If you use hard water in your home, you might’ve noticed that your soap doesn’t lather properly and that there are scales and deposits in your pipes and appliances. This happens because hard water contains excess calcium and magnesium ions. These hardness-causing ions are responsible for the poor soap lathering, your dry skin, and scales forming in your pipes.
Water softeners remedy this by softening water and making it easier to use. There are two types of water softeners; salt-based water softeners and salt-free water softeners. How both types work and why salt-free softeners are critical for wastewater management is the topic of this article.
How Salt-Based Water Softeners Work
Salt-based water softeners have resin tanks that contain thousands of tiny, negatively charged resin beads.
Hard water contains positively charged magnesium and calcium ions. When it passes through the water softener unit, the resin beads attract the magnesium and calcium so they stick to them. Calcium and magnesium ions are then exchanged for sodium ions. The resin beads eventually become saturated with calcium and magnesium, and they have to be rinsed off with saltwater in a process called regeneration.
Regeneration usually happens in the middle of the night. The process is simple – water softeners have a salt storage tank where brine forms. During regeneration, the sodium ions in the saltwater solution replace the magnesium and calcium ions until the resin bed is fully covered with new sodium. Afterward, the saltwater solution and hardness minerals are washed and flushed down the drain, and the water softener continues its normal operation.
If you use a salt-based water softener, you have to add a bag of sodium chloride to the salt storage tank every once in a while.
Also, salt-based water softeners consume a lot of water during regeneration. The saltwater rinse-off procedure can waste up to 100 gallons per cycle, depending on the individual water hardness.
Besides consuming some electricity and wasting gallons of water, salt-based water softeners also pollute the environment. The extra sodium may get into the soil and cause stunted growth in plants or finds its way into freshwater. The excess chloride in softened water can harm freshwater plants and organisms by affecting their reproductive patterns and destroying their entire ecosystem.
Overall, salt-based water softeners are an issue for the environment and for plants, which is why several farming cities in southern California have banned or severely restricted their usage.
How Salt-Free Water Softeners Work
Salt-free water softeners are also called water conditioners or descalers. They help stop the effects of hard water, although they operate differently from salt-based water softeners. Salt-free water softeners do not undergo the ion exchange or regeneration process.
In place of ion exchange, salt-free water softeners use various technologies, Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) being one of the, where hardness minerals are transformed into micro-crystals. In this system, the hard water flows through a “nucleation site” full of TAC media. The nucleation site is where the micro-crystals are formed. As hard water comes in contact with the TAC media, magnesium and calcium ions are attracted and get stuck. More calcium and magnesium ions build up in the nucleation sites, forming small micro-crystals. When the crystals reach a certain size, they break off the TAC media and are released back into the water. The micro-crystals will remain crystalline as they flow through your home plumbing. These crystals will not cause scales to form in your pipes or give you any of the typical hard water problems.
In summary, salt-free water softeners do not remove hardness minerals; they only neutralize them and keep them in harmless forms.
Using a salt-free water softener is an excellent way to eliminate water hardness without all the wastewater and environmental hazards caused by salt-based water softeners. Salt-free softeners also increase your drinking water’s nutritional value because it doesn’t lack minerals beneficial to your body.
Other Reasons to Pick Salt-Free Water Softeners
Here are some more reasons salt-free water softeners are an excellent choice and to be preferred over salt-based systems.
Low Energy Consumption
Salt-free water softeners do not require electricity to work. Using a salt-free water softener means you’ll save on your electricity bill, compared to if you were using a salt-based water softener.
Easy to Maintain
Salt-free water softeners are very easy to maintain and install. The systems use either a single tank or cartridge. They don’t need to go through the regeneration process or saltwater rinse off, which means they don’t need drain connections. If you’re thinking about getting a salt-free water softener, you can check out Nuvo water softeners. There are different versions and sizes you could choose from.
Salt-free water softeners are critical to wastewater management because they do not need to go through regeneration, so they don’t produce wastewater. With salt-free water softeners, the processed water goes directly into your house or your water heater. If you live in an area where salt-based water softeners are banned, you can always try using a salt-free water softener. You should also consider getting a salt-free water softener if you run a farm or own a small garden.