Residential - Blog

August 2020
Water Softeners, Water Conditioners and Hard Water Information.

 

Water Softeners, Water Conditioners, and Hard Water.

 

 

The main source of hard water: Limestone
The main source of hard water: limestone

 

 

What is Hard Water?

 

Hard Water is water that contains a high mineral content such as an amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water.

 

Water hardness can present in two ways:

 

  • Temporary hardness is due to the bicarbonate ion, HCO3-, being present in the water. This type of hardness can be removed by boiling the water to expel the CO2, as indicated by the following equation:

Ca(HCO3)2 →← CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O

 

  • Permanent hardness is due to calcium and magnesium nitrates, sulfates, and chlorides, etc. This type of hardness cannot be eliminated by boiling.

 

The Scientific Definition of Hard Water

 

The scientific definition of water hardness refers to the presence of dissolved ions, mainly of calcium Ca2+ and magnesium Mg2+ which are acquired through contact with rocks and sediments in the environment. The positive electrical charges of these ions are balanced by the presence of anions (negative ions), of which bicarbonate HCO3 – and carbonate CO32 – are most important. These ions have their origins in limestone sediments and also from carbon dioxide, which is present in all waters exposed to the atmosphere and especially in groundwater.

 

High ion concentrations do not cause any health threat, but they can engage in reactions that leave impenetrable mineral deposits. These deposits can make hard water unsuitable for many uses such as laundry, dishwashing, and commercial/industrial processes. It also leaves an unwanted residue on home water fixtures such as aerators and showerheads that are extremely difficult to remove.

 

There are often varying definitions connected to the phrase hard water, but the basic component is the same - hard water is water with dissolved ionic compounds.

 

 

Calcium ion

Calcium ion

 

 

 

Note: In the following section, we will discuss the process in which ions enter into water. Here are some definitions that will be mentioned in this section.

 

  • Dissociation is a general process in which ionic compounds separate into smaller ions, usually in a reversible manner.
  • Dissolution or dissolving is the process where ionic crystals break up into ions in water.
  • Hydration is the process where ions become surrounded by water molecules.
  • Dissolving of ions is when some substances are dissolved in water, they undergo either a physical or a chemical change that yields ions in solution
  • Electrolytes are an important class of compounds that yield ions when dissolved. Substances that do not yield ions when dissolved are called nonelectrolytes. If the physical or chemical process that generates the ions is essentially 100% efficient (all the dissolved compound yield ions), then the substance is known as a strong electrolyte. If only a relatively small fraction of the dissolved substance undergoes the ion-producing process, it is called a weak electrolyte. Substances may be identified as strong, weak, or nonelectrolytes by measuring the electrical conductance of an aqueous solution containing the substance. To conduct electricity, a substance must contain freely mobile, charged entities. Most familiar is the conduction of electricity through metallic wires, in which case the mobile, charged entities are electrons. Solutions may also conduct electricity if they contain dissolved ions, with conductivity increasing as ion concentration increases.

 

How do Ions get in Water?

 

Water and other polar molecules are attracted to ions, such as an electrostatic attraction between an ion and a molecule with a dipole. This is called an ion-dipole attraction. These attractions play an important role in the dissolution of ionic compounds in water.

 

When ionic compounds dissolve in water, the ions will separate and disperse uniformly throughout the solution because water molecules surround and solvate the ions, reducing the strong electrostatic forces between them. This process represents a physical change known as dissociation. Under most conditions, ionic compounds will dissociate nearly completely when dissolved, and so they are classified as strong electrolytes.

 

In other cases, the electrostatic attractions between the ions in a crystal are so large, or the ion-dipole attractive forces between the ions and water molecules are so weak, that the increase in disorder cannot compensate for the energy required to separate the ions, and the crystal is insoluble. Such is the case for compounds like calcium carbonate (limestone), calcium phosphate (the inorganic component of bone), and iron oxide (rust).

 

Electrolytes are one of the main reasons why hard water is healthy for you. Science has proven that electrolytes play an important role in our health. If you deplete your electrolytes the adverse effects can be any of the following:

 

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Numbness and tingling

 

 

Electrolytes

 

Minerals that provide electrolytes

 

 

Having said all that, electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge when dissolved in water.

 

 

How Hard is Your Water?

Now that ions are in the water and hard water has formed, we can now measure the water hardness.

 

According to the USGS, the hardness of water is determined based on the concentration of dissolved calcium and magnesium in ppm (parts per million), mg/L (milligrams per liter), or GPG (grains per gallon)[17.1 ppm or mg/L = 1 gpg]

  • Soft water - 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter)
  • Moderately hard water - 61 to 120 mg/L (milligrams per liter)
  • Hard water - 121 to 180 mg/L (milligrams per liter)
  • Very hard water - more than 180 mg/L (milligrams per liter)

 

For specific hard water numbers, you can visit www.hydroflow-usa.com/water-hardness-map

 

 

Hard Water and the Precipitation of Calcium Carbonate
The next important thing to understand about hard water is precipitation and how it occurs. In chemistry, a precipitate is an insoluble solid that emerges from a liquid solution. The emergence of the insoluble solid from the solution is called precipitation. Once water is supersaturated, it contains more of the dissolved material than could be dissolved by the solvent (water) under normal circumstances.


When a precipitating agent is introduced, this causes the chemical reaction necessary for the insoluble compound to emerge. The most common precipitating agent is CO2 and it plays a huge role in the precipitation of calcium carbonate in water. This is the major source of scale and the root cause of hard water problems.


Where Does Hard Water Come From?

 

Aquifer

 

 

Hard water originates from deep in the earth in large bodies of underground water, known as aquifers. Some of these aquifers are surrounded by limestone and other mineral deposits. Due to the high levels of dissolved CO2 in water (carbonic acid), this lowers the pH of the water causing it to become acidic.

 

Once the pH of the water drops below 7.6 it will begin to slowly dissolve the limestone and magnesium, which is how calcium and magnesium ions end up in the water. This is the perfect recipe to produce hard water. Since CO2 is abundant and is dissolved in the water, which creates carbonic acid, along with calcium and magnesium ions, you have everything you need for precipitation of calcium carbonate. The water only needs to have its saturation point changed by pH, temperature, or pressure for this to happen.

 

 

How do you make Hard Water?

Before creating your batch of hard water, it’s important to understand what is referred to as the “Calcium Cycle”.

 

The calcium cycle is a transfer of calcium between dissolved and solid phases. This ensures a continuous supply of calcium ions into waterways from rocks, organisms, and soils. The calcium cycle starts when rainwater reacts with carbon dioxide in the air, thus producing carbonic acid. The carbonic acid in the rainwater reacts with the calcium carbonate in rock formations like limestone, dolomite, gypsum, and other rocks containing calcium carbonate, which is causing calcium bicarbonate (calcium hydrogen carbonate) to form. Calcium bicarbonate is carried to the ocean through runoff. Many of the ocean’s calcium ions are consumed and removed from aqueous environments when organisms use the calcium bicarbonate to form shells and skeletal structures. When these organisms die, they become incorporated into layers on the ocean seabeds. Over time, due to geological movements and pressure, these layers form limestone and other calcium-rich rock formations, thereby completing the calcium cycle.

 

How to Create Hard Water Step by Step Directions

This recipe is closest to what you would find in nature. Two important things to note when creating your hard water.

 

  • First, use distilled water which has sufficient room for ions to be introduced before supersaturation occurs, or a sufficiently high saturation point to accept those ions.
  • Second, it’s important to keep the water very cold because the solubility of calcium will decrease as the water temperature rises.

Materials:

  • 10-gallon aquarium
  • 10 gallons of distilled water
  • CO2 tank with regulator and aerator line attachment
  • Limestone
  • Dolomite
  • 3 dozen eggshells washed and sanitized
  • 300 grams of calcium chloride
  • 300 grams of Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate)

 

Directions:

  1. Fill a 10-gallon Aquarium with distilled water and run the aerator line back and forth across the bottom.
  2. Cover the bottom layer, including the aerator, with limestone.
  3. Add a layer of crushed eggshells (sanitized), the layer of dolomite, and the second layer of limestone
  4. Connect a carbon dioxide (CO2) tank with a regulator to your aerator line.
  5. Bubble CO2 continuously through the layers until you achieve the water hardness levels you desire, by measuring with a water hardness meter.
    1. Every time the water pH goes below 7.6, the calcium media will begin to dissolve to counteract the CO2 that’s causing the water to become acidic. This process releases calcium ions (Ca2+) directly into the water. At the same time, the CO2 is combined with the water to create carbonic acid, which dissociates into hydrogen ions (H+) and bicarbonate ions (HCO3-).
    2. Magnesium is soluble in water, so you should wait to add the magnesium into your water until at least 150 PPM of calcium hardness is reached through the CO2 bubbler action.
  6. Add 300 grams of Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate) into the aquarium. This will add the necessary magnesium ions into the water.
  7. Finally, add 300 grams of calcium chloride to create your permanent hardness.

 

This setup attempts to emulate the calcium cycle described above. The calcium cycle is a common thread between terrestrial, marine, geological, and biological processes. Calcium moves through these different media as it cycles throughout the Earth. The marine calcium cycle is influenced by changing atmospheric carbon dioxide due to ocean acidification.

 

Directions to Create Hard Water in a Lab (Fast Method)

 

Materials:

  • 60 grams of Calcium Hydroxide
  • 10-gallon fish tank filled with distilled water
  • CO2 tank with regulator and aerator line attachment (example)
  • 300 grams of calcium chloride
  • 300 grams of Epsom Salt

 

Directions

  1. Add 60 grams of calcium hydroxide to the 10 gallons of distilled water.
  2. Stir until the water goes clear (It’s ok if it doesn’t all dissolve).
  3. Once the water is clear, run the CO2 with the attached aerator line along the bottom of the tank.
  4. Turn on the CO2 tank. Adjust the regulator so the flow of CO2 is steady but not causing turbulence in the water.
  5. The water will instantly turn milky when the CO2 is introduced into the water.
  6. Continue to bubble CO2 through the water until it goes clear again.
  7. Once it’s clear, turn off the CO2.
  8. Add 300 grams of Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate).
  9. Add 300 grams of calcium chloride to the water. To remove the solids left over, run the water through a double-lined coffee filter. You should have a clear water solution that will test with a high level of dissolved calcium in it.

 

 

So what exactly is hard water?

 

You’ve probably heard the term acid rain before. This refers to the ability of rainwater to absorb pollutants — like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide — from the atmosphere. As a result, the rainwater turns acidic.

 

Similarly, carbon dioxide, which occurs regularly in our atmosphere, can also be absorbed by water. The resulting carbonic acid acts as a solvent when it comes into contact with certain rocks and minerals, breaking down and absorbing some of those minerals. When the water absorbs high enough levels of magnesium and calcium, it becomes what we call hard water.

 

While we may need minerals to survive (like having enough calcium to build strong, healthy bones), hard water can wreak havoc on plumbing and appliances. Unfortunately, hard water is a fact of life in much of the U.S., especially in the middle and northeast of the country, although it’s found in other locations, as well.

 

Is Hard Water Bad?

Water is such an essential part of our lives, yet we often take it — and its purity — for granted. You turn on the tap, fill up your glass, and quench your thirst. It seems simple. But for many home and business owners, hard water is a problem that, when left unaddressed, can hurt plumbing and appliances — as well as personal health.

 

Is Soap Scum and Hard Water the Same Thing?

 

Soap scum caused by hard water

                                                                     Soap Scum

 

Hard water and soap scum are not the same things, but there is a relationship between them. With hard water, soap solutions form a white precipitate known as soap scum, which reduces lathering ability. This should not be confused with calcium carbonate that hard water precipitates when there is a change in temperature, pH, or pressure. The reason soap scum forms is that the 2+ ions destroy the surfactant properties of the soap by forming a solid precipitate (the soap scum). A major component of such scum is calcium stearate, which arises from sodium stearate, the main component of soap:

 

2 C17H35COO−Na+ + Ca2+ → (C17H35COO)2Ca + 2 Na+

 

Hardness can thus be further defined as a characteristic property of water that reduces the lathering of soap.

 

Effects of Hard Water

Some of the more common effects of hard water include a cloudy residue on your dishes, glasses, and silverware. With the use of HydroFLOW and a rinse agent, such as Jet Dry, your glasses and flatware will come out sparkling clean.

 

Moreover, hard water leads to a buildup of scaling and residue in plumbing and appliances. Left unaddressed, this will eventually lead to murky water coming out of your taps. In some instances, higher levels of bacteria and scaling result in water having a foul odor. In the long run, the buildup of residue will harm your plumbing and can even lead to shorter lifespans of appliances and water heaters.

 

 

 

 

How to Fix Hard Water —HydroFLOW USA Electronic Water Descaler

Fortunately for home and business owners, there is now an effective, non-intrusive hard water conditioner from HydroFLOW USA. Thanks to Hydropath Technology, our electronic water conditioner is far superior to other physical water conditioning techniques that often add chemicals or salts to your water supply and then only work for a limited time through a single point in your plumbing.

 

With HydroFLOW USA, you get a proven, chemical-free water conditioner that employs a harmless electric wave of 150kHz throughout your entire plumbing system. Not only does it prevent scaling in pipes and heating elements, but it’s also maintenance-free, results in better water filtration and it extends the life of your plumbing and appliances. Finally, it’s better for you and your family’s health.

 

alternative to a water softener

 

 

 

Could Your Drinking Water be Ruining Your Diet?

 

Water and Weight Loss

A well-hydrated body is less likely to retain water, which contributes to healthy weight loss, but being picky about the water you drink is critical. This is because consuming water with high salt content can cause weight gain. Additionally, elevated salt intake is considered unhealthy for people with high blood pressure who must maintain a low-sodium diet.

 

Water softeners

For years, salt-based water softeners have been used in hard water areas to reduce the harmful effect of scale build-up by adding salt to drinking water. Consuming large amounts of softened water is a major health risk most people are not aware of. Also, salt-based water softeners are detrimental to the environment because they contaminate underground aquifers and are therefore banned in some states.

 

Water Softener Alternative

Recent advancements in water treatment provide a healthier alternative to water softeners. Eco-friendly water conditioners, such as the HydroFLOW device, prevent scale build-up without the addition of salt to drinking water.

 

The HydroFLOW device does not change the chemical composition of the water in any way. It works purely on a physical basis, leaving the water completely drinkable. Essential minerals are retained in the water, unlike water softeners.

 

In addition, a HydroFLOW water conditioner is less expensive, is very low maintenance, and consumes less than $1 of electricity per year to operate.

 

The Effects of Drinking Salt Water

Sodium negatively impacts our health in many ways; blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, kidney problems. Sodium can also impact your balance and hearing. Visit Hearing Life’s article to learn more about high salt consumption affects your hearing health.

 

According to the National Institute of Health, most healthy adults should try to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Older adults, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or kidney disease, should eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

A big part of reducing your sodium ­intake is realizing where it’s lurking. And it might surprise you to learn that your saltshaker is the least of your worries. Accord­ing to a study published this year in the journal of Circulation (www.ahajournals.org), a mere 5 percent of Americans’ sodium intake comes from salt added at the table, and only 6 percent comes from salt added during cooking.

 

How Much Salt is in Your Drinking Water?

Most of us know how to read the nutritional information on packaged foods. It’s easy to track your intake of sodium because of labeling laws. Unfortunately, sodium can get into our systems without us knowing it. For instance, there is sodium in public drinking water. If you live in a hard water area, you probably have a home water softener, which, according to the EPA can add around 300 mg/l of sodium to your water. This doesn’t include the water treatment chemicals (sodium fluoride, sodium silicofluoride, sodium hydroxide, sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium phosphate, sodium silicate, and sodium hypochlorite) that the local municipalities use to control Fluoride and pH in the public water systems. These contribute to 30 mg/L sodium. If that wasn’t bad enough, some municipalities are pre-softening the water by a process called Zeolite softening. To figure out how much sodium they’re adding to the water, you need to know the GPG (grains per gallon) of hardness and multiply it by 1.89 (this equals the total milligrams of sodium in 8 oz of water). For instance, Chilton, Wisconsin has 28 grains per gallon of hardness. They treat the water with a Zeolite softener bringing it down to 6 GPG of hardness (22 x 1.89 = 41.58). This has the potential of adding 41.58 mg of sodium in an 8 oz glass of water.

 

Dangers of Sodium in Drinking Water

Most Chilton residents have no idea the municipality is softening the water and more than likely, have an in-home water softener. This can potentially greatly increase the sodium levels without them knowing it, which poses a significant risk to the health of older adults, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or kidney disease.

 

There are many alternative salt-free devices that reduce hard scale accumulation in pipes and equipment. The encouraging news is that some municipalities are exploring these innovative and eco-friendly technologies in order to put public health at the forefront.

 

 

 

Better than a water softener

 

 

Water Softening Systems and the History of Water Softeners

Water treatment goes back to 3500 BC. In ancient Mesopotamia, where boiling water was mainly used as the only water treatment method. Even though water hardness was not an issue for the inhabitants of Mesopotamia. Boiling water as a water treatment method turned out to be an effective way to remove temporary hardness from the water.

 

It was not until the Aqueducts of Ancient Rome were constructed in 312 BC, that the need to develop methods of dealing with hard water on a large scale became necessary. The Romans certainly knew about various qualities of water. Some of the rivers, streams, and springs that they tapped and diverted to their cities were excellent sources, others not so good. Based on the quality, the Romans created aqueducts that specifically brought in water for consumption and water that was for other purposes, like cleaning and bathing.

 

The Romans understood that water from specific sources would lead to incrustations and narrowing of the channels due to scale build-up. They, however did not understand why this was happening. To solve this problem, the Romans built huge settling pools at the head of the aqueducts. These had sloped floors to facilitate the removal of the particles that accumulated. Unfortunately, this dealt with TSS (total suspended solids) but it did not help with the problem of hard water, because this is due to dissolved minerals in the water - commonly referred to as TDS (total dissolved solids).

 

Since the problem of water hardness could not be solved. This led to a change in aqueduct design that allowed for the cleaning of the scale off the walls of the conduits by hand. This meant that aqueducts needed to have channels or ducts that were large enough for workers to access the aqueducts. This is why periodic vertical access shafts were included in the design. These access shafts served a dual purpose, they were also used as air vents. The Romans believed that exposure to air improved water quality. This notion turned out to be true and is referred to as Aeration. Aeration is when water and air are in close contact with each other. The reaction helps to remove dissolved gases (such as carbon dioxide) and oxidizes dissolved metals such as iron, hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Oxygen can also increase the palpability of water by removing the flat taste.

 

The need to remove the hardness (minerals) in the water did not become important again until the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution that occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries was where economies evolved from mainly agricultural and handicraft economies into mechanized manufacturing and large-scale production economies. During this period, the utilization of water during the manufacturing process became very important. Specifically, for heat transfer and steam power. This led to various methods of water softening (removal of minerals) being used and the need for innovating water softening techniques.

 

Below you will find the different methods used:

 

Distillation

Distilling water at least dates back to 200 A.D. when Alexander of Aphrodisias first described the distillation of seawater into clean drinking water. Even though most would think that boiling water is the same as distilling. Both processes use heat to boil the water. The difference being that in the distilling process you capture the steam in a separate container, then cool the captured steam so it returns to its liquid form. The resulting water will have the minerals removed.

 

Lime Softening

Discovered in 1841 by Scottish professor Thomas Clark. Lime Softening is a water treatment process that uses calcium hydroxide, or limewater, to soften water by forcing precipitation of calcium and magnesium ions. In this process, hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) is added to the water to raise its pH level and precipitate the ions that cause hardness. This process is commonly referred to as the Clark Process.

 

Ion Exchange

Some believe that ion exchange dates to biblical times based on a statement that Moses makes in Exodus 15: 23-25 “They could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter . . . And he cried unto Jehovah; and Jehovah showed him a tree, and he cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet.” I suppose it depends on how you interpret that, but it is commonly considered the first mention of ion exchange as a method of water treatment. The first person to mention the process of water filtration using ion-exchange was Aristotle. He stated, “seawater loses part of its salt content by percolating through certain sands.” It is unlikely that Aristotle understood the concept of ion exchange, nevertheless, ion exchange was what was happening.

 

It was not until 1845 when H.S. Thompson managed to remove ammonia from a sample of manure by passing it through ordinary garden soil. In 1850, H.S. Thompson took his findings and collaborated with J.T. Way and the two of them successfully extracted ammonia and released calcium from clay samples using carbonate and ammonium sulfate. This is the very first instance of ion exchange methods being used in scientific processes and was a turning point in the advancement of ion exchange.

 

In 1905, Dr. Robert Gans developed the first commercial-scale hardness removal system utilizing a natural zeolite type of soil. This invention was based on the principles that Thompson and Way discovered during their research. Unfortunately, Dr. Gans used a natural zeolite soil that was not cost-effective enough to use on a large-scale manufacturing process. Dr. Gans' invention never took hold but it was the catalyst for the search of alternative resins.

 

The first ion-exchange resins were described by Adams and Holmes, a water-treatment expert and polymer chemist respectively, of the British Chemical Research Laboratory (1935). These ion-exchange resins were condensation products of phenol [CAS: 108-95-2] and formaldehyde [CAS: 50-00-0]. The granular-type cation-exchange resin contained sulfonic groups, and the anion exchanger contained aromatic amine groups. They are termed strong-acid and weak-base ion exchangers. Several condensation-type ion-exchange resins were manufactured during 1935-1945 based on Adams and Holmes' research.

 

The first commercial deionization system was installed in 1939. The next important step in ion-exchange resin technology was the synthesis of sulfonated styrene-divinylbenzene (DVB) cation exchangers. Commercial quantities of strong-base styrene-DVB anion exchangers appeared in 1948. The first anion exchangers, the weak base type, removed only strong mineral acids from water, such as HCI (hydrochloric acid). The strong-base materials remove all acids, thus paving the way to produce water of equal or better quality than distilled water and at a much lower cost. Ion exchange is still the most widely used method of dealing with water hardness. Ion exchange is the water softener systems you will typically see in homes throughout the world. These water softeners utilize ion exchange by exchanging sodium for calcium and or magnesium. Unfortunately, this method is not good for the environment and causes issues at wastewater treatment plants. So much so, some states are banning their use.

 

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

Reverse osmosis is the process of forcing a solvent (water) from a region of high solute concentration through a semipermeable membrane to a region of low-solute concentration by applying a pressure greater than the osmotic pressure. (Osmotic pressure is the minimum pressure, which needs to be applied to a solution to prevent the inward flow of its pure solvent across a semipermeable membrane.) It is also defined as the measure of the tendency of a solution to take in a pure solvent by osmosis. The largest and arguably most important application of reverse osmosis is the separation of pure water from seawater and other brackish waters: The seawater, or brackish water, is pressurized against one surface of the membrane, causing the transport of salt-depleted water across the membrane and creating pure water on the low-pressure side.

 

Reverse Osmosis was first discovered in 1748 by Jean-Antoine Nollet, using a pig’s bladder as a membrane. He proved that a solvent could pass selectively through a semi-permeable membrane through the process of natural osmotic pressure and the solvent will continually enter through the cell membrane until a dynamic equilibrium is reached on both sides of the bladder.

In 1949, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), discovered that reverse osmosis would work for desalinating seawater. The University of Florida furthered this work in the 1950s, by developing a process to turn seawater into freshwater. Unfortunately, due to the expense of the process they developed, it was impractical to use.

 

The biggest breakthrough in RO membrane technology was when John Cadotte discovered the FT-30 membrane in 1969. John made this discovery while researching at the Midwest Research Institute, a not-for-profit organization performing research on RO membranes under a government contract. The FT30 membrane consists of three layers: an ultra-thin polyamide barrier layer, a microporous polysulfide interlayer, and a high-strength polyester support web. The FT30 membrane has been continuously updated and refined to provide higher rejection, improved membrane flux, and low fouling performance. Today's FT30 membrane is uniquely uniform in performance and quality, without the taped or glued defects that can cause other membranes to fail. The DOW chemical company purchased the rights to the FT-30 membrane technology and remains one of the best available reverse Osmosis membranes on the market.

 

Washing Soda Method (Na₂CO₃)

Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda or soda ash), Na₂CO₃, is a sodium salt of carbonic acid and is a strong, non-volatile base. Na₂CO₃ commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate that readily forms into a white powder, the monohydrate. It has a cooling alkaline taste and is extracted from the ashes of many plants. It is also produced artificially in large quantities from common salt. Sodium carbonate is mainly used in the manufacture of glass (55%), pulp and paper (5%), soap, and many other chemicals (25%) such as sodium silicates and sodium phosphates.

 

The creation of sodium carbonate is achieved through one of the two known processes. The Leblanc process and The Solvay process.

 

Leblanc Process

In 1791, the French chemist Nicolas Leblanc patented a process for producing sodium carbonate from salt, sulfuric acid, limestone, and coal. First, sea salt (sodium chloride) was boiled in sulfuric acid to yield sodium sulfate and hydrogen chloride gas, according to the chemical equation:

 

2 NaCl + H₂SO₄ → Na₂SO₄ + 2 HCl

 

Next, the sodium sulfate is mixed with crushed limestone (calcium carbonate) and coal, and the mixture is burned, producing sodium carbonate along with carbon dioxide and calcium sulfide.

 

Na₂SO₄ + CaCO₃ + 2 C → Na₂CO₃ + 2 CO₂ + CaS

 

The sodium carbonate is extracted from the ashes with water and then collected by allowing the water to evaporate. The hydrochloric acid produced by the Leblanc process is a major source of air pollution, and the calcium sulfide byproduct also presented serious waste disposal issues. However, it remained the major production method for sodium carbonate until the late 1880s. For the most part, this process is no longer used.

 

Solvay Process

In 1861, the Belgian industrial chemist Ernest Solvay developed a method to convert sodium chloride to sodium carbonate using ammonia. The Solvay process centered around a large hollow tower. At the bottom, calcium carbonate (limestone) was heated to release carbon dioxide:

 

CaCO₃ → CaO + CO₂

 

At the top, a concentrated solution of sodium chloride and ammonia entered the tower. As the carbon dioxide bubbled up through it, sodium bicarbonate precipitated:

 

NaCl + NH₃ + CO₂ + H₂O → NaHCO₃ + NH₄Cl

 

The sodium bicarbonate was then converted to sodium carbonate by heating it, releasing water and carbon dioxide:

 

2 NaHCO₃ → Na₂CO₃ + H₂O + CO₂

 

Meanwhile, the ammonia was regenerated from the ammonium chloride byproduct by treating it with the lime (calcium hydroxide) left over from carbon dioxide generation:

 

CaO + H₂O → Ca(OH)₂

Ca(OH)₂+ 2 NH₄Cl → CaCl₂ + 2 NH₃ + 2 H₂O

 

Because the Solvay process recycled its ammonia, it consumed only brine and limestone and had calcium chloride as its only waste product. This made it substantially more economical than the Leblanc process, and it soon came to dominate world sodium carbonate production. By 1900, 90% of sodium carbonate was produced by the Solvay process, and the last Leblanc process plant closed in the early 1920s.

 

Sodium carbonate is soluble in water but can occur naturally in arid regions, especially in the mineral deposits formed when seasonal lakes evaporate commonly referred to as evaporites. Deposits of the mineral natron, a combination of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, have been mined from dry lake bottoms in Egypt and other parts of the middle east since ancient times when natron was used in the preparation of mummies and the early manufacturing of glass. Sodium carbonate has three known forms of hydrates: sodium carbonate decahydrate, sodium carbonate heptahydrate, and sodium carbonate monohydrate.

 

Sodium carbonate is still produced by the Solvay process in much of the world today. However, large natural deposits found in 1938 near the Green River in Wyoming, have made its industrial production in North America uneconomical since it can simply be mined.

 

Domestically washing soda is used as a water softener in washing machines. In this application, the sodium bicarbonate competes with the ions magnesium and calcium in hard water and prevents them from bonding with the detergent being used. Without using washing soda, additional detergent is needed to soak up the magnesium and calcium ions.

 

 

Plumbing problems in your home

 

Water Conditioning Devices

Technically water conditioners do not soften water. Instead, they are an alternative approach to solve the problems that hard water can cause. The main technologies in this area deserve to be mentioned when explaining water softening because the goal of using a water conditioner and water softener is the same. Water Conditioners use various methods to create a catalytic reaction that changes the way minerals and biological contaminants behave in a liquid solution. The end goal is to keep this matter from building up on surfaces and causing serious issues like biofouling and scale buildup.

 

The exact way a water conditioner achieves this depends on what type of conditioner it is and what the system is capable of. The goal may be to reduce the formation of limescale, to slow the rate of scaling, or to change the makeup of the scale so that it precipitates and does not adhere to surfaces at all.

 

No matter how a water conditioner manipulates the behavior of minerals, they all have some key things in common. Conditioners, as opposed to traditional water softeners, they do not remove mineral ions, but they do prevent those ions from building up around the insides of pipes, on the heating element, nozzles, and plumbing fixtures. This solves one of the major problems hard water presents without adding salt. Therefore you'll sometimes hear water conditioners referred to as "no-salt softeners”. This water treatment option is preferable for many people since water conditioners tend to be much lower maintenance and lower cost than traditional water softeners and do not add sodium to the water. Most importantly, water conditioning allows you to keep a healthy source of ionic calcium and magnesium.

 

Another advantage of the water conditioning process is that it can address biological contaminants, as well. Water conditioners can break up biofilm so that it doesn't adhere to surfaces. Some conditioners, such as HydroFLOW, can even deactivate these biological contaminants.

 

Below are the main technologies used in the process of water conditioning:

 

Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) – Shortened to TAC, this method uses resin beads as a catalytic nucleation site where hardness mineral ions become a stable crystalline form that will not cling to surfaces. These crystals are microscopic and flow with the water naturally and eventually down the drain. Unlike with a softener that uses ion-exchange, this tank of resin beads does not require ongoing regeneration.

 

Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) - This is when water goes under nucleation in a pressure vessel, the Calcium Bicarbonate Ca(HCO) is transformed into calcium carbonate CaCO₃ crystals and these crystals formed through decomposition. This kind of crystallization process forms very stable and harmless crystals.

 

The following equation describes the reaction that occurs inside the pressure vessel when flow over grains of nucleation.

 

Ca(HCO) → CaCO+ CO + HO

 

In the pressure vessel, the equilibrium of carbonate species in water is shifted, assisted by the driving force of stable crystal formation. As long as CO₂ is removed, the soluble Ca(HCO) converts into insoluble calcium carbonate (CaCO₃) crystals. The calcium carbonate crystals grow steadily. They are very stable and cannot dissolve (incapable of forming scale) in the water. Glass grains crystallization sites provide increased nucleation sites for the formation of submicron-sized CaCO₃ crystals. Hence this process is called Nucleation Assisted Crystallization.

 

Electrical Induction: An electrical current can also be used to precipitate water hardness. This precipitate typically forms on an electrode that requires periodic cleaning. The precipitate can create a layer of sludge on some surfaces. However, this sludge can be easily removed by fast-flowing water. The patented and unique HydroFLOW water conditioner is the most innovative way of using an electrical induction to condition water.

 

Chelation - The term chelation (derived from the Greek word chelos or claw) refers to the mineral or metal-binding properties of certain compounds that can hold a central cation in a claw-like grip. Discovered by French-Swiss chemist, Alfred Werner, who in 1893 developed the theory of coordination compounds, today referred to as chelates. This was a major change in how we classify inorganic chemical compounds. In 1913, Werner received the Nobel prize for his discovery.

 

Chelation is often referred to as Chelation water softening. Technically this process does not soften the water. Chelation is a conditioning technology that uses a chelating agent (such as citric acid or EDTA) to tie up hardness ions, making them unable to form scale on fixtures and appliances. This technology may prevent scale build-up by up to 99% and may also remove the existing scale. Chelation has not been well proven, especially for higher hardness levels (> 8-10 gpg), or if iron, dissolved oxygen, or dissolved silica are present.

 

Magnetism: Some conditioners use magnets to create a magnetic field in your water that affects the way the hardness ions behave. Normally, these ions are prone to forming clusters that stick to surfaces, but the magnetism is intended to make them less likely to do this by changing the shape of the clusters. Scientific studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of magnetic water treatment

 

Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener

 

Water is such an integral part of our everyday life, but in almost all cases, water does not start out clean. This is why water typically goes through many stages of treatment before it ever gets to you. Even once water has already been treated by your city and makes its way to your storage tank and pipes, it may not be in the condition you want it.

 

This is where water conditioning comes in. Water conditioning aims to address three major issues that are present in most water sources: limescale, bacteria, and algae. These problems can cause a whole host of issues in water systems, including on the insides of pipes, on heat exchangers, on fixtures, and more.

 

If your primary goal is to keep water from damaging or causing problems in your plumbing system or increase the efficiency of your appliances, trying to figure out the best option for treating your water can be overwhelming. There is a myriad of solutions out there, and it can be difficult to understand the differences between them and which solution is best for your home or business.

 

In this post, we'll focus on two types of water treatment systems: water conditioners and water softeners. These terms are often confused, so we'll clarify the difference and explain how each works.

 

Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener: What's the Similarity?

Before we discuss the differences between these two terms, let's talk about the similarities. The reason for this is that water conditioners and water softeners are both used to address the common problem of water hardness. Hard water is water that is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, and silica.

 

These minerals can cause serious problems for heat-exchange surfaces, pipes and water fixtures throughout your home and business. Over time, pipes could become completely clogged by scale buildup. When limescale builds up on a heating element, it insulates it and prevents it from doing its job efficiently. Hard water can cause ongoing, everyday problems, too. It's no wonder that homeowners and businesses alike want to find a way to combat this issue.

 

Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener: What's the Difference?

We've already seen what these two terms have in common, so what's the difference between them? When it comes to the issue of hard water, a traditional water softener actually removes calcium, magnesium and silica ions, leaving it with small quantities of what is known as “temporary hardness”. The softener replaces these ions with salt through a process called ion exchange.

 

A water conditioner, on the other hand, is a more innovative solution that manipulates the way the hardness minerals in a liquid solution behave. The result is that they are still present, but they don't build up on surfaces and cause problems. Since calcium, magnesium and silica are healthy minerals to humans and other animals, keeping them in the water is a great advantage, as long as they aren't damaging your plumbing system.

 

While both water softeners and water conditioners are designed to address the problem of water hardness in some way, a water conditioner typically tackles other water issues, too — such as biological contaminants, including bacteria and algae, which can collect on surfaces. When these substances build-up, it is referred to as biofilm. A water softener alone is not designed to address the issue of biofilm — only scale.

 

Note that "water conditioner" is often used as a fairly broad term that may refer to any type of water purification or treatment system. We're focusing on the type of water conditioner that we've described here — one that can provide an all-in-one solution for both hardness and biological contaminants. There are different methods of conditioning water, but the result should be a liquid solution that does not allow a build-up of any kind to damage your plumbing system.

 

Here is a closer look at how both water softeners and water conditioners work…

 

How Does a Water Softener Work?

A water softener typically removes excess minerals from water through a process called ion exchange. To understand this process, you need to first understand that minerals are ionic. In other words, they are electrically charged. It's also important to understand that ions of opposite charges are attracted to each other.

 

Minerals such as calcium and magnesium, both have a positive charge. Sodium, the mineral that water softeners use to replace hardness ions, also has a positive charge, so none of these ions are attracted to each other. However, sodium's charge is weaker than that of calcium and magnesium. If ions aren't attracted to each other, how can an exchange take place? There is one other crucial element needed to make the process work: a resin bed consisting of lots of tiny, negatively-charged beads.

 

The salt added to a water softener clings to these beads since opposites attract. Then, when the calcium and magnesium-rich water flows through the water softener, the negatively-charged resin attracts the positively-charged ions of calcium and magnesium. Since these ions have a stronger positive charge than sodium ions, the sodium ions get displaced and are exchanged for calcium and magnesium.

 

The water that flows out of the tank now contains dissolved sodium chloride (salt) instead of dissolved calcium or magnesium, resulting in what is called “soft water”. For every GPG of calcium or magnesium minerals that are removed, 7.5 milligrams per quart of sodium are added.

 

To keep this process up, you have to periodically add bags of salt to the water softener. This recharges the beads, so the ion exchange process can continue to work.

 

Some of the downsides of this process are that it wastes water since the excess minerals need to be flushed out and requires the addition of salt every so often to keep it going. This represents an ongoing maintenance task as well as a financial cost. It also makes this type of water treatment less environmentally-friendly and unhealthy to humans and other animals.

 

How Does a Water Conditioner Work?

How do water conditioners affect water? Remember, there are different kinds of water conditioners. They use various methods to create a catalytic reaction that changes the way minerals and biological contaminants behave in a liquid solution. The end goal is to keep this matter from building up on surfaces and causing serious issues like biofouling and scale buildup.

 

The exact way a water conditioner achieves this depends on what type of conditioner it is and what the system is capable of. The goal may be to reduce the formation of limescale, to slow the rate of scaling or to change the makeup of the scale so that it precipitates and doesn't adhere to surfaces at all.

 

No matter how a water conditioner manipulates the behavior of minerals, they all have some key things in common. Conditioners, as opposed to traditional water softeners, do not actually remove mineral ions, but they do prevent those ions from building up around the insides of pipes, on the heating element, nozzles, and plumbing fixtures. This solves one of the major problems hard water presents without adding salt. This is why you'll sometimes hear water conditioners referred to as "no-salt softeners”. This water treatment option is preferable for many people since water conditioners tend to be much lower maintenance and lower cost than traditional water softeners and do not add sodium to the water.

 

Another advantage of the water conditioning process is that it can address biological contaminants, as well. Water conditioners can break up biofilm so that it doesn't adhere to surfaces. Some conditioners, such as HydroFLOW, can even deactivate these biological contaminants.

 

best water softener choice

 

The HydroFLOW water conditioner keeps minerals, algae, and bacteria from becoming a problem in your water system by sending an electrical signal of 150 kilohertz (kHz) through your plumbing system. The signal causes the minerals to join together, forming clusters that eventually form stable crystals. These crystals do not cling to surfaces like individual minerals would.

The signal also affects biological matter. Most existing biofilm will break up and be carried by the flow of the liquid solution. Furthermore, the electrical signal charges the algae and bacteria, causing the cells to be surrounded by a layer of pure water. As water is forced into the cells via osmosis, the cell ruptures and perishes.

 

Types of Water Conditioners

Here are a few different water conditioning methods, or “salt-free water softeners”:

 

Magnetism: Some conditioners use magnets to create a magnetic field in your water that affects the way the hardness ions behave. Normally, these ions are prone to forming clusters that stick to surfaces, but the magnetism is intended to make them less likely to do this by changing the shape of the clusters. Scientific studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of magnetic water treatment.


Electromagnetism: This method is similar to using magnetism, but in this case, there is a source of electricity. Electromagnetic conditioners have the same disadvantages as magnetic ones. Their only advantage over traditional magnetic conditioners is that you can turn off the signal if need be.


Electrolysis: This method uses what is essentially a battery. Metal electrodes are immersed in the water and release positive zinc ions, which also release electrons that move through the wire to the cathode. This process eventually ceases when the zinc anode dissolves. When this conditioner is exhausted, it will no longer affect your water, and you may not know this has occurred until the hard water has caused damage.


Template-Assisted Crystallization: Shortened to TAC, this method uses resin beads as a catalytic nucleation site where hardness mineral ions are changed into a stable crystalline form that will not cling to surfaces. These crystals are microscopic and flow normally through the water. Unlike with a softener that uses ion-exchange, this tank of resin beads does not require ongoing regeneration.


Electrical Induction: An electrical current can also be used to precipitate water hardness. This precipitate typically forms on an electrode that requires periodic cleaning. The precipitate can create a layer of sludge on some surfaces. However, this sludge can be easily removed by fast-flowing water. The patented and unique HydroFLOW water conditioner is the most innovative way of using an electrical induction to condition water.

 

The above types of water conditioners are known as physical conditioners. Some water treatment methods change the chemical makeup of water rather than manipulate the way ions in the water behave. You may hear these treatment methods referred to as water conditioners, but they use chemicals to treat the water and are not physical conditioners. A water softener that uses ion exchange is one example of a chemical treatment process. Some other examples of chemical treatment methods include:

 

Chelation: Another method is to introduce a chemical compound that acts as a chelating agent. Magnesium and calcium bind to this chelating agent and remain suspended in the water rather than building up on surfaces. However, if they remain in one place for long, as they might in a water heater, the buildup could still occur.


Clark's Process: This process is also called lime softening. The chemical calcium hydroxide, called limewater, is added to water, which causes the hardness ions to precipitate. The alkalinity of the water is raised through this addition to above 9.6, so carbon dioxide must be added to re-carbonate the water and bring the pH back down.


Reverse Osmosis: With reverse osmosis, sometimes shortened to RO, pressure forces water to pass through a semipermeable membrane that takes unwanted ions, molecules, and larger particles out of the water. RO requires ongoing filter replacements, which can become costly. Where is the chemical usage? Acid is usually introduced in order to reduce the fouling of this system.

 

Condition Water Effectively and Efficiently With HydroFLOW

There may be many ways of treating water, but not all of these methods are equally effective or meet every industry's needs equally. Being informed is a critical first step. This way you can be sure you choose a solution that is right for your home or business. Don't take on the ongoing expense and maintenance of a water softener right away just because you need to treat your scale problems.

 

For some, a water softener may be the best solution, but it is by no means your only option. As we have seen, many other types of water conditioners can have a positive effect on hard water without actually removing the hardness minerals. Additionally, some of these conditioners are designed to prevent the accumulation of biofilm. In numerous cases, a water conditioner, rather than a water softener, is the perfect solution to address water treatment needs.

 

At HydroFLOW USA, we have developed an especially effective means of conditioning, water that doesn't require the use of any chemicals or salt. All it takes is an easy installation of a unit that is easily built around a pipe. This unit has a special transducer that is connected to a ring of ferrites. The unit delivers an electrical signal that travels through a plumbing system, regardless of the pipes' material. The water flowing through the pipes acts as a conductor to carry the signal.

 

As a result of this electrical current, ions — both positively and negatively charged — form crystals that are suspended in the water. Scale and biofilm won't build-up, and the signal also chips away at the already existing build-up. Hydropath Technology, which powers the HydroFLOW devices, is uniquely effective and efficient compared to other water conditioning options on the market today. With a HydroFLOW water conditioner, you're left with pipes, fixtures, and appliances that are clean rather than covered in accumulated minerals and biofilm. This allows them to work to their full potential and to last longer than they otherwise would.

We offer several product options to meet your specific needs. You can count on our products to thoroughly address the issues of scale, bacteria, and algae. Contact us today if you have any questions or want to learn more about how HydroFLOW water conditioners.

 

Related Articles:

Water Softening Systems and the History of Water Softeners

Hard Water Facts

What is Hard Water?