Before you go in-depth about what water softeners do and how they work, or even their uses, you must understand what hard water is and why it affects us. So, let’s begin with one of the fundamental questions throughout the process of understanding the pros and cons of water softeners.
In simpler language, hard water occurs in a natural form, for example, rain water, which is high in mineral content. It contains Calcium, Magnesium, and other minerals dissolved in concentrations too high to ignore. Hard water can cause scale build-up in pipes (commonly visible in the form of a yellowish precipitate), damage plumbing fixtures, and make dishes spotty when washed.
In some cases, hard water can also affect the taste of drinking water. The hardness of hard water is measured by Grains Per Gallon (GPG) or Parts Per Million (PPM). A GPG of 1-3.5 is considered soft; 3.5-7 is moderately hard; 7-10.5 is hard; 10.5-14.1 is very hard; and anything over 14.1 is extremely hard. This means it’s not safe even for drinking.
A water softener is a device or mechanism that removes hard minerals from water. It does this by replacing them with sodium ions, which are much easier for your plumbing system to handle. This can drastically reduce the amount of soap scum and scale build-up in showers, sinks, toilets, and appliances connected to your home's water supply.
The most common type of water softener uses an ion exchange process to remove these minerals from the water. Essentially, it exchanges Sodium ions for any unwanted minerals present in the water.
Other types include Reverse Osmosis, Potassium, and salt-free systems. In addition to removing hard minerals from the water, many types of water softeners also offer additional benefits, such as filtering out chlorine and other contaminants from your drinking water.
The purpose of manufacturing water softeners was to make use of water for domestic uses. That’s where you can experience the major benefits of water softeners. Here are some of these to mention:
The minerals in hard water can create a build-up on pipes, fixtures, and appliances over time—causing them to work harder, wear out faster and even decrease their energy efficiency. Water softeners reduce this build-up by helping prevent scale from forming which can save you money in repairs or replacements.
Minerals found in hard water can cause stains or discoloration on clothing overtime due to the mineral deposits being left behind after each wash. Water softeners can reduce or even eliminate this issue so that your clothes stay looking and feeling their best for longer.
Hard water makes it difficult for soap to dissolve properly, leading to inefficient suds creation and cleaning power. By softening the water, you’ll get better results from your detergents, shampoos, body washes and other products as they will be able to do a better job at surrounding dirt and removing it from surfaces with more ease.
The build-up of minerals in hard water can make cleaning more challenging. Water softeners help reduce this build-up and, as a result, make your home easier to clean with less elbow grease needed.
As mentioned above, it’s not safe to drink soft water and that’s where a concerning risk of water softeners emanate from. Even if you are considering installing one for non-drinking purposes only, here are some things to note:
With any system, there is always a chance of something going wrong—water softeners aren’t any different. As the resin beads inside begin to break down and become less effective, you may need to replace them more often than not in order to keep your system running smoothly. This can be quite costly as well as time consuming depending on how long it takes you to install a new set of beads.
Softening the water can sometimes lead it to saturate a little too much, which may cause some issues with water pressure in your home. If you notice a decrease in performance or pressure, then it might be best to lower the setting of your softener to help resolve the issue.
While water softeners do an amazing job at removing minerals from hard water, they aren’t as effective when it comes to other contaminants like bacteria and lead.
The most common water softeners rely on potassium or salt to do their job effectively. This means you'll need to ensure that you are stocking up and replacing these materials regularly for your system to remain functional.
Because of the ion exchange process used by some water softeners, excess sodium is released into wastewater each time it regenerates or recharges itself (which usually happens every few weeks). This means the wastewater run-off from your water softener might not be suitable for use in gardens or other outdoor spaces.
Not all types of water softeners work the same, so it’s essential to research your options before making a purchase decision. In addition, consider your overall budget and any future maintenance costs or environmental impact associated with the system you choose. Ultimately, having a better understanding of how water softeners work and the benefits they can bring will help you make a decision that’s best for your home.
Before investing in a water softener, there are several important factors to consider, including the overall budget and any future maintenance costs or environmental impact associated with the system. It is also important to research different types of water softeners as they may vary in terms of effectiveness, features, and cost.
The frequency at which you need to replace your resin beads depends on how much hard water your system encounters and how well it is maintained. Generally, they should be replaced every 3-5 years or when they become less effective, whichever comes first.
Drinking softened water can be dangerous as it contains higher levels of sodium, increasing your risk for certain health conditions such as hypertension or stroke. For this reason, it is important not to drink softened water and only use it for non-drinking purposes.
Yes, some types of water softeners can release high levels of sodium into wastewater run-off, which may not be suitable for use in gardens or other outdoor spaces. It is important to research the type of water softener you are considering and its potential environmental impact before purchasing one.