesium and calcium ions so that they do not deposit inside appliances, on bathroom fixtures, and in pipes. The effectiveness of these systems can vary substantially and it is very important to carefully consider each option before deciding to purchase a salt-free system. While these softeners are almost always less effective than salt-based systems, some people prefer them because of their environmental friendliness and ease of installation. In most cases, an alternative softener will attach directly to the water pipe leading into the home.

The decision to purchase and install a water softener can be one of the most expensive modifications that a homeowner makes. A basic understanding of how different systems work allows individuals to determine which product is most appropriate for their home based on a variety of different factors. As always, it is a good idea to contact a professional installer in the area to inquire about the systems that they recommend and to get some pricing quotes. The local water supplier is also a good source of information that can advise homeowners on regulations that might affect the decision-making process.

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Individuals who would like to learn more about hard water and the softening process are encouraged to visit where they will find additional details about the most popular products currently on the market. Careful review of this information can help guide the decision-making process and may lead to more satisfactory results.

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