Written By: Marjorie Cliff Picard
Residents in areas that have hard water are likely aware of the problems which can arise from its use. Hard water contains calcium, magnesium and other dissolved minerals. The deposits collect on dishes, inside appliances, in showers and in pipes. The efficiency of hot water appliances can be lowered. So, should a water softener be considered? Here are some facts and tips to consider:
- According to Angie’s List, 85% of Americans have hard water problems. Purchasing a water softener may not be necessary. The water may not need treating. The customer should have a water conditioning firm or the local water company test and analyze the water. Both should do it for free. There are also home testing kits available.
- When purchasing a water softener, the size of the tank must be calculated. The average person uses 80 gallons a day. If there are four people in the family and two bathrooms, that would equal 320 gallons. Hardness in water is measured in grains. Usually, 10 grains is average. A system which can handle 3200 grains is needed for the average home of four.
- Water softeners need to regenerate occasionally to be sure the water stays soft. Some regenerate automatically, some are on a timer, and others are done by hand. Automatic regeneration is the most flexible. The hand method requires a person to start it, and timed starts must happen at the same hour every day. Salt has to be replenished periodically. The right type must be used. A system using potassium must also have the right pellets.
- Hard water is safe to drink. Soft water contains sodium, which is a concern for those watching their blood pressure. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, there is so little sodium in the water treated by a softener that it is not of concern. However, if a patient is on a VERY LOW sodium diet, he or she may have only the hot water softened, leaving the cold water to be used for drinking and cooking.
- According to some environmentalists, the salt that is discharged into the water system can be harmful to plants, soil and the water supply. Salt does not wash away or sink into the soil. It may be used to irrigate parks and agriculture. A purchaser must water down his property frequently and thoroughly to dilute and push down the salt. The soil may become compacted, nutrients may be lost and rivers and lakes may be affected. Some areas have restricted the use of the salt-type water softeners.
- There are several types of water softeners that do not use salt. They are: a)template assisted crystallization process, which is considered promising, b)capacitive deionization, c)electrically induced precipitation, and d)electromagnetic water treatment. There are also water softeners that use potassium and other minerals instead of salt.
- Before a purchase is made, make sure you research the company. It should be reliable and offer you a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied. Installers should be certified by the Water Quality Association. Angie’s List warns customers to be on the lookout for “fly-by-night companies.”
- Installation may cost several thousand dollars. A system can be leased for $40 to $100 per month, according to Consumer Reports.
- Potassium chloride is used in water softeners to avoid salt use. They are equally effective. However, they are several times more expensive.
- Water softening reduces energy consumption. Laundry costs may be cut in half, and a dishwasher may cost 70% less to run.