Water Softener Systems – An Overview

One of the most common home improvements made by many Americans is the installation of a form of water softening and filtering. It is an unfortunate fact that around 80% of Americans live and work in areas classified by the U.S Geological Survey as areas of ‘hard water’, which as you can see from their map, unfortunately lie in some of the areas in which increasing numbers of people are wishing to set up home to take advantage of the warmer climes in those parts of the country.

The effects of ‘hard water’ on the pipe work and appliances of the home range from the obvious, visible, deposits of lime scale which are seen around the sinks, faucets and showerheads in these areas to the less obvious, but potentially far more costly, damage being done to the interiors of our expensive home appliances such as boilers, washing machines and dishwashers, leading to reduced efficiency and ultimately terminal damage.

One of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to protect against these effects on both your home and family, is by fitting one of the many home water filter systems available. These range from the familiar ‘pitcher’ type, ideal for small amounts of filtered, chilled, water when kept in the fridge, to the units which fit over the faucet for filtering larger quantities. Pur produce a number of these units at a modest cost, whilst additional filters designed to replace your standard showerhead are produced by Sprite and Rainshow’r.

Less obtrusive is the Watts Premier under sink water filter for those of us who would rather not have our filters on show. The premier filters designed to provide clean, clear, drinking and cooking water are the Reverse Osmosis units. These charcoal based filters typified by those produced by Tapmaster, claim to remove 98% of all contaminants and impurities from your water supply. Traditionally the premier ‘whole house water filters’ have been those which are salt based. Here ions of calcium and magnesium are exchanged as they enter the home with ions of sodium (salt), physically changing the water from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’, the only system which will actually do this. The Culligan high efficiency water softener is a popular choice for this system.

A salt based system will require either a separate source of drinking water or, more usually, the provision of a reverse osmosis unit to provide salt free drinking water. Concerns over the effects of the large amounts of salt entering the water supply in this way have led to the development of many salt free systems.

Electronic water treatment systems have been used for many years in both domestic and industrial situations. Here an oscillating electronic field temporarily removes the ability of the particles of calcium and magnesium from attach themselves to pipe work and appliances. The effect lasts long enough for the particles to be held in suspension where they pass through the system, exiting with the waste water in the normal manner. The Clearwave electronic water softener system is perhaps the most popular domestic example of these.

Other, filter based, whole house salt free systems are available such as those produced by Pelican and NuvoH20. These inhibit the ions of calcium and magnesium from forming as scale by safe chemical means and are an increasingly popular choice with those who are more environmentally conscious, with the added benefit that the treated water is safe to drink without further filtering as is the case with salt based systems. Most people opt to fit a series of filters designed to remove many types of contaminants for the ultimate provision of safe, clean, healthy water.