Hard well water #113219 - Ask Extension

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Hard well water #113219

Asked January 28, 2013, 8:17 PM EST

We have a well that has hard, acidic water (6.6 ph) and we get a fair amount of lime build-up on our pipes. I think we may also have some bacterial iron. We're looking into water softeners, but are concerned about the environmental Impact of the sodium and potassium based softeners. On the other hand, we don't know if the salt-free water conditioners will do the job. Can you make a recommendation for us?

Jackson County Oregon

Expert Response

Salt-free water softeners are better known as descalers. While a 
descaler doesn't actually "soften" the water (remove dissolved minerals) 
it does keep them from being deposited on the insides of your pipes, 
dishwasher, and washing machine. However, where water sits, as in your 
hot water heater, scale will still form.

A regular water softener 
runs the water through resin beads where the calcium and magnesium 
molecules switch places with sodium molecules, leaving the water soft. 
No scale in your pipes or on your body is left because the mineral that 
would form it is now gone.

The descaler does not remove the 
minerals but its electric charge changes the crystal structure so the 
hard scale does not form as quickly. Places where the water flows freely 
will not get a build up of scale. However, the water will still be 
"hard" and places where water sits, such as your hot water heater, will 
still get a build up of scale.

---------------------------------------------------
This 
scale is a crystalline form of Calcium carbonate called Limescale. 
Calcium carbonate is unusual in that it has a variety of crystal forms 
including Marble, very hard but brittle, Chalk, very soft and crumbly, 
and Limescale, very hard and very difficult to break.

Limescale, 
deposited from untreated water, forms as long thread like crystals, 
called dentrices. These dentrices weave together, which is the reason 
why Limescale is so hard and difficult to break.

The right 
electromagnetic field can modify the crystal forming characteristics of 
Limescale. The crystals formed are small, round and smooth so they do 
not cling together and wash through the water system. They do not 
collect in the pipes, in the boiler or in places like the shower head.

All of the water which passes through the electromagnetic field is treated. The effect lasts around 2-3 hours.

-------What is the difference between a water softener, a water filter, a descaler, and a conditioner?" 

water softener is a water treatment system where the calcium and 
magnesium carbonate (the minerals responsible for the hard water) which 
are dissolved in the water are replaced with either sodium chloride 
(salt) or potassium chloride. This is different from a water filter in 
that filters will generally remove chlorine, pesticides, bacteria (in 
some cases), and suspended particles (sand, sediment, etc). A filter 
will not remove dissolved solids (which are responsible for hard water). 
A descaler, (Salt Free Softener) does not remove dissolved solids, it 
prevent the solids from being deposited inside pipes, on fixtures, etc.                                   

This publication has some great tips to think about before you purchase a new softening system -  http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/live/g1491/build/g1491.pdf
Chrissy Lucas Replied January 29, 2013, 7:15 PM EST

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