The difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ water is that hard water contains certain dissolved minerals that soft water does not. The water also tastes different and as most people know, they perform different when used in washing. When soap and the minerals in hard water mix, they will create a so called ‘scum’ which is often seen leaving a ring around both baths and basins. Some of these minerals will harden temporarily and can be removed with hot water (it has to be above 70 degrees Celsius). However, this can turn into both scale and fur in kettles and unfortunately also in more complicated and hidden parts of the hot water system.
Two Types of Water Softeners
When it comes to other permanent hardness of these minerals, you can remove them in two different ways – one of which most people are aware of.
- Try adding a softener such as Calgon to your washing machine when you add the detergent.
- Install a water softener into your cold water supply. (This has to be fitted after the drinking water supply).
A water softener works as an ‘ion exchange’ and will need to regenerate every now and then. This is done by adding normal salt to it – manually or automatically.
When it comes to fitting a water softener, you will have to break in to the rising main and then connecting one pipe going to the softener and one pipe leading from it. These two pipes are called ‘tees’ and should be connected by a third pipe that contains a bypass valve. This valve will be shut when the water softener is being used and open when it is not in use. It is a good idea to fit servicing valves in both pipes leading to and from the softener. The reason for this is that it will allow you to easily remove or isolate it during maintenance, without turning off the mains water supply. You will also need to connect a waste and overflow pipe to the softener that leads to the drains. It will require its own electrical connection and will have to come from a fused connection unit.
Water companies often require its customers to have a non-return valve fitted in the inlet pipe and also a pressure reducer fitted in the rising main. If you are unsure of the specifics for your area, contact your local water company or speak to a knowledgeable plumber for further information.