What is a Water Softener and Why Do You Need One?
Water is such a big part of our lives. It’s not just that we need to drink it, we use it everyday to wash our clothes, ourselves and our homes. That’s why hard water can be such a pain. You may already own a water softener or perhaps you’re thinking about buying one. Either way, it’s good to understand what a water softener does, the different types available to you and the benefits you will gain.
But first we need to understand what hard water is and why it becomes such a problem for you in your home.
What exactly is hard water?
Hard water is simply water that is high in dissolved minerals. As water moves through soil and rock it dissolves very small amounts of calcium and magnesium and holds them in solution. Calcium and magnesium are the main culprits and it’s the concentration of these minerals that determines how ‘hard’ your water is.
Hard water is measured in milligrams of calcium carbonate per liter of water. 0-60 mg/L is classified as soft, 61 to 120 mg/L as moderately hard; 121 to 180 mg/L as hard and more than 180 mg/L as very hard water.
It’s important to note that your hard water is not a health risk to you, in fact calcium and magnesium are essential parts of your diet. It’s more the effects of hard water that are so damaging, costly and a general nuisance to you.
Why is hard water a problem?
If you’re suffering from hard water in your home, you’ll be all too familiar with the problems that come with it. Hard water interferes with almost every cleaning task: laundering, dishwashing and even your personal grooming.
- Scale build-up clogs pipes and restricts the flow of water. You end up with water coming out of your shower in a dribble that barely gets you wet – not the greatest way to wake up in the morning before work.
- Scale builds-up in the pipes and on the heating elements of your appliances. Scale is a poor conductor of heat, so your household appliances need to work that much harder to heat the water. In fact, a study by Arizona State University stated that energy usage can increase by up to 24%. That means hard water can significantly reduce the lifespan of these expensive items and increase your bills – costing you real dollars each year.
- Ugly lime scale appears on your shower heads and faucets. It also leaves white spots on your dishes and glasses. To your guests it looks like you haven’t cleaned in months, when in fact all you do is scrub and polish.
- You use more soap and detergent because the hard water prevents them lathering up as they are designed to do.
- The scale even gets on your skin and in you hair. After washing it can feel like the water is leaving behind a slimy film.
So the purpose of a water softener is to prevent these negative affects. A high-quality water softener can tackle all of these problems.
So How Does a Water Softener Work?
Well there are a number of different products available but they all essentially rely on one of two methods: removal of calcium and magnesium from the water; or binding these minerals with another molecule to prevent their ability to form scale.
What are the benefits of a water softener?
- Your pipes stay clear from scale, meaning water can flow freely at the pressure you need. Instead of a dribble of water coming out of your shower head, you’ll go back to a waterfall-like morning shower that sets you up for the day ahead.
- When hard water minerals are either removed from the water or bound with other molecules, your hair and skin will go back to feeling clean and soft.
- Because scale will not collect around the heating elements in your water heater, dishwasher, washing machine and even your coffee maker, they will work more efficiently and last longer when you use a water softener.
- With no lime scale appearing around your faucets, shower heads, bath enamel, glass shower screens, wash basins etc, it means you have to spend less time scrubbing and cleaning. You can go back to the days when a quick wipe down would do the job.
- A good water softener will mean you spend less money on cleaning materials because you’ll have to do less cleaning and the soap and detergents you use will work effectively.
What are the different types of water softener on the market?
1. Salt-based water softeners:
Before technological advancements, salt-based water softeners were the product of choice. They work by a process of ‘ion-exchange’. All this means is that the water passes through a tank containing resin beads. The beads are saturated with sodium (just standard crystal salt) and as the calcium and magnesium molecules come in contact with these beads, they attach to them replacing the salt. The salt then gets released into the water.
However, the salty waste water is bad for the environment. The units are also bigger, more expensive and require more maintenance than many of the salt-free softeners on the market.
2. Salt-free water softeners:
Remember, hard water itself is not a health hazard. Calcium and magnesium are good for you. So the ideal solution would be to leave these minerals in the water and just alter their state so they’re unable to form limescale. Let’s look at a couple of the ways salt-free softeners achieve this.
a. Soft Water through Chelation: The NuvoH2O
The nuvoH2O is leading the way in salt-free water softeners with this innovative approach to the hard water problem. It’s based on the principle of ‘chelation’ and is a clever bit of science that requires no salt at all.
It works by passing your water through a compact-sized cartridge that releases citric acid (the same stuff you get in lemons, so perfectly safe to drink). As the water passes through, the citrus binds with the calcium and magnesium molecules. This captures the hard water minerals and prevents them being deposited around your home. So, unlike with salt systems, the minerals are not removed from your water, meaning you still get the benefits to your health.
The nuvoH2O is much better for the environment than a traditional salt-based system. And, overall, offers the best value for money too. You can check it out in more detail here.
b. Soft Water through Ceramic Media: The Futura
The Futura is another salt-free system that again works not by removing the hard water minerals but by preventing them being deposited as limescale around your home. The technology is different to our star product, the nuvoH2O. The Futura works using a ceramic media that neutralizes hard water properties without the need for salt or electricity.
When hard water comes into contact with the catalytic surface of the media, hard water minerals become attached to the ceramic granules and get converted into a crystalline form. These crystals are harmless and will not attach to your pipes and water heater elements, preventing scale deposits. Visit The Futura Site Here
c. Soft Water Through Calcium Carbonate Crystals: The Pelican Natursoft
Like with the Futura system discussed above, the Pelican Natursoft works with a media that interacts with the calcium and magnesium molecules to prevent them being deposited as limescale.
This time the media has calcium carbonate crystal structures on its surface that will attract the excess minerals. The calcium and magnesium become attached to the crystal structures and grow in size. As the water creates friction on this media, fragments of these crystals (now with the hard water minerals attached) become dislodged and pass through your water.
This means the minerals are still present in your water, but they are now suspended and are unable to be deposited as scale around your home. Visit Pelican Here
d. Magnetic Water Softeners: The ScaleWatcher
Magnetic water softeners claim to work simply by passing the water through a magnetic field, with magnets clamped on the outside of the incoming water pipes or installed inside the water supply. Although there are many companies selling this type of water softener, there is considerably doubt as to whether using magnets to tackle hard water actually works. In fact, the claimed benefits vary depending on who’s selling the product.
You don’t tend to see these products in mainstream retail, probably because the science literature does not really back up the product claims. There have been numerous studies, and without going into all the detail (you can read a detailed expose here) it’s safe to say that no independent, controlled trial indicated any genuine ability to soften water to the level that would be noticeable in your home.
Do your research but do approach magnetic water softeners with a healthy level of skepticism.
So we’ve gone into a lot of detail here. Explaining what hard water is, why it’s a problem and what benefits a water softener can provide for you and your family. We’ve even looked at some of the different products and their methods of tackling hard water.
In summary, it’s safe to say that there are a number of different solutions (some with more scientific basis than others). It does seem clear that the old way of softening water (using salt) has been taken over by new technologies such as the nuvoH2O. In fact, the nuvo system is an all round performer. Its environmentally friendly chelation technique is both effective and requires hardly any maintenance from year to year – something you cant say about salt-based systems.
The nuvoH2O also seems to offer the best value for money. The cost of the unit is often less than half of these other featured products. Salt systems can also cost you up to $250 a year in bags of salt alone. A nuvo softener will require a replacement cartridge every 6 months or so but this is usually in the $50 range. For a more detailed look at a cost comparison of owning different types of water softener, click here).
Morton water softener
Every living creature in this planet needs water. Plants need water, animals need water, and humans need water. Without it, existence would be impossible; because did you know that a human being can live for as long as eight days even without food as long as there is water? This is a fact already established all over the world and is respected by many people. Which is why water is a very important component of life and this is what the Morton water softener respects and believes which is why it is in the aid of people who wish their water to become in better shape for consumption and use.
When water softeners were introduced in the market, the public was a little hesitant to jump in the bandwagon because of the logic behind it that water hardness can actually be softened. But companies like Morton water softener changed the perception of the people by showing them how it is done and of course by presenting the long list of benefits that one can garner from installing a water softener system.
Based on the Morton water softener’s explanation, with the use of this system, you will be able to get the following advantages:
First, you will be able to protect the plumbing system of your home as well as your fixtures and appliances that get in contact with water because its purpose it to soften the water, thus, leaving no sign of scales that are due to the high calcium and magnesium deposits in water.
Second, you can expect that when you use shampoo, it will be able to produce more lather or bubbles. In conjunction with this, soap used in bathing or in washing dishes is also removed easily and it doesn’t leave a soapy feel unlike untreated water.
Third, because the water becomes softer, expect that you skin will also be free from the scale deposits so it will become smoother and softer even if you do not make use of a moisturizing soap.
Fourth, you can be able to save more money because you can do your cleaning chores easily with the aid of the Morton water softener because it washes away the soap suds easily and it doesn’t leave any kind of deposit.
The Morton water softener is not the only water softener available in the market today but it is among the most sought after brands especially because it has already proved its purpose in many households.
Best Types of Home Water Filtration Systems
There are a lot of Home Water Filtration Systems being sold in the market today and as a consumer it should be your responsibility to find out or research more about these filtration systems and what will work best with your lifestyle or the kind of home you have.
While all water filtration systems for home use can successfully flush out all the negative and harmful toxins that float around in the water that you and your family will drink, there are still some setbacks when you choose the wrong type of filtration unit for your home.
Here are just some basic facts regarding the benefits of adding a water filtration system for your home.
- Once you have started to use a filtration unit, you have successfully removed over 500 different kinds of bacteria and microbes that might be harmful for you and your family. Filtering your homes water system especially the sources that are used for drinking can be reduce the creation of cancer cells in your body which come from the chlorine used in the public filtration plants.
- Some drinking water might contain a putrid odor or even looks cloudy. This might be a bad case of unfiltered water. If your home produces this type of water, the chances are that you might be getting a good supply of water which really does call for the installation of a dependable filtration system.
Water Softener Installation
With a lot of water filtration products and brands out there in the market, a consumer might have a hard time finding out which one should the best for their homes. Heres a quick look at some of the types of water filtration units available in the market today. This will help buyers discern as quickly as possible which filtration system works for them in terms of output or in terms of process.
Filtering Pitchers this type of water filtration system works extremely well for households that do not need that much of purified water. These products can be used in places that has a highly secure and safe source of drinking water.
Faucet Mounted Filters these water filters come in a smaller package and can be attached and detached to places to faucets. For homes that just want an extra protection against the things that might come with the drinking water, these types of filters are the best. They can be easily removed in cases where you will need to wash the dishes or clean something using the regular quality water.
Sink and Faucet Filter this water filter departs from the smaller designs as it incorporates a system that will require you to get the sink along with the specialized faucet. This type of filtration system can be used for homes that are really looking to have a clean drinking water source. They best fit in homes that are looking for a more durable product as they can last as long as 4 to 5 years before showing any indication that it needs to be replaced. This filter unit though can only service or filter one specific source.
Whole House Water Filters In cases where the water supply for a home can be considered a real mess, families should get the whole house filters. This filter is the biggest of the bunch and is often the most expensive. It is usually complex and will require people to have it installed by trained professionals. As mentioned, this type of filter is heavy duty and can filter all the water that comes into a persons home to provide safe and drinkable water for people to enjoy no matter what time of day.
The vast majority of people use for their needs water with the increased rigidity. To solve this problem any person can refer to the water softener installation. But before we will talk about the importance of water softener installation let’s try to find out what is the hardness and why is it dangerous? All natural water contains calcium ions and ions of magnesium or stiffness.
Going from a soluble to an insoluble state, magnesium and calcium salts are deposited on the walls of water pipes, heating elements of appliances – boilers, water heaters, washing machines, kettles, irons, on the inner parts of the tubes and batteries. There are some interesting figures: in case of the formation of a layer of scale of a 1-mm on the radiators, the heating system efficiency is reduced by 10%. And the thicker this layer, the more energy is wasted. That is why water softener installation is required in the preparation of water for all major boilers. High concentration of calcium and magnesium salts in the water can also be harmful for a man. According to the World Health Organization, the available research suggests the connection between the increased rigidity of drinking water with cardiovascular disease, arthritis, accumulation of stones in the kidney and ureter. According to WHO; the rate of hardness of water is 1.0-2.0 mEq / L, whereas the real figure can be up to 10-15. Another minus – to bathe in hard water, you need to spend a lot of soap to “connect” hardness salts. Thus, the high rigidity is manifested in things as follows:
– harm to human health;
– the worn of water mains appliances that come into contact with water;
– reducing of the efficiency of the heating elements and the increase in heating costs;
– high consumption of soap, laundry detergent, etc.
To avoid all the diseases associated with rigidity you can think about water softener installation. There are several types of softeners and ways of softening. The first of these is the easiest – method of thermal softening, or simple boiling. It is used in everyday life, because the easiest way to “soften” the water and make it potable – is boil it. However, this does not solve the problem of scale in kettles and pans, and of course, you will not be able to save pipes and washing machines in this way. Reagent water softeners use chemical compounds that bind hardness salts. Salts precipitate before fall into the water system, and this gives an opportunity to avoid the formation of scale.
The disadvantage of this method is that the reagent should be replaced periodically. If you do not do it, hard water can cause damage even in case of a short-term contact with water. Ionic water softeners have a similar principle. Instead of the reagent they use ion-exchange resin. It absorbs calcium and magnesium ions in exchange for the sodium cations (most frequently). Ion-exchange resin from time to time needs to be replaced. And the spent resin as the reagent, need to be stored somewhere, and it is not always environmentally friendly. Water softener installation is a good decision.
The Top 21 Water Softener Questions & Answers
Many people have questions about what a water softener is and what it does. We have tried to tackle the most asked questions about water softeners here.
1. What is a water softener?
A softener reduces the amount of minerals in your water. The most common minerals removed or reduced are calcium, magnesium, and sometimes manganese and ferrous iron. Water that has large concentrations of these minerals is said to be “hard” water.
2. What kinds of problems does hard water cause?
There are a few effects of hard water that you will notice. The first is the inability of your soaps to lather well. This is caused when the metal ions react with soap and detergents. This is also the source of the dreaded “bathtub ring”. Also, when soaps don’t lather as well they also don’t clean as well. Moreover, these hard ions will begin to form deposits on the surface of pipes which can over time restrict the flow of water through the pipes. In boilers or hot water heaters this build up can impair the ability of the heater actually causing the components to overheat and eventually lead to mechanical failure in your heater.
3. So, how does a softener make my water soft?
Easy, the hard water flows into a mineral tank that has resin beads in it. The resin removes minerals by the ion exchange process. The beads have an opposite electrical charge than the minerals that are in your water. Because of this opposite charge the minerals in your water cling to the resin beads on contact. The water exiting the softener will be soft. The resin can only hold a certain amount of hardness particles this is why the tank must regenerate regularly.
4. Will a water softener make my drinking water safe?
No it will not make your water safe, your water must be safe to drink before you use a water softener. If you’re worried about the safety of your drinking water you should get it tested.
5. Why does soft water feel slick to the touch?
Your softener removes minerals such as magnesium and calcium from the water and replaces them with sodium. The hard minerals react with soaps and detergents and interfere with their ability to clean effectively. Sodium does not react with soaps or detergents however its one drawback is that it feels slick to the touch.
6. What are no salt water conditioners?
Any water conditioner can be used without salt. This is done by using potassium chloride, a salt substitute. It is generally more expensive than regular salt and can be difficult to find in some areas.
7. How often do I add salt to the brine tank?
Usually you will need to add salt every eight weeks. When you see water just above the salt, it is time to add more. However, it all depends on how often your system needs to regenerate. Check the manufacturer’s user guide for specific information about your water softener.
8. How much salt does my water softener use?
The average softener using 1 cubic foot of resin should use about 6 to 8 pounds of salt per regeneration. If your water softener uses a metered valve you will use less salt than a non-metered unit. The national average of salt use is about 60 pounds per month but this varies depending on the quality and quantity of water being treated by the water softener.
9. What kind of salt is best for a water softener to use?
It is best to use 99.5% salt content or better in your softener.
10. Can I use potassium chloride instead of salt?
Yes, all softeners can use potassium chloride instead of salt. However potassium may melt when it gets wet. You should keep an eye on this by only filling the brine tank halfway when using potassium chloride. This is so you can easily monitor the potassium chloride levels inside your tank after regeneration.
11. My softener is working but I’m still getting iron stains, why?
Your resin tank could be too small to handle all the iron in your water. You may need to regenerate more often or use more salt. Double check the level of iron in your water by using a home test kit. 1 cubic foot of resin can effectively remove up to three parts per 1,000,000 of iron without additional treatment. If you’re using your water during the nightly regeneration time that water would be untreated and could contain iron. Or, if your hot water tank is more than 20 years old it could be rusting on the inside and causing iron to be in your water. This could also be true if you live in an old home that uses galvanized plumbing.
12. I am using a softener but my water smells bad, why?
Water softeners do not usually remove taste or odor problems. Odors are typically caused by chlorine in water or hydrogen sulfide in your well both of these causes are easily fixed by using a carbon filter in addition to your softener. Sometimes the self-sacrificing rod in your water heater can be the cause of odor if it has not been replaced recently have a qualified plumber check it.
13. How can I test my water and find out what is in it?
There are many home test kits available. If you are on a public water supply contact the office where you pay your water bill they will have current testing records available for you. If you’re on a private water system such as a well you can contact your county health department sometimes they offer free water testing. If you purchase your own water test kit be sure it shows the levels of hardness, iron, pH, hydrogen sulfide, nitrates, and total dissolved solids.
14. How do I know what kind and size water softener I will need?
Softeners are installed based on the total hardness of your water and the number of people in your home. Most residential softeners average 5 GPM flow rate. The higher the flow rate the larger the tank will be to be. The tank needs to be large enough so that the water will have time to be in contact with the resin media to ensure all impurities are removed.
15. How can I tell what my flow rate is?
It is easy to get an idea of your flow rate simply turn on an outside faucet to the full open position than putting empty gallon container under the full flow time how long it takes to fill the container all the way. If the container fills in 20 seconds you would divide 60 seconds by 20 seconds. The answer would be 3 so your flow rate would be very close to 3 GPM.
16. After installing my softener I have less water pressure, why?
Sometimes you will experience a little pressure loss due to resistance from the resin however excessive pressure loss is a different story. If you’re using well water pressure loss can be caused by fine sand coming from the well. If your softener is installed outdoors a layer of algae can grow and clog the screening of the water softener. In highly chlorinated water the resin can be damaged over time. The solution for all of these problems is to dump the resin tank clean it and add new resin.
17. What is hard water?
Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. The minerals in hard water are usually calcium and magnesium. Occasionally there may also be iron, aluminum, and manganese in your water depending on your geographical location.
18. I’ve been reading about lime scale, what is that?
Limescale, scaling, or fouling is the accumulation of mineral deposits usually on pipes or fixtures.
19. My softeners valve appears to be operating but the salt levels remain the same, why?
The valve could be broken. The salt or potassium may be bridged, this occurs when it becomes wet and solidifies above the water in the tank. If you have been using pellet salt you could have undissolved residue this can block water flow in and out of the salt tank. The brine refill control could be clogged this would prevent water from refilling. These are just a few possibilities you should consider contacting an experienced plumber if you are unsure of your own capabilities in solving this problem.
20. How often do the resins need to be changed?
Most softeners will not need their resin replaced ever, with the proper pre-treatment and maintenance of the unit. Depending on the hardness of your water pre-treatment could simply be a sediment filter or as complex as a chemical injection system.
21. Do I need a back washing filter?
It depends on what contaminants are in your water. Sometimes a water softener will have one of these filters included. A back washing filter is a tank with a specific filter inside as well as a control valve it is used to remove minerals such as arsenic, nitrates, iron, and manganese from your water.