A water softening plant is a technical plant which serves to reduce the lime contained in the water. The lower the lime content in the water, the gentler it is for water pipes, sanitary facilities and cleaned clothing. When taking a shower, a high lime content also places a strain on the hair, which is minimized by the use of the system. More and more households are now opting for a water softener.

This is not least due to the fact that above all in large cities a lime portion is measured, which lies clearly over the hardness degree of 7° dH recommended in Germany. The plant functions by means of a special ion exchange process, whereby the hardness generator magnesium is reduced and the calcium present in the water is minimised.

The solutions in the field of water softening are extremely diverse. The offered systems differ considerably in quality, equipment and size. Some are designed for use in single-family homes, while others are suitable for multi-family houses.

How water softeners work

The construction of a water softening plant allows a later retrofitting if the water quality deteriorates in the course of time. Although there are many different models on the market, the construction types used are usually the same.

The building components initially comprise a large container in which either a ball or a column is accommodated. Both have a resin core, which is the heart of the system. In order to soften it, the tap water first enters the corresponding tank and is then led through the column. Like the ball, the column functions as an ion exchanger.

The chemical processes that then take place ensure that magnesium and calcium are removed from the water. The softened water is then collected in the tank and finally discharged via the drain. Within the water softening plant, the important minerals potassium and sodium are also added to the water. These salts, which are stored in the plant tank, must be refilled regularly.

It is important to give the water softeners enough time to regenerate, and the exchanger resin can also be replaced. This should be done every three to seven days. The regeneration phase lasts between 15 and 50 minutes and can be set to automatic night cycle. Due to its construction and materials, the plant is an extremely robust device, which is characterized by longevity and high quality. A service life of 25 years without maintenance can be expected. A prerequisite for this is the regular control of the salt content in the container and its filling.

Different functions and designs

Basically, there are two types of water softeners that are used in different areas of application. On the one hand there are systems with only one softener column. These are mostly used in single-family houses. In the regeneration phase, the unit can be set to “By-Pass”, which means that the water is not softened at the moment.

A regeneration period of one hour is to be expected, which can advantageously be carried out at night. Single-column softeners are sufficient for family households and also cheaper. In contrast, it is not possible to take a regeneration break at companies such as car washes or hotels. Also because single-column plants would most probably be overtaxed with the quantity of water, two-column water softening plants are used here.

Although the purchase price is higher, a complete supply of soft water is guaranteed. While one column regenerates, the second takes over the work, which is why the mode of operation is called “pendulum operation”. In principle, the system consists of two fully-fledged softening columns. Due to its higher and continuous output, it is also suitable for use in apartment buildings.

Water capacity and hardness

When choosing the right model, it is important to pay particular attention to the information provided by the manufacturer regarding capacity and water hardness. For example, an indication of 40 m³ x °dH means that the system can soften 40 m³ of water by 1° dH. If the specified capacity is divided with the water hardness to be removed, the quantity of water is obtained which the system can soften until it has to regenerate. This means that the higher the water hardness, the faster the capacity of the softener is exhausted.

The advantages of a water softener

Water softeners quickly make themselves felt in daily life. This is particularly noticeable in bathrooms and kitchens, especially where hot water flows. This is the case, for example, with bath taps, showers, coffee machines or kettles. Lime deposits are particularly frequent in these places and must be removed with chemicals.

This process can not only be time-consuming and expensive, but also makes use of potentially harmful substances. If the water hardness does not exceed 7° dH, the water is considered soft. This minimizes or even eliminates the disadvantages of water containing lime.

This reduces the consumption of detergents and cleaning agents, which results in significant price savings. When hard water passes through heat exchangers, instantaneous water heaters and boilers, a lime layer forms on the transition surfaces. This deposited lime has an enormous insulating effect, which leads to an increase in energy consumption. Such deposits can be prevented with a softening plant.

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