What Is A Water Softener?
A Water Softener is a filtration system that works to remove high concentrations of calcium and magnesium that cause hard water. When water flows through a Water Softener, the system filters out these hard water minerals, and the softened water then leaves the water softening system to flow through plumbing.
What Is Hardness In Water?
Hard water contains high concentrations of minerals, namely calcium and magnesium. Because of their chemical structure, both calcium and magnesium bond easily with other types of metals. Over time these bonds build up into something you can actually see, for example, the crusty residue on your shower head!
In fact, that’s how “hard water” got its name, from the hardened mineral deposits this kind of water leaves behind. Over time these deposits can accumulate, clog, or even corrode pipes and cause major plumbing problems. Hard water deposits can build up in boilers and hot water heaters, making them less efficient and more expensive to use.
To make a long story short, hard water can leave lasting, negative effects on every surface it runs on, over or through.
How Does A Water Softener Work?
Believe it or not, Water Softeners are a lot like magnets. In a traditional bar magnet, one end is “positive” and the other is “negative.” So, let’s say you have two bar magnets and try to make both positive ends connect. What happens? They repel each other. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to get them to connect. But, what happens when you try connecting the positive end of one with the negative end of the other? They immediately connect, SNAP!
The fact that positive and negative things attract is the basic idea of how Water Softeners work.
Calcium and magnesium, the two key culprits of hard water, are both positively charged molecules. And, as the hard water pumps through the softening system, it passes through a filter filled with negatively charged resin beads. Just like with the magnets, as the hard water moves through the resin beads—opposites attract. SNAP!
And, this idea also applies when the system regenerates (aka, cleans) itself. During regeneration, water and salt (positively charged) flushes through the resin beads. Thinking back to the magnet example, the positive charges in the salt, calcium, and magnesium all repel each other. The calcium and magnesium detach from the resin beads and drain out along with all the salty water.
How Do You Know If You Need A Water Softener?
Look around your home for some of the most common hard water signs:
- Mineral-like crust built up around your faucets or on your shower head
- Soap scum build up in your sinks or on your shower walls
- Stiff clothing after a load of laundry
- Irritated or dry skin and dull hair after showering
There are also ways to professionally test for hard water. Contact your local Culligan dealer to find out more.
What Is Reverse Osmosis (RO)?
Reverse osmosis is a process that removes foreign contaminants, solid substances, large molecules and minerals from water by using pressure to push it through specialized membranes. It is a water purification system used to improve water for drinking, cooking and other important uses.
How Does Reversed Osmosis (RO) Work?
As its name implies, RO takes osmosis, a natural process that occurs in every cell-based organism—plants, animals and even people—and reverses it.
To understand reverse osmosis, you first need to know – what is osmosis? During regular osmosis, a diluted solution passes through a semipermeable membrane and flows into a more concentrated one. Example: When your fingers become “prune-y” after swimming in the ocean. Through osmosis, the water in our bodies passes through our skin, out to the water around us.
Now, here’s how reverse osmosis works:
- Unlike osmosis, which is a passive process, reverse osmosis requires external force (pressure) to work.
- Pressure is applied to a highly concentrated solute solution (e.g., salt water) to pass through a membrane to a lower concentrate solution.
- The membrane allows water to flow through but blocks out larger molecules, like contaminants.
- The reverse osmosis process leaves higher concentrations of solute (e.g., salt) on one side and only the solvent (e.g., fresh water) on the other.
How Does A Reverse Osmosis (RO) System Work?
Reverse osmosis is a method that can be applied to water filtration to help remove other minerals, substances, molecules and impurities from the water that runs throughout your house. RO systems vary depending on brand and design, but in general, they perform the following functions: pre-filtration, reverse osmosis, drainage and storage.
Here are the steps of water filtration through a reverse osmosis drinking water system:
Step 1: Pre-Filtration
The system connects to drinking water lines and uses a high-pressure pump to propel feed water through. Feed water passes through a series of filters, usually carbon-based, designed to “catch” sediment and mineral deposits before flowing into the reverse osmosis chamber.
Step 2: Reverse Osmosis
Here, the feed water is pushed through the semipermeable membrane.
Think of the membrane as a tightly woven piece of fabric—one that looks virtually impermeable to the naked eye. To give you an idea of how stringent the membrane is, the diameter of a strand of human hair is roughly 100 microns wide. But, in Culligan RO Systems, the spaces in the membrane are approximately ONE micron wide.
Step 3 + 4: Drainage & Storage
The system drains out all contaminants not caught in filters at each stage, and treated water is stored in a small tank until used.
What Are Common Contaminants Removed By Reverse Osmosis (RO)?
A high-performing RO system can remove up to 99% of dissolved contaminants found in feed water. These common water contaminants include:
- Colloids: oil and fat-based molecules
- Organic bacteria
- Pyrogens: protein-based substances produced by bacteria that cause fevers when introduced into the human body