Soft water or hard water and what exactly is the difference?
08 February 2010
If you live in a hard water area, you’ll already know the problems it causes.The kettle scales up, there’s a white crust around the taps, the shower head delivers a thin trickle of water instead of the powerful jet it is supposed to and the washing seems dank despite the extra dollop of softener that was used in the load. These are just some of the horrendous and annoying things you can see. But what the eye cannot see is the much greater damage inside the plumbing system.
Blocked pipes and hot water cylinders so full of scale that the water doesn't even heat up. So because the eye doesn’t see this problem, the heart doesn’t grieve over it but it should. The devastation caused is extremely costly and rather like the cholesterol build up in the arteries in the human body, the clogging up of pipes with limescale is slow and insidious. Suddenly, the hot water cylinder packs up, the shower stops working, the kettles fizzles and
stops and I have even known pipes to suddenly stop delivering water altogether.
When this happens, your house has had the equivalent of a heart attack and it happened quickly. Just like a real
heart attack the blocked pipes and appliances had been getting scaled up slowly and without much warning. You don’t need your house to have a large SCALE attack because for very little money you can prevent it happening. Just install one or two Little Plumber units and they will not only remove existing limescale but also prevent any new scale. It is that simple.
Hard water is water in which is dissolved the salts of Calcium Carbonate. This has come from rain water which has passed through chalk in the ground and dissolved some of that chalk away before it reaches your house. Everything is fine if the water remains cold but when it’s heated up, the very thing that caused the water to be acidic in the first place Carbon Dioxide is removed and BINGO the salts come out of solution and deposit on the first warm thing they can find. These salts will also deposit inside pipes and at elbow joints because here again the Carbon Dioxide is removed by the change in water pressure as it spins round the bend thereby knocking the gas out of solution.
One of the most annoying and frustrating problems caused by hard water is dry skin and eczema. In other instances psoriasis occurs. These conditions are extremely hard to get rid of even with creams and endless medicines. The answer, or at least one of them is to make the water soft. This can be done with a water conditioner or a conventional water softener.
Soft water is simply water without the dissolved salts of Calcium Carbonate and it occurs naturally in the form of rainwater. If this rainwater flows through rocks and ground that is not chalky it will stay soft and when heated no limescale will appear.
But it is of course possible to remove the Calcium ions from hard water thereby making it soft. And how do you do this? Simply install a water softener.
What does that do? I hear you ask. Well a typical ion exchange softener is filled with salt NaCL or sodium chloride and the ions of sodium Na exchange on a resin column with the Ca or calcium ions. The resulting Calcium Chloride CaCl is flushed out of the softener and the Sodium remains in the water. Great…….soft water. Plenty of bubbles, soft hair, no scale and long lasting boilers and plumbing. Yes all would be well except for a few downsides. Firstly the treated water cannot be drunk as sodium ions are bad for you and secondly the regular requirement of salt means you are going to have to fill up the softener regularly with fresh salt. Plus of course with many softeners you’ve got to pay for running costs as they are electrically operated and you will also need to maintain the softener. Oh, and of course you have to buy it and plumb it in to start with so say goodbye to a few hundred pounds for a small unit and a thousand or more for a bigger one.
But the benefits of soft water are fine so it’s worth the investment.
There is another option which is becoming favoured. The electronic water conditioner. These simple devices are electrically powered and one or more aerials from them are wrapped around a cold water pipe. Amazingly, if the units are of good quality and emit the right range of frequencies, the results are very similar to having a traditional water softener. Yes, the scale is removed and new scale prevented. The water appears soft because the free Calcium ions responsible for hardness have been taken out of circulation and to all intent and purpose, you have the equivalent of a water softener.
The big plus is the price. Far less and even bigger plus, no maintenance, no salt no chemicals and the running cost around three pounds a year.
Before you rush out and buy one make sure, absolutely sure that the place you get one from offers you a long term money back gaurantee. The Little Plumber range starts at less than £100 and will treat a 4-bed house.
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