Whether you source the water for your home or business from a nearby well or your city’s municipal water supply, you should take every possible precaution to make sure your water is free of harmful contaminants.
A popular, effective, and safe option for treatment is an ion exchange water filtration system, which can soften water. What exactly is an ion exchange filter, and how does it work?
In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the ion exchange process, how it’s used in water treatment, and the benefits of using an ion exchange water filter to soften your home’s or business’ water.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of water softening, let’s take a step back and examine just how ion exchange works to soften water with a quick chemistry refresher:1
During ion exchange, an atom or molecule will detach its weak bond and reattach to a separate ion with a stronger charge.2 Scientists can use ion exchange to potentially create new molecules and compounds, neutralize electrically-charged atoms, or remove solids from liquid solutions.
So, how does an ion exchange system work in water treatment? Ion exchange water filters soften water but don’t filter it. In other words, they use electronically charged solids to remove contaminant ions from drinking water—even if the contaminants are in liquid form. Let’s demystify a few questions about ion exchange in water filtration.
There are two types of ion exchange:3
Most ion exchange water filters harness both anion and cation exchange to remove as many contaminants as possible from the drinking water supply. Since not all contaminants are negatively or positively charged, using both methods may ensure thorough water softening.
Anion exchange may effectively remove the following negatively-charged ion contaminants:4
Cation exchange may remove positively-charged pollutants like:
Anion exchange typically replaces contaminant ions with chloride, while cation exchange usually relies upon sodium as an exchange ion. Both negatively and positively charged ions are innocuous and may be safe for human consumption in small quantities.
While various filters with different designs are available on the market, ion exchange water filters are typically made from a few key components:
Ion exchange resin typically comes in a solid form, and it’s usually made of small beads. Filter manufacturers use beads (instead of a contiguous substance coating the walls of the tank) for a few reasons:
Some systems may also include a resin regeneration tank. When the resin collects its maximum amount of contaminant ions, it moves to a saltwater tank. The contaminant ions attach to the sodium chloride ions in the brine, removing them from the resin, which can then be reused in the primary ion exchange tank.
In such systems, using spherical resin provides mobility. The spent spheres can easily move into the saltwater tank and back into the primary ion exchange tank once the sodium chloride has removed all contaminant ions.
An Ion exchange water filtration system may be very effective when softening water for two primary reasons:
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), both anion and cation exchange can remove up to 99% of negatively- and positively-charged contaminants, respectively.3 Since they’re so effective, the EPA has deemed ion exchange water filters as a “best available technology” and Small System Compliance Technology, particularly for removing radium, uranium, beta particle, gross alpha, and photon emitters.
While their dependability and effectiveness may make them an excellent choice for home and business water purification needs, ion exchange water filters also offer an array of other potential benefits. Let’s explore a few.
As we’ve discussed above, the resin ion exchange medium is reusable. Ion exchange water filters with built-in saltwater tanks may be the most sustainable option since they don’t require refilling or removing the resin. That also means there’s no need to transport or dispose of exhausted resin.
Even if a system doesn’t have a built-in brine tank for resin regeneration, home and business owners or their water filtration services providers can replace the resin in their tank and remove the spent beads. Instead of simply throwing away the resin and creating waste, they can refresh the resin for reuse.
Ion exchange water filters are particularly attractive because of their broad and thorough removal of contaminant chemicals.
As discussed above, combined anion and cation exchange systems not only remove up to 99% of their target contaminant ions but also remove 12 total distinct pollutants. While some softening systems only target solids of a certain size or a few specific chemicals, ion exchange filters may effectively remove numerous possible contaminants from the water supply.
Since they have the potential to remove so many different ions, ion exchange water filters may be useful for both pollutant removal and improvement of overall water quality and softness. They may also considerably improve the taste, color, and odor of drinking water and neutralize tasteless, odorless, and colorless hazards.
Water hardness describes the total amount of dissolved magnesium and calcium in your drinking water supply.5
But filtering hard water from your drinking water supply isn’t the only thing that’s important. Since cation exchange water filters remove calcium and magnesium ions from drinking water, they may resolve water hardness issues befalling your home or business.
Water softening efforts carry multiple potential benefits:
You can also learn how to test water quality at home to determine when a water softener may be needed.
Whole-home or whole-business water softening systems are often the simplest solutions for improving drinking water quality.
Other water softening solutions are available, of course, but they all carry their own drawbacks:
Since ion exchange water filters can be used in a whole-home or whole-business softening system, you can reap the potential benefits of their effective treatment throughout your entire space.
Ion exchange water filters may be effective and sustainable—and may also target a wide variety of potential water supply contaminants to soften water. If you’re in search of a water softening solution for your home or business, you should certainly consider an ion exchange solution for your drinking water needs.
Making a shortlist of potential business or house water filter systems can be difficult without professional advice. At Rayne Water, we bring almost a century of experience to home and business owners. We’re passionate about bringing you the cleanest, tastiest water possible, and we’re ready to help you, your family, or your business find the ideal solution.
When you’re ready to improve your water quality, contact us for a free consultation.