Friday, March 30, 2007

How Does a Water Softener Work?

As a Realtor in the northern suburbs of Minnesota, I get a fair number of city dwelling clients that consider moving to acreage in the country. The idea of a little elbow room from their neighbors or a small hobby farm appeals to many Twin City residents. And the beauty of it is, is that in Anoka and Chisago counties there are numerous, affordable homes on acreage that have a reasonable commute to employment in the cities.

Although there are several considerations when making a move to an acreage home, one important one is that acreage homes most often do not have a city sewer and water s
upply. These homes have private water and sewer systems or wells and septic systems. The quality of the water can vary from property to property even on the same block or community.

Living in the city, most people do not give their water supply little thought. As long as a home owner can turn on the tap and receive water, they have few concerns. There is an assumption that the city is monitoring the safety of the water that flows through the system. Occasionally, a news story will run regarding a community with contamination in the water supply. When that happens, city officials are called on to take care of the situation. However home owners with a private water supply or well, have to maintain the quality of their drinking water by themselves.

There are two types of treatment systems available to homeowners:

  1. Water Softener
  2. Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a treatment system for drinking water. It is used to remove substances that occur naturally or have contaminated the water supply. Basically it uses pressure to move the water through a membrane that allows the water molecules to past through but not the contaminants. The process removes nitrates, sulfates, sodium and other contaminants that discolor and/or make your water smell and taste bad.

The other alternative, a water softener, is designed to remove calcium and magnesium from the water supply of the whole house. Hard water contains both of these minerals which cause two basic problems for homeowners:

Build-up or scale inside of pipes, water heaters and plumbing systems.
Reacts with the chemicals in soap that reduces lathering and causes soap scum

A third problem…too much iron in the water can be addressed with a water softener to a minor degree. A normal water softener is not designed to remove high levels of iron that cause rust colored stains on fixtures and clothing. But some of the mineral can be reduced with the use of a water softener for homes with well water. If the iron levels in your water are significant you can consider a
special treatment system designed to remove iron.



The concept of a water softener is simple. The calcium and magnesium ions are replace with sodium ions. Sodium works well with soap and detergents and does not cause scale build-up in pipes. To exchange the ions, the untreated water runs through a bed of small plastic zeolite beads that are covered with sodium ions. The calcium and magnesium ions stick to the beads and the water captures the sodium ions. Eventually the beads are completely covered with the calcium and magnesium ions and need to be regenerated with the sodium ions. Here is where those bags of salt come in…The water softener unit mixes up a brine solution of sodium chloride (salt water_ which is flushed over the beads to recharge them. Once recharged, the process begins again.

This process does discharge a large amount of waste water into the sewer system; approximately 25 gallons per cycle. If you are located on acreage with a private sewer system, additional water into your septic system is a consideration that should be weighted against the damage of hard water.


If you are relocating to Minnesota, are looking for Homes for Sale in the north and east Twin Cities metro area and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call. Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2007
terieckholm.com