If you’re tired of water that can barely form lather or foam up a bath and want to save your hair from the destruction caused by hard water, you’ve probably considered different options to soften water. Among these, one of the most cost-effective methods to soften water is to get a resin bed. But before you go out and buy one, you need to be sure of how long you can expect it to work.
Epoxy resin lasts about 10 years in a water softener, after which it starts to lose its effectiveness at softening water. Still, it can work another 5 years before the glue holding together the resin bed starts losing its traction. After this, you’ll need to replace the bed.
Water temperature, chlorine content, and pressure all affect the expected longevity of the resin. And in this article, you’ll learn more about each one of these factors.
You’ll also discover whether resin is the best solution to soften water as we compare different water softeners with their respective longevity against epoxy resin. Finally, you’ll learn if you can make your own resin water softener and whether starting such a project is worth it.
Factors Affecting Resin Longevity in Water Softener
One must start by understanding the role of resin in a water softener because, as such, the resin will continue to exist in water. It is the effectiveness of said resin that has a relatively shorter lifespan. When hard water comes in contact with resin solids, ion exchange takes place, and water loses its hardness.
This is better for dissolving soap, creating foamy baths, and the general well-being of one’s hair. If hard water is used to shower, one’s hair might start getting brittle and falling out.
Even pipes that run hard water for a long time develop calcium deposits. Resin has soft ions, which get traded with hard ions that are in water containing calcium and magnesium. Since the keyword here is trade, there’s a limit to this exchange.
After resin beads have traded all possible soft ions with hard water, they are no longer useful in softening water. This is the upper limit of resin in water. After this, you’ll still be able to see resin but won’t be able to use it.
It can take up to 15 years to reach this point, and for average tap water hardness, the resin in a water softening bed can last as long as the softening bed itself. That doesn’t mean your resin bed will last as long because a range of factors can drive down the life span of resin in water.
The Adhesion Strength of Resin Glue
The degradation of resin starts with the glue and notions. The capacity for ion exchange is enough to last multiple decades, but resin is formulated into beads to make sure water doesn’t have to sit for too long with resin solids immersed in it.
This maximizes the surface area of the beads and allows a quicker ion-exchange reaction. But to make sure beads don’t float atop water or go through the pipes, manufacturers glue them together to create a bed of beads.
This is also why it is called a resin bed. The glue has lower water tolerance than resin which is why, if your water supply has enough chlorine, the adhesive holding together the resin bed will start to give way.
The Temperature of the Water Running Over the Resin Bed
This also brings us to a factor that affects resin as well as the glue holding it together: temperature. If you’ve held a passing interest in resin, you already know that temperature is key.
When the environment is hot enough, you can pour epoxy like a liquid and see the resin solidify over 24 hours or a similar period. The solid remains such at room temperature and even in extreme weather. However, if you turn the heat up to an unnatural amount, the resin will start to degrade.
This is why, in your water supply, the resin exposure portion should be before the heat pump. It is, anyway, a bad idea to heat hard water: it concentrates the amount of calcium in the water by evaporating a lot of the liquid. But when you heat the water before it goes over a resin bed, you’re shortening the lifespan of resin and the glue holding it together. It might be only a week before you’ll notice the entire bed has degraded into dysfunction.
The Water Pressure in the System
Temperature is not all that can lead to this result, though. If the water pressure is too high, the glue can erode. But this part is more informational than practical as most resin beds are installed in a way that lowers exposure to direct pressure.
General conditions also reduce exposure to high temperatures, and the average water supply isn’t hard enough to rapidly cut down the lifespan of resin beds.
Best Practices for Improving Epoxy Resin Lifespan in Water Softener
In general, you should project a 10-year utility limit for your resin bed. While 15 years mark the maximum your resin bed might last, resin softeners are often installed where the hardness alongside water exposure results in a 10 to 12-year utility limit.
After this, resin beads might continue to reduce water hardness, but the results will be exponentially lower. If the resin softener is installed in your swimming pool or hot tub, make sure that the chlorinator is not placed before the water is released into the pool.
Even dirty water that gets filtered carries some chlorine, so you might want to opt for a saltwater chlorinator to ensure that the water supply isn’t loaded with chlorine, which you already know will erode the glue holding together the resin beads. At this point, you might wonder whether it is worth the trouble to get a resin bed if you have to be careful about hot water, chlorine, and water pressure.
Is Epoxy Resin Worth It in a Water Softener? The Alternatives
Well, you might use other methods to soften water that don’t involve resin. The first method you can use to soften water at home is to simply add washing soda to it. As you may realize, this method requires a lot of active involvement.
Having a resin bed that lasts 3 years is more feasible than buying washing soda and engaging in daily labor to fill every water container with washing soda. Needless to say, this option will leave you smelling like washing soda.
The next option is to use water softening showerheads. There are a lot of manufacturers making unsubstantiated claims in this space, so you have to be cautious to choose the right one.
Usually, the right showerhead will come with cartridges to enhance water softening ion exchange. Remember, without ion exchange, there is no water softening taking place. These cartridges last around 6 months of regular use, a limit that can be reduced if more people use the shower.
The glaring drawback of this, aside from its short lifespan, is that it only covers one water outlet. Still, it is better than resin in that you don’t need to replace the entire resin structure once the ion exchange rate goes down; there’s a removable cartridge that can be replaced. Neither choice is superior, but if you’re looking to have soft water coming through multiple taps, then a resin bed is better.
Finally, you have the choice to get a water-softening pouch. This is a great solution for drinking water and not nearly as feasible for any other kind of water. The mere price per pouch is astronomically high compared to the other methods covered here. In fact, all other methods combined cost less to soften the same amount of water as a softening pouch.
Looking at these alternatives, it is obvious that a resin water softener is worth it despite it having an upper limit to its effectiveness. That’s because of three key reasons.
- Soften waters for multiple outlets – You can have a resin bed strategically placed to soften water for multiple taps, showerheads, and hoses.
- Has the best longevity out of all the options – When it comes to softening water without requiring a refill, a resin bed beats most options by at least 5 years.
- It is cheaper than most alternatives in the long run – While you might have to spend a little more upfront compared to some water softening alternatives when you consider the total cost per gallon of water treated, a resin bed is quite cheap.
Can You Make Your Own Water Softener With Epoxy Resin? Is It Worth It?
Talking about cost-effectiveness goes hand in hand with DIY. If you’re thinking about using resin and making your own resin bed, then I would advise against such a project. But that’s not because you cannot make your own resin water softener; you or anyone else can soften water with resin.
However, getting a regular resin bed is much more feasible. If you’re creating a resin softener as a passion project, surely, you can go ahead. But when you’re trying to soften water without over-spending, it doesn’t make sense to make a resin softening bed with thicker resin solids than ones that come pre-made by a softening bed producer.
As mentioned in the beginning, the surface area of resin is crucial to speeding up the water softening process. Creating fine resin beads in enough quantity without the use of machines or molds is too labor-intensive to be ideal.
Then there’s the part where the higher surface area needs to be reconciled with adhesion between beads. Using the wrong adhesive can effectively poison your water supply. It is better to get a resin water softener, which will not come with the risks associated with DIY resin beds.
The beads won’t be at risk of straying into the water outlet, nor will the glue be dangerous. Above all, you’ll have someone to hold accountable, a luxury you forego when you DIY any project. And if you need any more convincing, then there’s the simple fact that a resin bed costs less than it takes to make a safe, usable resin bed yourself.
And that’s because of the economies of scale. The more resin a manufacturer uses, the cheaper resin he gets. As a result, the end product is cheaper.
What to Do When Epoxy Resin No Longer Works in a Softener?
Unless you installed your resin bed ten years ago, this question might be too early. However, there surely will come a time when your resin bed won’t soften water. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything with the remaining resin.
You can use it for decorative purposes or dry the beads that retain their shape and make functional platforms like a shoe rack or a coaster. Since epoxy impacts the environment, it is advisable to recycle it even if merely as a decorative additive when it is no longer useful as a softener.
As we come to the end of this post, let’s look at the question that matters the most: should you get an epoxy resin water softener? The answer to this lies in the context. You shouldn’t get it for water you want to drink, mainly because epoxy isn’t safe unless it is FDA approved.
Even then, excessive ongoing exposure to food isn’t ideal. However, for the water, you want to use for showers, baths, and even washing dishes, an epoxy resin bed is one of the most cost-effective ways to soften water without actively having to refill cartridges or drop pouches into containers. It’s a pretty set-and-forget type of product and is convenient for most families.
Epoxy resin lasts 10 to 15 years in a water softener, provided that the water isn’t highly chlorinated and the supply doesn’t have high pressure. Even going by the lower limit of 10 years, an epoxy bed is by far the most cost-effective option for reducing water hardness without having to get actively involved. You should expect to pay more upfront but get much more value than the alternatives over the next 10 years. And if your water supply isn’t too hard or highly chlorinated, it’ll last 15 years. Either way, don’t change or replace resin in water until you notice a significant change in water softness.