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    August 04, 2020 6 min read

    What are the Disadvantages of a Water Softener?

    disadvantages of soft water

    Why do people buy a water softener in the first place? In simple terms, to soften "hard water".

    Whether a water supply is labeled "soft" or "hard" is dependent on the presence of two minerals, calcium and magnesium. From a health standpoint, these minerals have no adverse effects and are, in fact, essential daily nutrients. However, when calcium and magnesium enter water, they buildup on contact surfaces, plug pipes and damage water heaters, and decrease the effectiveness of soaps and detergents. Hard water leaves stains in laundry and makes the water smell or taste bad. If your shower or sink has reddish-brown stains, you have hard water. For these reasons, homeowners opt to buy water softeners but can there be disadvantages to owning a water softener? Let's explore further!

    Is it a good idea to have a water softener?

    As the name implies, water softeners reduce levels of water hardness. Many either directly remove minerals from hard water, or they replace ionic hardness minerals with sodium ions - such as the most commonly used, ion-exchange type of water softener.

    How does it work? In the process, calcium and magnesium ions in the water are eliminated and replaced with sodium ions. Once hard water enters a mineral water tank, it flows through a bed of resin beads. The beads are made from polystyrene and are charged with sodium ions. Since the beads are anions, they have a negative charge. The calcium and magnesium ions are cations, having positive charges.

    As opposite charges attract, the magnesium and calcium charges will be attracted to the negative charges on the resin beads. The beads continue to grab the mineral ions, displacing the sodium charge that once was on the beads. The end product is water that is free of calcium and magnesium charges. The resin beads continue to strip the hardness out of the water in the mineral tank with soft water entering your home.

    The decision "to soften or not to soften" is a matter of personal preference, not a necessity. However, water softening does have advantages, and disadvantages, that make this decision a significant one.

    Let's take a look at what are the pros and cons of a water softener?

    What are the Advantages to water softening?

    Most homeowners would agree that hard water leaves scales on pans, soap residue on skin, and detergent buildup in the washing machine. More importantly, scales can also buildup on hot water heaters and decrease their useful life. Soap film and scum in bathtubs and appliances mean that you are not getting the maximum cleaning action from these products. Water softening eliminates these nuisances and also protects appliances, and saves cleaning time.

    There are other advantages to water softening, as well. It is a well-developed technology that has been used in homes for decades. The equipment is reliable, effective, and widely available, providing consumers with convenient features and a selective market. The simple technology of softening makes it easy to bypass toilets and outdoor faucets. Finally softening systems are adaptable for mixing softened and unsoftened water to produce a lower hardness level.

    A well-designed water softener system only removes the minerals causing hardness. The least expensive systems are magnetic, removing dissolved metals from the water by passing the source water across a magnet. By removing the metals, the remaining water is acceptable. More expensive systems trade calcium and other minerals for salt ions, leaving a less hard water where the colloidal salts pass through with little impact.

    1. It makes water safe for consumption and household chores

    Soft water is safer to consume as compared to hard water. It is also safe and friendly to laundry and appliances. Accordingly, it makes life easier and lengthens the lifespan of one’s appliances.

    2. It removes the build-up of scales

    As already mentioned, hard water stains appliances, toilets, dishes, sinks and pipes. Soft water eliminates the build-up of such minerals and stains, effectively giving them a longer lifespan.

    3. It provides a cleaner wash.

    Soft water allows soap and detergents to work as they should and is comfortable on some people’s skin. Hard water is resistant to soaps, detergent and can irritate or feel dry to some people, especially their skin. The soft water also allows laundered clothes to appear shiny as they should. It softens one’s hair too.

    4. It eliminates the strain on the plumbing system

    Hard water could actually put the entire plumbing system under pressure due to the build-up of scales, ultimately decreasing its life span and efficiency. It could also hinder the flow of water, decreasing water pressure level from taps. A water softener prevents this.

    What are the Disadvantages to water softening?

    1. They are expensive to install and maintain

    Maintenance is another consideration. Water softeners could cost at least $2,000 to install. They also require routine maintenance since the resin beads will eventually run out of sodium ions to counter the calcium and magnesium ions. Depending on the water source, you may have to filter the water or disinfect bacteria, all before it even reaches the softening unit. Salt-based water softening systems require a regular maintenance and replenishment schedule, which causes higher expenses.

    Cleaning: consider the additional load on your drainage field from backwashing and regeneration. Estimates indicate that about 50 gallons of water are used for each regeneration cycle. This may or may not cause a hydraulic overload of the septic system.

    2. The alternatives are also expensive

    While you can purchase models with special features that do everything but add the salt, you will pay for each additional feature. The tradeoff will cost for convenience and you have no longterm guarantee that the special feature will not fail. The alternative to sodium or salt pellets in the tank is potassium chloride pellets. They eliminate the salt, but unfortunately, are expensive. For instance, where salt costs between $4 and $6 per bag, the same amount of potassium chloride goes for between $25 and $30.

    3. The water supply is the problem

    If the problem with the source of water is due to bacteria or chlorine, water softening will not help: Water softeners do not disinfect the water, they do not address most problems with taste and smell of organic sources, and many are ruined by exposure to even trace amounts of oils in the water.

    4. Environmental Harm

    It also causes environmental harm. If the softened water is released to the environment, it flows on plants and this, therefore, increases the acidity of the soil, therefore, making the plants less productive.

    5. Messing with dietary mineral requirements

    The major disadvantage to water softening is the potential health risks for people on low sodium diets. The exchange of hardness minerals for sodium adds 7.5 milligrams per quart for each gpg of hardness removed. In addition, calcium and magnesium, essential minerals to bodily functions are eliminated from the homeowner's diet. There are some individuals who may require dietary supplements like calcium and magnesium, which is present in hard water but virtually missing in softened water. They, therefore, might mess with the dietary requirements by replacing those necessary elements.

     

    Are water softeners a waste of money?

    With so many disadvantages, are water softeners a waste of money? As water experts, we would definitely say it is a worthwhile investment.

    Here are some of the benefits you don't want to miss out on:

    1. Basically, it softens water!

    Water softeners remove the calcium and magnesium ions that make water hard, making it soft and relatively safe for use and consumption.

    2. It improves the mineral content balance of the water

    Water softeners replace the calcium and magnesium ions with sodium. Also by significantly reducing the levels of calcium and magnesium in the water, it lowers their concentration at the optimum levels that may benefit one’s health instead of causing harm.

    Besides, when sodium is used in water softening, it balances other minerals in water and comes with the advantage of added sodium in optimal quantity, which is actually recommended for daily intake. Healthwise, sodium aids in controlling the body’s fluid balance and sending nerve impulses.

    3. Removes toxins such as ferrous iron

    Water softeners, apart from removing the ions that make water hard, also removes small quantities of ferrous iron or dissolved iron, which exists in a soluble state. The iron is responsible for darkening the color of the water as well as leaving visible stains on the toilet, bathtubs and other sinks.

    4. Lowers costs of appliance repairs and unnecessary replacements

    Hard water is responsible for endless appliance repair bills and scale-ridden pipes. Using a water softener will preserve those pipes and end the frequent calls to the repairman. It will also save your sinks, bathtubs, and toilets from the annoying stains.

    5. Makes laundry and general cleaning easier

    Hard water is responsible for stiff laundry and dry hair as it reduces the capacity of water to react with soap. For this reason, using it makes it tough to wash the hair properly. It also makes it difficult to straighten laundry and washing in general due to its effect of reducing the capacity of soap to react. A water softener will eliminate all this trouble.

    Conclusion

    Finally, using this information, select a softener that meets your needs and provides the conveniences you prefer! Recognize that all softeners use essentially the same process. For this reason, most softeners are not rated for effectiveness, only for convenience features like handiness, size, maintenance requirements, safety and cost. These features are a matter of personal preference. Learn more at Aquatell about how water softeners can benefit your home!