The what, where and how of a water softener


What is a water softener?

A water softener is a household device used to remove minerals such as calcium and magnesium from water. These minerals can cause lime deposits on fixtures and appliances, and can also make the water taste hard and unpleasant. Water softeners pass the hard water through a tank filled with tiny resin beads. The beads are covered with sodium ions, which bond to the calcium and magnesium ions in the hard water. As the hard water flows through the tank, the sodium ions replace the calcium and magnesium ions, making the water softer.


How does a water softener work?

Water softeners based on softening salt exchange some of the minerals in the softened water (such as calcium and magnesium, which cause limescale) for sodium. In most cases this is done by passing the softened water through a resin cylinder containing resin beads, which are covered with a thin layer of sodium. As the softened water flows through the resin beads, the calcium and magnesium ions bond to and replace the sodium ions. This is the ion exchange.

Once these minerals are exchanged for sodium, soft (softened) water flows through the water supply system. The softening process is continuous and regeneration takes place automatically. This happens, for instance, when a preset amount of water passes through the softener or when a certain time has passed. The only thing you have to add (monthly) is regeneration salt.

Where do you place a water softener?

A water softener is usually placed in the meter cupboard, crawl space, scullery or basement. Because of the size of a water softener (50x50x50cm or larger) it is not always possible to place it in the desired space.

It is important that the water softener is installed in a frost-free place, but also where the temperature does not rise above 50 degrees. Finally it is handy to place the water softener in a place that is easily accessible. A traditional water softener with regeneration salt needs maintenance, and you have to refill the regeneration salt periodically.


What does a water softener cost?

A traditional water softener (based on regeneration salt) costs € 1.000,- depending on the brand, type and power, but also many kilos of softening salt every year. Your situation and water consumption actually determine the price. This type of water softener also needs to be installed by a mechanic. Most companies charge extra (high) installation costs for this.

There are also cheaper alternatives to a water softener, such as an anti-scaling system based on magnetism. These systems are maintenance free and also much cheaper than a traditional water softener. The way they work is slightly different. Where a traditional water softener actually removes the calcium and magnesium particles from the water, these systems change the composition of the lime. This prevents the lime from sticking to your plumbing or appliances. So cleaning and keeping them clean becomes a piece of cake. The disadvantage of these systems, however, is that there are many cheap imitations on the market. Therefore, please inform yourself well.

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