People often confuse the differences between water softening and water filtration.
Drinking water filters improve the taste of your tap water by mechanically filtering sediment and absorbing chlorine, pesticides and other odours.
Generally, water filters will not remove hardness from your water unless it contains softening resin, as sometimes found in jug filters.
Some drinking water filters are sold which contain ‘anti-scale’ chemicals called polyphosphates. Small amounts of Polyphosphate stick to pipe work and kettle elements and prevent scale from forming. The hardness is not removed, just hidden.
Granular activated carbon (GAC) is the most common material found in a domestic water filter cartridge. Granular carbon presents a massive area within the grains where chlorine molecules are captured. The cartridge will become depleted over time. We normally recommend that filter cartridges are changed at least every 6 months. It is not possible to rejuvenate the filter media and spent cartridges need to be discarded.
A water softener, on the other hand, uses a media which is effectively ever lasting.
The water softening media consists of thousands of tiny beads which have an ionic charge. As hard water passes through the softening resin the beads capture the hardness minerals and the resulting water is softened.
The resin will eventually become full of hardness and won’t be able to accept any more. This doesn’t damage the resin. The resin is refreshed by rinsing a strong brine solution across the resin bed. The hardness is flushed away to the foul drain. This process is called Regeneration or Recharging the resin.
In a domestic or commercial water softener this regeneration process is normally automatic. Some water softeners found in commercial kitchens are regenerated manually by opening the lid, adding salt and then flushing with water, a laborious process which is often overlooked with dire results for dishwashers and steam ovens.
A well designed and maintained water softener such as an Ecowater or Minimax, should continue its regeneration process for a least 20 to 25 years.
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