Below are frequently asked questions and answers about our plumbing services.
Q: What is that “slippery” feeling on my skin when I have soft water?
Many people are unaware that they are not meant to wash away the 'slippery' feeling left on their skin by soft water. The residue is not soap--it's your own natural body oils. Your natural skin is actually cleaner after washing with soft water. The soap film you see on a hard-water shower's walls also collects on your skin, depriving your skin of the natural oils that it needs. The film left on your skin with hard water can cause dry skin, and skin lotions must be purchased to remedy the problem. That buildup of soap scum on your skin is why you are not 'slippery' after bathing with hard water. You can prove this to yourself with a little test. When you wash your hands in hard water, you may feel like all soap is off of your skin, but you are mistaken. Simply touch your tongue to the back of your hand. You’ll almost gag from all the soap left over. After washing in soft water, repeat the test. You won't taste any soap, because the soft water allowed you to actually rinse it off of your skin.
Q: What are the major differences between softeners and salt-free conditioners?
A water softener physically removes calcium and magnesium from your water thereby preventing corrosive damage to expensive appliances. A salt-free system on the other hand leaves those minerals in but changes them on a molecular level, diminishing the ability to adhere themselves to all your plumbing fixtures. In order to understand more about the differences between the two systems, people need to understand a little more about how these systems work.
A conventional salt-based water softener actually removes the calcium and magnesium from your water using a process called Ion Exchange. Resin inside your water softener attracts the calcium ions and releases sodium ions in their place. The resin retains the calcium until the softener’s next regeneration cycle when it’s washed down the drain, and then replaced with more sodium ions from your salt tank. Most water softeners are self-cleaning systems that can keep collecting calcium for years and years.
Salt-free water conditioners use a different method to keep the calcium and magnesium in your water from sticking to everything that you see, like the dishes in your dishwasher, or the walls of your shower. They are better described as scale-reduction systems, rather than as softeners. Salt-free systems don't take the calcium out of your water--they change its structure so it doesn't stick to anything when it comes through your faucets, but instead rinses safely down the drain.
Q: Which is better to use, regular salt or potassium chloride?
Regular salt is sodium chloride and is a lot less expensive than potassium chloride. Using potassium chloride reduces the softening capacity of the unit. It can also become gummy and plug the injector assembly inside the control head (that's bad.) However, it does accomplish the same goal.
Q: How much salt does a softener add to my water?
Let’s put the salt myth to bed. We tested a customer’s water for sodium before and after installing their water softener. The test showed the amount of sodium before the softener was at 110 ppm (parts per million). Their softened water tested at 200 ppm. Now before you start thinking “wow that’s double the amount of salt,” we then tested their 1% milk from the refrigerator, and it tested at 500 ppm of sodium. So, if you are worried about your sodium intake, you’re better off cutting milk out of your diet than soft water!
Q: How often should my water softener regenerate?
Most of the water softeners currently manufactured now count the gallons of water that you use in your home. The softener knows how many gallons of water it can soften before it needs to clean itself, or 'regenerate.' The need for regeneration is dependent upon your water usage, rather than a certain number of days. That being said, most properly sized residential softeners can be expected to regenerate about once every 3 to 4 weeks.
Q: What is the difference between a whole-house filter and a standard salt water softener?
A whole house filter is any water treatment system that cleans or treats the water before in enters the home. It does not imply what type or kind of filter that is being used and can therefore be applied to a host of different treatment systems including conventional water softeners.
Q: What is reverse osmosis?
Reverse osmosis is the process of forcing water under pressure through a semi-permeable membrane. That sounds really technical, but is actually simple. This process forces your water through a very fine screen that will only allow hydrogen and oxygen through, leaving almost everything else behind. Though the process can produce exceptionally clean water, it produces water at a relatively slow pace which makes it require that big tank taking up all the space under your sink
Q: How does a reverse-osmosis filtration system work?
The filtration system is a combination of different filters doing specific jobs. The first filter in the system is a 5 micron sediment filter. To put 5 microns into perspective, a human hair is about 50 microns thick. The human eye cannot see anything smaller than 30 microns. The next filter or two (depending on your system) is a variety of carbon filter. It can be a granular activated carbon (GAC,) a carbon block filter (CBC,) or some combination thereof. These filters remove all of the chlorine and organic contaminants from the water. After that, the water moves on to the membrane.
The membrane is the heart of the system. It is what does the really fine filtering. It can’t handle large amounts of chlorine or organic contaminants, so these must be removed by the carbon filter before the water reaches the membrane. The water goes through the membrane and then into the storage tank where it waits until you need a drink. When you call for water, it leaves the tank and goes through a post--or polishing--filter. This filter's job is to catch any objectionable tastes or odors the water may have picked up from being in the tank. Finally, the water comes out of the RO faucet and into your glass!
Q: How often should I change my reverse-osmosis filters?
A good rule of thumb is to change them every year. In areas where the tap water gets hot during the summer months you should consider changing the filters every six months, in spring and fall. Or, change them just in the fall for winter visitors. The reason for this is that 84°F is the ideal temperature for bacteria growth. In a perfect world, the city water should have enough chlorine in it to kill all bacteria. In desert areas like Las Vegas or Phoenix, the tap water reaches the mid 80°F temperature all summer long. This recommendation is based on having a relatively clean city water supply. If you have a private well, you may have a dirtier untreated water supply, and this may plug the sediment pre-filter, requiring it to be changed more frequently.
Q: I own a TDS meter and test my own water. How do I know when to change the filters?
A TDS meter will not tell you when to change filters. If your TDS meter is reading high, then your system's membrane is bad. The purpose of the filters is to take things out of the water that will hurt the membrane before the water reaches it. The membrane then cleans the already-filtered water and brings the TDS count down to usually less that 50PPM.
If you were to check the TDS of the water going into the RO system, it will probably read between 450 to 850 ppm. If you were to test the water again after it went through all of your pre-filters (sediment and 1 or 2 carbon filters,) it would test only around 100 ppm lower than your tap water. After it goes through the membrane the TDS is brought down to as low as 10 or 20 ppm (we usually tell people that 75 ppm or less is good.)
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