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Frequently Asked Water Treatment Questions

What is hard water?
Hard water contains dissolved minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium. It was originally called “hard” because it is hard to clean with it.

What are the effects of hard water?
There are many problems created by hard water.
* Hard water minerals adhere to the inner walls of plumbing, and over time will restrict the flow of water with the buildup of scale. Scale also builds up on faucets and fixtures. Scale acts as an insulator, decreasing the efficiency of hot water heaters and increasing the cost of heating water.
* Hard water minerals combine with soaps and detergents to create soap curd, which adheres to bathtubs, showers, and the bather’s skin.
* Hard water makes soaps and detergents less effective, and more products must be consumed.
* Hard water stains laundry and can shorten the life of textiles by 40%.

How can hard water be treated?
The most common way to treat hard water is with an ion exchange water softener. Other technologies exist, such as variable electromagnetic fields. These systems are difficult to test and verify their efficacy, but there is abundant anecdotal information regarding their performance.

How does a water softener work?
Water softeners work on an ion exchange principle. Water softener resins are tiny plastic beads that have an affinity for sodium ions (Na+). As the hard water passes through the softener, calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) displace the sodium ions. Eventually the softener can no longer take on any more Ca2+ and Mg2+ and is exhausted. Before the softener reaches the point of exhaustion, it is regenerated. A highly concentrated brine solution is used to displace the hardness minerals and replace them with new Na+ ions.

What causes brown or reddish-brown stains in sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilet bowls?
It is most likely iron or iron and manganese. These can be removed with a water softener or iron filter.

What causes green or bluish-green stains in sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilet bowls?
It is most likely caused by low pH water. Low pH water is corrosive and dissolves copper plumbing, and creates green or bluish-green stains. The pH can be raised by injection of a soda ash solution.

How can Chlorine be removed from water?
Chlorine can be removed from water with granular activated carbon. Three ways of implementing carbon are: whole-house filter cartridge, point-of-use in-line cartridges (refrigerator, shower), and whole-house back-flushing carbon tank filter.

How can drinking water be treated for bacteria?
Municipalities and water supply systems use chlorination, ozone, and ultra violet light. They usually use them in some combination or other. Private well owners have the same treatment solutions available, but usually use just one strategy.

What causes rotten egg smell?
The rotten egg smell is hydrogen sulfide (H2S). It is produced by otherwise harmless bacteria that metabolize sulfur.

What is reverse osmosis?
Reverse osmosis is the process of forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane allows the water molecules to pass, but rejects most of the contaminants.

What are point-of-use and point-of-entry?
Point-of-use is a single, specific form of water treatment. Examples are filtered refrigerator water dispensers, under counter reverse osmosis drinking water systems, or a shower filter. Point-of-entry treatment systems are located where water is going to or coming into a building or home. They treat all of the water at every faucet, shower, and toilet. They can also be thought of as “whole house” treatment systems.

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