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How Do Salt Free Water Systems Work?

Water is our most precious commodity. Aside from being essential to keeping us hydrated, our water supply makes it possible for us to cook our meals, clean our dishes, wash our clothes, and shower. 

That’s why what’s in your water affects more than just your health. If your water becomes over-encumbered with hard water minerals, you’re left with hard water—a frustrating and costly issue. Investing in a clean drinking water system can play a big role in your health over time.

In the past, the solution to hard water was installing a water softener to replace your water’s minerals with sodium. But that isn’t the only option anymore. With a salt free water system, this  system alternative can improve the quality of your water without adding salt to it. 

What is Hard Water?

When water travels underground to your home, it passes through mineral-rich stones and soil. During its journey, the water will dissolve small amounts of these minerals, which then cling to the water molecules and become part of the water itself. 

Like erosion, this water softener system process happens naturally over time. The water that comes into our homes most often collects calcium and magnesium—minerals that are commonly found in limestone and dolomite. Other substances, such as iron and aluminum, can also make their way into your water supply. 

As the amount of minerals and metals in your water increases, so does the hard water scale in your water. 

The Negative Impacts of Hard Water

Your hard water scale doesn’t actually affect the way the water feels. You may have hard water in your home and not even realize it. In fact, about 85% of American homes have problems with hard water.1 

Fortunately, hard water doesn’t pose a danger to your health. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely harmless. 

The soap you use to wash your hands, take a shower, clean your clothes, and run your dishwasher reacts to the excess amount of calcium within hard water. Instead of creating soapy suds, this reaction creates a solid build-up of minerals with hardness ions, resulting in stains, residue, and even skin irritation. If you’ve noticed that you’re constantly rewashing clothes, or using more soap than necessary to get your dishes clean, your water may be to blame. 

Hard water also affects your home’s plumbing. When your hot water heater warms up hard water in your home, the excess calcium forms solid deposits that attach to the inside of your water heater and your water pipes. Over time, these deposits clog your pipes and obstruct the flow of water. 

Not only does this lower your water efficiency, but it also shortens the life of your equipment. One study found that hot water heaters with hard-water calcium build-up perform 22% to 30% less effectively than water heaters without build-up.2 

Clogged pipes also decrease your water pressure, causing you to use more water. Aside from wasting resources, using more water also significantly raises the cost of your water bill. If hard water is left untreated, your pipes will eventually need to be completely replaced—a costly and time-consuming process. 

So how can you know if hard water is a problem for you and your home?

Common signs of hard water include: 

  • Water spots – Water spots may appear on your dishware and glassware after they’ve been washed.
  • Filmy residue – Homeowners with hard water will notice a filmy residue in their showers, bathtubs, sinks, and around their faucets.
  • Decreased water pressure – If your shower starts to feel more like a light drizzle, your pipes and faucet may have a substantial build-up of calcium blocking the flow of water. 
  • Scratchy, dull clothing – Clothes washed with hard water will feel tough and scratchy, rather than soft. Colored fabrics may start to dull, while white fabrics may start to look gray. You may even notice mineral stains on your clothes.
  • Dry, irritated skin – The filmy residue that ends up on your shower and in your bathtub also ends up on your skin, which can make it feel dry and sticky. Even worse, the minerals in hard water affect the pH balance of your skin. This can make you more prone to bacteria, and worsen existing skin conditions, such as eczema or acne.
  • Brittle hair – After showering with hard water, your hair may feel brittle, or sticky with leftover shampoo and conditioner. 

If you’ve noticed any of these issues, reach out to our experts at Rayne Water. Our professional readings can give you an accurate measure of your water’s hardness. 

Salt Based Water Softeners 

To combat hard water and its negative effects, sodium-based water softening systems were developed. These systems reduce levels of calcium and magnesium in hard water by replacing them with salt. Due to the demands of the system, salt based water softeners need to have access to electricity, as well as a drain. 

A whole house salt water softener is made up of two tanks—a resin tank and a brine tank. The resin tank is filled with negatively charged resin beads coated with positively charged sodium ions. When water travels through the resin tank, calcium and magnesium ions are attracted to the resin. The calcium and magnesium are drawn away from the water molecule, leaving room for the sodium ions to swoop in and take their place in the water. This process is known as ion-exchange. 

After mineral ions are drained from the system, the brine tank is used to refill the resin bed with sodium. Every few cycles, salt is added to the brine tank to ensure the system can operate properly.

Although salt water softeners effectively reduce the levels of calcium and magnesium in hard water, their use of sodium as a replacement can be a health concern. Salt water softeners also require maintenance. Not only do you have to add salt to your brine tank when it runs low, but you also need to regularly clean both the brine tank and the resin tank to prevent build-ups of iron, manganese, and salt bridges. 

Luckily, there’s an alternative solution that’s just as effective—a water softener without salt. Below include a few reasons to choose a water softener without salt

Salt Free Water Systems

As their name suggests, these water systems don’t require salt to reduce the levels of calcium and magnesium in hard water. In fact, they don’t reduce these minerals at all. 

So then how do salt free water systems work?

Rather than eliminating the minerals themselves, salt free water softeners eliminate the negative impact these minerals have by conditioning the water. 

Water Conditioning 

Water conditioning is achieved through a process called template-assisted crystallization (TAC). This process causes the minerals within the water to harden into microscopic crystals, sometimes known as seed crystals. 

These seed crystals work like powerful magnets, attracting the other minerals within your water. By binding to the crystals rather than to the pipes and surfaces in your home, minerals like calcium and magnesium can no longer cause build-up, filmy residue, or stains. Conditioned water can also make your clothes look brighter after washing them, and make your skin and hair feel hydrated and smooth after a shower. 

Some water conditioning systems can even reverse existing mineral build-up and damage within your pipes and equipment. This means you’ll experience an increase in water efficiency and pressure while lowering your water bill. 

Reverse Osmosis Filtration

Another way to soften your water without the use of salt is by installing a reverse osmosis filtration system. These systems physically filter your water by forcing it through a filtration membrane. The membrane contains microscopic pores that allow the water molecule to pass through, but not the minerals or metals within the water. 

Although whole house reverse osmosis systems are available, these filters are typically installed at a single tap. Because they also boast the removal of other contaminants, such as microbes, a reverse osmosis system can be a beneficial addition to the sink you rely on for your drinking and cooking water.

Benefits of Salt Free Water Systems

Both salt and salt free water systems are designed to prevent mineral build-up, eliminate skin irritation, and add years to the life of your water pipes and equipment. 

So what are the advantages of choosing a salt free water  system over a salt water softener?

  • No added salt – Many homeowners choose to go salt free to avoid any potential health issues related to adding sodium to their diets. Although the amount of salt added through water softening is considered low by the FDA,3 people with high blood pressure or those who follow doctor recommended low sodium diets should avoid excess salt intake whenever possible. 
  • Hassle-free installation – Because salt free water softeners don’t require electricity or a drain in order to operate, installation is often less complicated. This is especially true if your water main line enters your house in an area where external power sources are limited. 
  • More cost effective – Since salt free systems don’t use electricity, installing one won’t increase your power bill. 
  • No brine tank – Some regions have brine restrictions in place. If you live in one of these areas, a salt free water softener is the better option for you.
  • Low maintenance – Salt free systems don’t require the same amount of cleaning and maintenance that salt water systems do. 
  • Reduction of other contaminants – At Rayne Water, we offer salt free water softening systems that not only eliminate mineral build-up, but also reduce disinfectants that are used to treat your water. These include chlorine, chloramines, suspended solids, and volatile organic compounds. 

How Much Does a Salt Free Water System Cost?

The cost of a salt free water system depends on the type and size of system you choose. Installing a whole house salt free water softener, for instance, will can cost more than installing a reverse osmosis system on a single faucet. 

Costs will also vary based on the size of your home, the amount of water you use, and the hardness of your water. 

Although it might be an initial investment up front, the amount of money you’ll save by increasing your water efficiency, extending the life of your equipment, and preventing plumbing issues, will more than make up for the cost. 

The Salt Free Solution to Hard Water  

Hard water is a common issue that can lead to costly damage down the line. If your dishware is spotty, your clothes are dull and stained, and your skin feels dry and irritated, your home’s water quality is likely to blame.

To get an accurate measure of your water’s hardness, or if you’re ready to install a salt free water softening system, contact Rayne Water today. We can give you a free in-home estimate and recommend the best system for your specific needs. Improve the condition of your water, reclaim your quality of life, and save money with Rayne Water. 

Sources: 

  1. USGS. Hardness of Water. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/hardness-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects 
  2. Water Research Center. Hard Water Hardness Calcium Magnesium Water Corrosion Mineral Scale. https://water-research.net/index.php/water-treatment/tools/hard-water-hardness 
  3. NCBI. Potential Health Impacts of Hard Water.
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775162/ 
  5. Home Tips. How to Buy a Water Softener System | Solve Hard Water Problems. https://www.hometips.com/buying-guides/water-softener-systems.html 
  6. Healthline. Hard Water vs. Soft Water: Which One Is Healthier? https://www.healthline.com/health/hard-water-and-soft-water#water-softening 
  7. Scientific American. How do water softeners work? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-water-softeners-wo/
  8. How Stuff Works. How to Clean a Water Softener Resin Tank. https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-hints-tips/cleaning-organizing/clean-water-softener-resin-tank.htm