Scale buildup. Stained bathtubs. Skyrocketing water bills. Dry skin and hair. If you’re noticing any of these signs in your home, chances are you need a water softener.
When it comes to your home, skin, and your wallet, hard water is well...hard. Water softeners counteract those concerns, creating higher quality water that extends the life of your appliances, saves you money and makes you look and feel better.
Not familiar with the workings of a water softener? Not to worry. We’re answering how does a water softener work, identifying the benefits of using a water softener and explaining how to pick the model that’s right for your home.
How does a water softener work?
As its name suggests, water softeners literally soften your water. Most units do this by removing certain minerals (such as calcium and magnesium) and replacing them with a softer mineral (like sodium or potassium).
While most people believe that the salt in the system softens the water, that’s actually a misconception. The thousands of tiny resin beads within the tank are what filter out hard water chemicals. The salt is what’s used to clean the resin beads, allowing the system to continually remove hardness from your water supply.
Hardness is caused by compounds of calcium and magnesium, and by a variety of other metals. In general, guidelines for classification of water as calcium carbonate are:
- Soft: 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter)
- Moderately hard: 61 to 120 mg/L
- Hard: 121 to 180 mg/L
- Very hard: More than 180 mg/L
Every home is unique. To discover your water’s mineral makeup, contact your local utility provider.
Here’s why you should use a water softener
Sure, you may have hard water. But who cares? You should, actually. There are some huge benefits to using a water softener system. Here’s what you can expect if you make the switch:
- You’ll get a better clean. When you wash your clothes or dishes in hard water, you may end up with soapy residue in the form of streaks of spots. The same thing can happen in the bathroom -- you may find that a soapy residue is sticking to your tub or sink. That’s because hard water doesn't do a great job of cleaning. Softer water, on the other hand, helps rinse soap more thoroughly.
- You’ll need fewer cleaning products. Soft water reduces the amount of product you need for cleaning, which means you don’t have to spend as much money on soaps, detergents and other cleansers. With less soap scum left behind, you’ll also realize that it’s easier to maintain a cleaner sink, shower and tub.
- Your hair and skin will look and feel better. The minerals in hard water can clog your pores, leaving your skin feeling dry. When you bathe with soft water, you allow your skin to produce its natural oils -- leaving your skin and hair feeling soft and hydrated.
- Your plumbing will last longer. Hard water leaves scaly deposits in plumbing fixtures and pipes. As these deposits build up over time, you could experience some serious clogs and corrosion that have the potential to shorten your plumbing system lifespan. Water softeners minimize buildup and reduce the risk of clogs and corrosion -- meaning your plumbing system can operate more effectively, and for a longer period.
- You’ll save money on utilities. If it’s harder for water to flow through your pipes, you can expect your water usage to go up. If you’re noticing a spike in your water bills, it’s probably time for a water softener. To learn more about if your water falls on the soft or hard end of the water hardness scale, give your local utility company a call. They’ll be able to do a sample analysis to determine if you can lower your bill with a water softener.
How to pick the right water softener
The next step should be simple, right? Not always. As it turns out, water softeners are not one size fits all. In general, there are three types of home water softeners:
- Salt-based water softener. The most common system, a salt-based water softener softens household water through two tanks: one with special resin beads and the other with brine. Through ion exchange, it softens hard water by substituting sodium for hard minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron.
- Salt-free water softener. For homeowners who are concerned about salt intake, a salt-free softener may be a great option. Instead of using sodium, a salt-free water softener regenerates with a potassium-chloride salt substitute. A salt-free model isn’t a descaler, though, it just prevents minerals from being deposited as scale to appliance and pipe surfaces.
- Dual-tank water softener. Water softeners need to recharge, and when they do, they’re designed to disconnect from the water system (which means it’s out of commision). If you need softened water during this time, or if your family is too busy to set aside a chunk of time for regeneration, you may want to consider a dual-tank water softener. With a dual-tank, the system can use one while the other is regenerating.
The skinny on home water treatment systems
If your home has hard water that’s also polluted or contaminated with lead, you may need more than just a water softener.
Water filtration, for example, is a system that’s used to filter out particles and pollutants from your home’s water supply. Whether in the form of a fridge filter, sink filter, portable water pitcher or a whole-house unit, water filtration is a useful tool to provide better tasting and smelling drinking water, remove lead and other contaminants and save money on water bottles.
Water purification, on the other hand, works to remove bacterial contaminants and viruses. These units don’t include chemical contaminants, which is why water purification and water filtration systems tend to work together. Water filters can remove unwanted chemicals like chlorine and fluoride, while water purifiers are effective at removing bacteria and viruses.
The beauty of water treatment systems is that all three can work together. To learn what units you need for your home, contact trusted plumbers in Fairfax.
Install your perfect water softener today
Because each home is unique, each solution is too. We look forward to understanding your needs and providing a customized solution that works for your family, and your budget. Explore different options for water filtration systems in your home and work with plumbing experts at John C. Flood. Call us at (703) 783-0247 or schedule service online.