Friday, January 25, 2008

Water Filter vs Water Softener

Several years ago I moved into a new home located in a rural area that was not supplied by the nearest municipal water system. My source of fresh water was a drilled well. The water is of very good quality but is very hard water. I really did not fully understand the term "hard water" for several years but I have finally come to grips with issues related to hard water.

I have been using a water conditioning system produced by Culligan since I moved into my home. I thought it was a water softener. Everyone called it a water softener and that is what I called it. I got a little discouraged with the system performance and began considering a change. The Culligan system required the addition of peroxide to operate correctly and I was using nearly 10 gallons per month. My water was still showing some iron and system pressure was falling considerably.

I began researching water softeners. To my surprise I was not operating a water softener. It was merely a deluxe "water filter". The water was passing through a media bed that filtered the water but it did not soften it. I realized at that point that two completely distinct processes were involved in proper water conditioning.

For optimum water quality the water should be filtered and then it should be "softened". I found that the softening process removed dissolved minerals that a filter allowed to pass through. That accounted for the mineral build-up on my appliances such as electric tea kettle and porcelain fixtures etc.
Even system iron is present in different forms. Some iron is actually dissolved in the water and passes through a filter. It will however solidify when it is not circulating. It contributes a very large build-up inside hot water heaters.

I decided on a simple but high quality cartridge filter and a water softener that required salt pellets for constant optimum softening. The salt used by the softener does not actually enter your water supply. I found that it’s only purpose was to flush out a special media bed that has special physical qualities that attract the minerals like a magnet. Many people are under the misguided belief that salt goes into your useable water - not so.

The media bed requires flushing at regular intervals to continue working at peak performance. The system will shut down at predetermined times and close itself off from your water supply. It then takes the salted water into the media bed. This will cause the accumulated minerals to release from the media. It is all flushed into your waste water system by a separate plumbing connection. Once this cleaning cycle completes, the system re-opens and sends fresh, conditioned water to your water supply again.

This is the point where I discovered "soft water". I was amazed. After I installed my new filter and conditioner it took about 2 days to fully displace all previous water from the water heater and storage system. Now when I take a bath the difference is absolutely amazing. After several years of "hard water", the water now truly felt soft and slippery. This is soft water. Soap lathers so much better and laundry detergent can be reduced considerably yet with better results.

This was my education regarding water softening and water filtering. There is considerable difference between the two processes. I hope this will help someone still lucky enough to be using fresh underground water.


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