Water that contains dissolved minerals can produce undesirable effects on your RV.
All minerals in water can form deposits in your water heater, your pipes, and on your fixtures. In addition, the so-called "hard" minerals (calcium, magnesium, etc) interfere with soaps and shampoos. You can drastically reduce or eliminate these effects by installing a suitable treatment system. There are four treatment technologies that are suitable for use in an RV, so let's look at each in more detail.
Ion Exchange - The Job of Water Softeners
If your water contains too many of the "hard" minerals, it is called "hard water". You've probably experienced hard water and know how unpleasant it can be. The most common treatment applied to hard water is ion exchange, aka water softening. In a water softener, the bad ions (minerals) are taken out of the water while "softer" ions are returned to it. This process is an almost equal exchange: there are still as many minerals in the water after water softening as before, but the water is now "softer". It will, of course, still cause some scale buildup, as the soft dissolved minerals can still precipitate out. Nevertheless, most people find that in areas of hard water, a water softener
is worth using. Water softeners consist of a container, usually a fiberglass cylinder, that is filled with an ion-exchange medium. In order to get the softener to work, it must be "charged" with a salt brine to saturate the medium with soft ions. The salt is either sodium chloride (table salt), the most common, or potassium chloride, a more environmentally benign salt. The medium selected by the manufacturer is optimized for one salt or the other, although most softeners can use the alternative salt with a small penalty in performance. As water flows through the unit, the hard ions in the water are replaced with the soft ions in the medium, and eventually the soft ions will become depleted. At that point, the softener will need to be recharged with salt brine. How much water will be softened per "charge" depends on the hardness of the water being softened and the volume of media contained in the softener. The bigger units can soften more water between charges than smaller ones.
Recharging of a water softener can be done manually, which requires no electricity but does take more of your time. It can also be done automatically with the aid of timers and so forth, such as, The Water Packer with Erie wind-up valve or an electric valve, which will require some power to run the controls.
In choosing a water softener, one must select the type of salt preferred and the size of the unit. As for salts, the decision might be tough. Sodium chloride is cheap and widely available, but the sodium that it adds to the softened water may present health problems to some. It also is less desirable to dump down sewer lines than potassium chloride. As for potassium chloride, it costs a little more but it is more benign to the body and to the environment. As for unit size, that is an issue that depends on the amount of space you have available and the frequency at which your are willing to recharge the unit. We have a complete line of softeners designed for RV use here
De-Ionization - Removal of Minerals
Unlike a water softener, a de-ionization (DI) system actually removes mineral ions from water. Nothing is put back into the water during the process. This works very much like an activated-carbon filter for taste and odor. The minerals are actually absorbed onto the medium inside the filter. Unfortunately, it takes a relatively-expensive filter media to remove the minerals from most water. As a consequence, you should only use this on water that really needs to be mineral-free. For example, many RV owners like to keep their rigs clean, and if they use hard water to clean their coach, it leaves unsightly mineral deposits when it dries. Our solution to this problem is to employ a DI filter cartridge to de-ionize water, which we then use to give our coach a final, deposit-free rinse. We sell these DI Systems here.
Magnets - A Surprisingly-Effective Anti-Mineral Treatment
This may sound a little far-fetched to some people, but it has been proven to work. By affixing a set of magnets to your incoming water line, you can reduce the scale buildup that normally occurs with high-mineral water. Apparently, the magnets modify the chemical behavior of the mineral ions for a relatively short period of time. We don't pretend to comprehend the physics or chemistry of it, we just know from personal experience that they work. Besides, they are the least expensive method of controlling scale buildup. We sell magnets here.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) - Takes Out Minerals, Too!
RO systems, as discussed here , are very good at producing clean, good-tasting water at a very reasonable cost. An added benefit of RO is its ability to remove the dissolved minerals in water, including all of the "hard" ones. If you have hard water that you'd like to soften and purify, consider a Whole RV RO System