What We Do:
Water softening is the removal of calcium, magnesium, and certain other metal cations in hard water.
A reverse osmosis system removes sediment and chlorine from water
Acid Neutralizers & Iron Removal Systems
An acid neutralizer system uses natural minerals to increase the pH of your water supply.
Common Water Problems in the Sierra Foothills
As moisture falls to the earth in the form of rain, snow, etc. It is relatively free from impurities except for what it has collected from the air on its journey downward. In this natural state, water is "aggressive" or acidic in form. As nature's natural solvent, water wants to dissolve something and hasn't, as yet, had the chance. When the water seeps through the earth it dissolves, in many areas of the country, shale, limestone, and other rocks containing calcium and magnesium, which are the minerals that cause the problem called hard water. Hardness deposits in water heaters can reduce energy efficiency and the soap scum caused by using soap and hard water leaves rings on bathtubs, hair, and skin after shampooing and bathing. Solution: A water softener helps remove damaging calcium and magnesium and makes water a pleasure to use for cleaning, and bathing and does it more effectively and economically. The softeners take the hardness minerals out of the water by passing the water through a bed of ion exchange resin. The resin beads are covered with sodium ions and as the hard water goes through the bed, the hardness mineral ions (calcium and magnesium) replace the sodium ions on the beads making the water free from hardness----or as it is called----"soft water." When the resin bed has exchanged all of its sodium ions for hardness ions it can no longer do its job. At this point, the softener is recharged by passing a salt brine through the bed. This brine bath' washes the hard minerals from the beads with sodium. The unit is now ready to soften the water again. We recommend "demand regeneration" softeners that monitor water usage like a home water meter and signal regeneration according to the amount of water used to reduce salt and water consumption.
Iron is introduced to our water supply when water passes through iron-bearing rock and strata such as we find here in the Sierras. Iron in water can cause rusty stains on sinks and laundry, plug pipes and water using appliances, and give water a bad taste. There are three types of iron found in our water. Red Water Iron: Water is already rust-colored when drawn. Clear Water Iron: Water is clear when drawn but turns rusty when oxidized (left overnight) Bacterial Iron: A non-harmful bacteria that feeds on iron and is present in red water iron. If left standing, such as in a toilet tank, it will turn into clumps of red slime and have a rainbow-colored reflection when a flashlight reflects on it. Solution: Iron filter: Contains a media rich in oxygen that oxidizes the iron into particles and then traps them in the bed. Two methods are currently the most popular in use. One regenerates a bed of manganese greensand when necessary with potassium permanganate to replenish oxygen. The other, newer method utilized aeration with an aspirator ahead of an iron filter containing a media that also raises ph, if necessary. Iron filters work best on a ph range of 7.5 to 8.5.
Problem: Acid Water
Acid water is water with a ph lower than 7.0. When water falls to the earth it is relatively pure and in this condition it wants to dissolve something. It is very aggressive or acidic. When the water passes through subsoil that consists of granite, marble, or other impervious material it remains acidic. When the water in this acidic condition reaches home water supplies it attacks everything it touches. Acid water will leave blue-green stains on plumbing fixtures, pit chrome plumbing fittings, and china and corrode pipes. Solution: An acid neutralizer contains a mineral (limestone) that dissolves in the water raising the ph. The mineral media is sacrificial and must be replaced when necessary. We recommend equipment that back flushes itself because if the media is not back washed it will harden to a state similar to concrete. This will prevent flow and cause, what we call, “wormholes” These wormholes allow water to flow too freely thru the media but not percolate thru the limestone.
Water Softeners - Why Do You Need Them?
It's easy to forget how important water is in our lives. Of course, we need it in our diet, but in our homes, it's a tool--a fluid medium that carries material from one place to the next. And one of the reasons it does this job well is that it's very good at holding things, either by suspending them or dissolving them. Unlike most tools, though, water doesn't come with an instruction manual. If it did, you'd know why the dishes you thought were washed are covered with spots when dry, why the water in your shower leaves a film on everything it touches, and why what you thought was clean water has clogged up your plumbing system. Water softeners condition your water in conjunction with a whole house water filter Water passing through the mineral tank loses positively charged calcium and magnesium ions to negatively charged plastic beads. The brine tank holds a salt solution that flushes the mineral tank, replacing calcium and magnesium ions with sodium. A meter at the top of the mineral tank regulates recharging cycles. The valve assembly routes water flow for each phase of the regeneration cycle.
Causes and Effects
While water is in the ground, it picks up soluble bits of whatever it passes through. While this can mean contamination that makes the water unfit to drink, in many cases it simply means that the water contains minerals found in the earth. Of these, calcium and magnesium are of particular importance because they affect the water's ability to function in our homes. These minerals make our water hard. One effect of hard water is that soaps and detergents lose some effectiveness. Instead of dissolving completely, soap combines with the minerals to form a coagulated soap curd. Because less soap is dissolved, more is required. And the sticky insoluble curd hangs around--it clings to the skin and may actually inhibit cleansing. Washed hair seems dull and lifeless. In the laundry, things aren't much better. The soap curd can work its way into your clothes as they're being washed in your automatic washing machine. This can keep dirt trapped in the fibers, and it can stiffen and roughen the fabric. In addition to affecting the actual washing process, insoluble soap deposits leave spots on everything you wash--from your dishes to the family car--and a soap film will build up in your bath and shower. Another reason to be concerned about hard water is its effect on your plumbing system. Calcium and magnesium deposits can build up in pipes, reducing flow to taps and appliances. In water heaters, these minerals generate a scale buildup that reduces the efficiency and life of the heater.
The Solution: Water Softeners
The solution to the problem is to get rid of calcium and magnesium. While there are chemical treatments that do this, the most popular answer is a water softener. A typical water softener is a mechanical appliance that's plumbed into your home's water supply system. All water softeners use the same operating principle: They trade the minerals for something else, in most cases sodium. The process is called ion exchange. The heart of a water softener is a mineral tank. It's filled with small polystyrene beads, also known as resin. The beads carry a negative charge. Calcium and magnesium in water both carry positive charges. This means that these minerals will cling to the beads as the hard water passes through the mineral tank. Sodium ions also have positive charges, albeit not as strong as the charge on calcium and magnesium. When a very strong brine solution is flushed through a tank that has beads already saturated with calcium and magnesium, the sheer volume of the sodium ions is enough to drive the calcium and magnesium ions off the beads. Water softeners have a separate brine tank that uses common salt to create this brine solution. In normal operation, hard water moves into the mineral tank and the calcium and magnesium ions move to the beads, replacing sodium ions. The sodium ions go into the water. Once the beads are saturated with calcium and magnesium, the unit enters a 3-phase regenerating cycle. First, the backwash phase reverses water flow to flush dirt out of the tank. In the recharge phase, the concentrated sodium-rich salt solution is carried from the brine tank through the mineral tank. The sodium collects on the beads, replacing the calcium and magnesium, which go down the drain. Once this phase is over, the mineral tank is flushed of excess brine and the brine tank is refilled.
1. The backwash phase removes dirt from the mineral tank. 2. Recharging the mineral tank with sodium from the brine solution displaces calcium and magnesium, which is then washed down the drain. 3. The final phase rinses the mineral tank with fresh water and loads the brine tank so it's ready for the next cycle.
Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/l, equivalent to parts per million, or ppm). Water up to 1 GPG (or 17.1 mg/l) is considered soft, from 1 to 3.5 GPG (17.1 - 60 mg/l) is slightly hard, from 3.5 to 7 GPG (60 - 120 mg/l) is moderately hard, and from 7 to 10.5 GPG (120 - 180 mg/l) is considered hard. A water softener's effectiveness depends on how hard the incoming water is. Water over 100 GPG may not be completely softened.
Water Softeners - Why Do You Need Them?
If a choice had to be made, the Reverse Osmosis process would be elected as state-of-the-art in water treatment technology today. Reverse Osmosis (RO for short) was developed in the late 1950's under U.S. government funding, as an economical method of desalinating sea water - a dream long sought after by mankind. Reverse Osmosis is revolutionary because it uses a completely new mechanism for processing water - the semi-permeable membrane. Surprisingly enough, it looks a lot like common household sandwich wrap and is composed of very similar polymers (plastics). That's where the similarity ends because this near miracle material is now considered one of the greatest technological achievements of our century. It's best to look at the semi-permeable RO membrane as providing two distinct water treatment processes. First, it is the ultimate mechanical filter, or ultra-filter, straining out virtually all particulate matter, turbidity, bacteria, microorganisms, asbestos - even single molecules of the heavier organics. To appreciate the fineness of this ultra-filter, as it is referred to in the industry, its pores are on the order of .0005 microns or .0000002 (two ten-millionths) of an inch! That's smaller than can be seen by the best optical microscopes. Second, it removes dissolved impurities (e.g. mineral salts, toxic metals) - those even smaller than the water molecules themselves - by a remarkable phenomenon known as Reverse Osmosis. With RO, the membrane is said to reject these impurities by repelling them from its surface. It is however permeable to the water molecules so that they diffuse through in a pure state and collect on the opposite side to make the product water.
RO's Claim to Fame
The real claim to fame for Reverse Osmosis membranes is their ability to remove and reject such a wide spectrum of impurities from water and they do it with very minimal energy usage. In fact, it just requires water pressure. With the exception of distillation, RO is the only known process which can effectively remove the following types of impurities: Particulate matter, turbidity, sediment, etc. Colloidal matter Total Dissolved Solids Toxic Metals Radioactive elements Microorganisms Fluoride/fluorine Asbestos Pesticides and Herbicides Heavier organic molecules (MW>300)
How RO Works: In Practice
Long sheets of semi-permeable membrane are ingeniously sandwiched together and rolled up around a hollow central tube in a spiral fashion. This rolled-up configuration is commonly referred to as a spiral wound membrane or module. They are available in a large selection of sizes for processing different quantities of water. Typically, a module for home water treatment is as small as 2" diameter and 10" long, while one for industrial use may be 8" diameter and 48" long. Now that the membrane is in a usable form it must be put in some type of container (called a pressure vessel) so pressure can be maintained on its surface. It is this pressure that supplies the energy to force the water through the membrane, separating it from the impurities. The most amazing aspect of RO is that the contaminants left behind are automatically diverted to a waste drain so they don't build up in the system as with conventional filters and purification devices. This is accomplished by using a part of the unprocessed water (feed water) to carry away the rejected impurities to the drain, thus keeping the membrane clean. The flow of impurities to the drain is often referred to as reject water. This is the secret to why RO membranes can last so long and perform like new with minimum maintenance even after years of operation. It is also the reason behind the low cost of producing RO water.
Acid Neutralizers & Iron Removal Systems
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