What is hard water?
Water which has high levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium in it is called hard water. Hard water is not considered unhealthy for people to drink but it can cause problems in plumbing systems such as white scale build up on fixtures and inside water heaters. It also does not allow soaps to lather up which makes household cleaning and bathing difficult.
How does a water softener work?
A water softener consists of 4 parts. 1. A control valve to regenerate the water softener through a series of cycles. 2. Resin bed of water softening media to pull hardness out of the water. 3. Media tank to hold the water softening media and mount the control valve. 4. Salt tank to store salt and make brine for regeneration purposes.
A water softener removes hardness minerals from water when you run water from a faucet. The water flows through the water softening media in the media tank. As the water flows the resin media has a magnetic attraction for the hardness minerals. The media which is charged with sodium releases sodium into the water and holds onto the calcium and magnesium. The water flows out of the softener with the hardness minerals removed and sodium in its place. Because of this process a water softener does not store softened water but softens it as water is used.
Because the water softening media can only remove so much hardness the control valve will regenerate the water softening media when needed. This is usually monitored with use of a water meter. When a water softener is regenerated the control valve goes through a series of cycles allowing water to flow through the water softener to do the following 4 things: 1. Backwash – reverse flow to flush out any debris that got trapped in the resin bed and prepare the resin beads for brining. 2. Brine rinse – slow flow which draws a salt brine solution out of the salt tank and runs it through the resin bed. This causes the hardness minerals to come off the resin beads and charges the beads with sodium. 3. Rapid rinse – fast water flow through resin bed to flush any remaining salt brine out. 4. Salt tank refill – puts water in salt tank for next regeneration. Some units actually may do this as the first step before backwash.
This regeneration process is usually done at night when there is low water usage.
Why do my plumbing fixtures get a brown stain on them?
If you are on a private well you may have iron present in your well water. There are two types of iron, ferrous iron which is clear in water and ferric iron which can cause the water to look yellowish. Both types of iron can cause yellow and brown stains on plumbing fixtures. Low levels of iron can be removed from water by a water softener but if iron levels are high an aeration iron filter may need to be used.
Why does my water smell like sulfur?
Some private wells have hydrogen sulfide. This is a dissolved sulfur smelling gas which is released when you run a faucet. Typically an aeration filter needs to be used to remove the gas from the water.
How can I improve my drinking water?
You can have better tasting water by installing a reverse osmosis drinking water system. This is a widely used water filtering process that removes the majority of dissolved minerals from water with a series of cartridge filters and a membrane. The system produces quality drinking water and stores it in a tank. The water is piped to a separate faucet at the kitchen sink and it can also be connected to the refrigerator. When the faucet is used the water comes from the storage tank. Because of this it is only used for drinking and cooking. Different size storage tanks can be used to meet the needs of the family.
Why should steam traps be tested?
Steam traps are a vital component of any steam heating or process system. They are the separating point between the steam piping system and the condensate return piping system. Steam traps can fail in two ways open and closed. When a steam trap fails open it allows live steam to enter into the return piping. This wastes steam in the same way a leak does in a compressed air system. It also pressurizes the return system which can cause water hammer (banging pipes) with the returning liquid condensate. The returning condensate temperature also can rise which can shorten the life of condensate pump seals. When a steam trap fails closed it does not allow condensate to flow into the return system. This allows heating units and equipment to fill with condensate causing water hammer. However; the biggest reason steam traps should be tested is to identify those which have failed open so they can be repaired or replaced. A steam boiler system which has leaking steam traps needs to work harder which increases fuel costs.
What is a steam trap?
A steam trap is a device in a steam system which allows condensed steam to return to the boiler system. There are several different types of steam traps but they all open and close a drain port to allow the liquid to pass through while keeping the steam trapped in the steam side of the system. The most common type of steam trap found in a heating system is the thermostatic steam trap. This type of steam trap has a thermostatic bellows which moves in response to changes in temperature. The end of the bellows pushes against or pulls away from an orifice. When cool liquid condensate is present in the steam trap it causes the bellows to contract allowing the liquid to flow through the orifice. As the liquid leaves steam flows into the steam trap which heats the bellows causing it to expand closing off the orifice.
How do I know if my steam system has leaking steam traps?
Most steam systems have vent pipes coming off of condensate pump tanks and receivers. When steam traps fail open they can cause a steam vapor plum to come out of these pipe vents. However; you can still have leaking steam traps without this. Water hammer in condensate pipes is another sign of leaking steam traps (pipe banging).
How do you test steam traps?
The best way to test steam traps is by visual observation of the outlet of the steam trap. This is typically not feasible so the next best method is by using an ultrasonic stethoscope to listen to the sounds a steam trap makes when it is operating. Because steam traps make distinct sounds when they are operating properly a technician with a trained “ear” (for the sounds) can interpret the sounds of a steam trap and determine if it is functioning properly or not. A temperature device can be used to trouble shoot a system but using temperature readings alone is not a true method to test steam traps compared to listening to the steam trap.
What is a backflow preventer?
A backflow preventer is a device in a potable water supply system that prevents possible contaminants from getting into the potable water system. Water is supplied to many things that could cause the potable water to get contaminated. An example would be a water line connected to a boiler that has a harmful chemical treatment solution mixed with the water.
Do all backflow preventers need to be tested?
No. Only certain types of backflow preventers need to be tested. These backflow preventers have test ports with valves on them for a testing device to be connected to.
Why do backflow preventers need to be tested?
All testable backflow preventers in the State of Wisconsin are recorded with the State and by law need to be tested at least annually. This ensures the devices are working properly and lessons the possibility of someone getting sick from consuming contaminated water.
Who can test backflow preventers?
Only State licensed cross connection control device testers can conduct performance tests on backflow preventers and report the results to the State.