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  • Take The SOFTENER FINDER Quiz

  • August 08, 2020 7 min read

    Do I need a Water Softener?

    hard water from sink

    This is a question for many homeowners. Is a water softener necessary? Soft water, hard water, what’s the difference? And does it matter?  Well, water for sure is a necessity but depending on where you live and how you use water, the cost of softening your water may not be worth it. In other words, whether to soften or not is a matter of personal preference. There is no requirement for it and yet still, the decision will affect your home life immensely, let's take a look at why.

    What is Hard Water?

    Hard water is water containing more dissolved minerals in it than soft water, specifically calcium and magnesium. This poses several issues. Hard water can cause soap deposits in the bathtub, dull-looking laundry, spots on dishes, scaly deposits inside faucets, showerheads, and appliances, restricting water flow, robbing heaters of their efficiency and shorten their service lives.

    What is soft water? Simply put, softening water removes the hardness minerals, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonates, and sulfates, from the hard water.

    One way for you to find out if your water is soft, hard, or very hard is to measure its calcium levels using a DIY kit if you live in a rural area. Or visit this article to find you what the water hardness levels are in your city.

    How do water softeners work?

    Water softeners soften the water by removing negative ionic minerals replacing them with positive ions, making the water harmless to your home. Essentially, all water softeners do is remove the calcium and magnesium ions using an exchange with sodium or potassium ions. Once this exchange takes place, the water softener will regenerate (clean itself) and flush the system of excess ions until it has recharged them with new sodium ions. This may use about 25 gallons of water per day, so it’s important to determine your water hardness first. Water softeners generally cost between $1,000 and $2,000 and last about 15 years.

    Soft water has numerous benefits on your hair, skin, and reverses the drying effects of hard water. Water softening systems also increase the lifespan of your appliances, clothes, and decrease the money spent on utilities and home heating.

    Do I need a water softener if I have City Water?

    city urban homeowner

    This is a huge misconception that most homeowners have since water softeners are commonly found in homes using groundwater from the well. For rural homeowners, water almost always needs softening! However, municipal water is rarely ever as perfect as you would think more than 80% of all homes in the country have hard water.

    Every city has different water quality. The best way to determine if you have hard water that would benefit from a softener is to have your water tested, although there are DIY testing kits widely available at home centers and hardware stores. For municipal water, you can contact the local municipal council to find out the hardness of your water or visit this link to check it yourself.

    Water is classified according to the grains per gallon (gpg) of dissolved calcium carbonate:

    • 0–3: If your hard water test strip indicates that your water is between 0–3 grains per gallon, your water doesn’t require softening.
    • 3–7: Water between 3–7 gpg is moderately hard, causing spotty dishes and dry skin.
    • 7–11: Hard water is packed with minerals at 7–11 gpg, and you likely deal with crusty faucets and pipes and possibly reddish rings on your porcelain from excess iron.
    • 11–15: Considered very hard, water at 11–15 gpg exhibits all the signs of hard water all the time.
    • 15+: Extremely hard water is anything over 15 gpg.

     

    What happens if you don't use a water softener?

    Although direct testing is the best way to find out how hard your water is, there are obvious signs that are indicative of the presence of hard water in your home, such as:

    Scale Buildup

    Mineral deposit buildup inside your water supply lines and waste pipes, pipes become narrow and the flow of water is reduced. In waste pipes, this mineral buildup readily combines with organic matter to increase the likelihood of clogs and frequent plumbing repair. The buildup is detrimental in older steel pipes, but even in newer copper pipes, accumulation can occur.

    These limescale deposits can also build up on your pots, coffeepots, kettles, dinnerware, glassware, and cutlery, leaving a hard, chalky film that is difficult to remove. Even worse, the scale can build up inside appliances that use water, such as dishwashers and washing machines.

    Stains on Bathroom Fixtures

    stains on shower Since hard water contains dissolved minerals, it can create stubborn stains on your sinks, toilets, and bathtubs, and leave white spotty deposits around your faucets. A short-term fix for stains on fixtures is to try scrubbing with vinegar or lemon water, let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse and wipe thoroughly with a soft cloth.

    Dry Hair and Skin

    dry hair hard waterDo you have dry, itchy skin after a bath or shower? When the water high in calcium and magnesium dries on your skin, your pores become blocked so natural oils cannot hydrate the skin. These minerals in hard water can leave your skin and hair dry, flaky, and itchy, causing pimples, blackheads, or inflammation. Because soap doesn’t dissolve properly in hard water, a sticky soap film can linger on your skin and prevent the removal of bacteria and dirt. The same sticky film can make your hair dry, dull, and limp.

    Faded Clothes

    faded laundry hard waterClothes washed in hard water are negatively affected as well. Hard water makes soap and laundry detergents less effective and can leave behind a scummy residue. Over time, the residue causes your linens and clothing to fade, appear dull or gray, develop a sour smell, and become rough and scratchy. Washing clothes and linens in hard water can also cause premature wear on the fabrics.

    There are laundry detergents that include water softening additives to help address this. However, chemicals in those solutions leave deposits in the washing machine draining system that can reduce its lifespan.

    Higher Utility Bills

    higher utility billsWater bills can escalate as pipes narrow due to the mineral buildup. When this happens, you use more water rather than less. If your utility costs are rising, you may want to check your home's plumbing for any scale accumulation. As this happens, your heating system has to work harder to push water through. As well, scale buildup can affect the energy efficiency of boilers and water heaters. 

    Spotted Glasses

    spotted glasses from hard waterGetting rid of hard water stains on glassware can be a nuisance. Glassware becomes impossible to fully clean without resorting to hand polishing or special rinses, which may result in higher water use. It can also make them more prone to shattering easily.

    For a quick fix: Try running your glasses through the dishwasher with a solution of just vinegar and water. This trick can work for silverware as well. Remember to avoid powdered soap in the dishwasher because these are more abrasive and won’t dissolve completely most of the time. You can also soak your glasses in the sink for a while with vinegar to get rid of stains. But of course, using a water softener to eliminate hard water stains is likely the most effective solution.

    Damaged Water Heater

    water heater water boilerOne of the most costly signs that you need a water softener is having your water heater breakdown or fail. Heating hard water exacerbates the formation of scale deposits in the system and takes its toll on your water heater’s heating elements which will decrease its efficiency. Not only does your water heater fill up with mineral deposits but it also has to work harder to push water through constricted pipes. Also, hard water can lead to a rapid decrease in a water heater's life span.

     

    Thankfully, the solution to hard water is fairly easy. Install a whole house water softener system!

    Are water softeners a waste of money?

    We would like to argue that they aren't but here are some of the common misconceptions that cause people to think that way.

    1) Water softeners make your water salty

    It's easy to understand why people think that they are drinking water filled with sodium and salt if they install a water softener. While it is true that you add water softener salts to soften the hard water, this doesn't mean that you will taste salt in your water. Water softeners work by using a process called "ion exchange", which exchanges minerals like calcium and magnesium for sodium ions. However, the sodium added to the soft water is an insignificant amount. To put it into perspective, if you drank a gallon of soft water, that would be intaking less sodium than eating a green salad.

    If you have a sensitive taste to changing waters, you could also separate the tap you use for drinking and cooking from your water softener system, to still get the advantages of soft water for cleaning, bathing, and laundry.

     

    2) Removing hard water means your intake of calcium and magnesium decreases.

    When some people hear how water softeners remove calcium and minerals they think the softening process is taking away important nutrients since calcium and magnesium can benefit things like bone health. Actually, in a hard water environment, these minerals are inorganic and are not as easily absorbed by the body as they would be if ingested from foods such as vegetables, where they have become bio-active.

    Plants can transform these inorganic minerals into an organic state but drinking hard water won’t do much for adding calcium and magnesium to your diet.

    3) Showering in soft water will make you feel slippery.

    Some homeowners say that they notice a slimy, slick feeling on their skin after the shower in soft water. That is not residue left on your skin but your body's natural oils, free of hard water clogging up your pores. That typical "squeaky clean" feeling you're used to is mineral residue drying your skin.

    Your body is supposed to feel slickness and naturally hydrated, although the new sensation may take some time to get used to, soft water has so many lasting benefits for your skin.

    4) Water softeners will increase your water and electricity bill

    While a water softener does require electricity to run, you'll find that it will save you money in the long run. Softened water is more efficient at cleaning, meaning you'll use less detergent, water, and cleaning products. One of the biggest savings comes from your water heater and boiler. These appliances operate more efficiently on soft water, so a water softener will lower your utility bills while extending the life of your water-using appliances.

    Conclusion

    In areas with extremely hard water, water softeners are considered a necessity by most people. If your water is modestly hard, however, it becomes more a matter of personal preference and your willingness to spend money for the luxury of soft water. Want to learn more about water softeners? Visit Aquatell today!