Home Water Science

There is talk that our water at home is hard and full of unwanted chemicals like chlorine, lead, iron, mercury, and more. It corrodes metal so why not our stomachs when we drink it. You know it doesn’t taste that good. It also attacks our skin while showering or bathing making it squeaky and itchy. As for the hair, let’s talk about dry and limp. It is time to learn more about the science of home water. You could be one of the 85% of Americans that has hard water.

Why is water hard? Aquifers and underground sources that supply collect dissolved minerals from rock. Your water thus could contain calcium, magnesium carbonate, and manganese among other chemicals. The results are undesirable. The severity of hardness is measured by grains (of mineral) per gallon (GPG) or, in some cases, by parts per million of mineral (PPM). One GPG equals 17.1 PPM. Because of recrystallization and scale that hard water produces, you need a tankless hot water heating system to avoid the corrosion of the old-style receptacles. You get costlier utility bills, clogged plumbing, and reduced water flow. This applies to dishwashers, clothes washing machines, coffee makers, and other water heating appliances. Water heaters are up to 30% less effective when plagued with hard water scale.

Just from an aesthetic perspective, hard water makes shampoos, detergents, and soaps less effective and sudsy. They simply don’t clean as well. You also have to use up more water in the rinsing phase. If you didn’t know where bathroom scum comes from, now you know! The answer people like to hear is a soft water filtering system as it has many benefits to the skin and hair. The typical type is a whole-house water softener unit that works by means of ion-exchange. You sign up for the service and the company installs two tanks: one with special resin beads and the other filled with brine. Water is softened by substituting sodium (salt) for hard minerals.

An alternative is a salt-free system that regenerates with a potassium-chloride salt substitute for the sodium. It is a type of descaler that doesn’t reduce hard water minerals as much as it prevents them from being deposited as scale to the surfaces of pipes and appliances. This option seems less effective from my viewpoint and is valuable mostly for those prohibited from salt intake. The dual tank concept seems therefore the best choice for water softening. With this method, you also avoid downtime since while one is regenerating, you have the other so there is no break in service. There is also a controversial magnetic version that utilizes a plug-in device that clips onto an incoming pipe. It sets up a magnetic field that changes the electromagnetic properties of calcium-carbonate minerals so they are repelled by pipes and each other. Not enough is known yet to recommend this option.

Your dual-tank water center is usually installed where it can serve the main inbound water line to the entire house. It also needs a drain for backwashing and of course electrical power if it is not gas driven. Selection of the right size is crucial if a family resides in the home and usage will be considerable.  Size is measured by the number of grains of hardness that can be removed from water between regenerations. You want to go with one that lasts for about three days between recharges.

Updated: January 25, 2017 — 10:25 am
Near Space Systems © 2015