Water Softener

Most older homes that need to have a water softener will already have one installed and will be part of the installed appliances that you purchase with the home. As an aside it is always a good idea to specify this in any offer you are making on a home, in case the present owner is planning to take it with them when they move.

New homes on the other hand will not have a water softener installed unless you specifically negotiate this item to be installed by the builder. It is often less expensive to purchase a water softener  separately and arrange for a plumber to install it for you if you need a water softener to soften hard water.

How Do You Know You Even need a Water Softener?

There are several ways that you may find out that you need to install one of these devices. Someone who lives in the neighborhood or a family friend or the real estate agent may suggest that you need one. The other most visible way is that when you try to take a shower, there will be limited or no suds at all when you try to wash your hair for example. Soap does not react well with hard water and will not produce a lot of suds or lather.

You may also notice a white scaling material build up in your kettle, tea pot or coffee maker. This scale, next to a lack of suds, is the most noticeable way that you will be able to tell that you have hard water problems.

This scaly material is actually calcium that was dissolved in the water as it peculated through rocks underground. When the water passes thought pipes or is boiled in a kettle for example a white scaly mineral deposit is left on the sides of the pipe or at the bottom of the kettle. Use a solution of vinegar and water to remove this scale in kettles and coffee pots.

Even white scaly deposits can be left on glasses washed in the dishwasher if your water is hard. There are various chemicals you can add to the dishwasher when washing dishes that will prevent spots showing on our glassware.

How to Get Rid of Hard Water

The best way and most efficient method to rid you and your family of hard water is to install a water softener  in the basement of your home. There are a variety of chemicals that can be added to the water in your dishwasher, your laundry etc, however these chemicals do not solve the problem throughout your home.

If you are moving into an older home in an area were hard water is prevalent and there is no water softener in the home, have someone check the water pipes to make sure that they are not clogged with calcium scale. Water pipes have been known to be reduced to a trickle due to this scaly buildup in the pipes.This can be an expensive change if you have to pay for this after moving into a older home.

The only solution is to replace the pipes throughout your home and then add a water softener to your water line to prevent further scaling of the water pipes and other appliances in the home.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners are usually installed by a plumber and they are connected to the main water line that comes into your home. All water runs through the water softener with the exception of pipes that are connected to the outside of the home.

Water softeners work by exchanging calcium ions with those of salt ions and then washing both the salt brine and the calcium ions down the drain. Operating costs for a water softener consist of salt that is added to one of the tanks on the water softener and water that is used to cleans the tanks. The frequency of this cleaning depends on the amount of water use in most cases, but can also depend on manual or automatic triggers to run the softener through the cycle.

You may also need to have an electrical connection as well.

Usually water softeners are located close to basement drains or the clothes washing machine since there are drains and electrical power located nearby. If you do not have electrical power nearby you may need to have an electrician install an electrical outlet near your water softener.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Using softened water on your lawn will cause the water softener to go through the cleaning process more often causing more salt to be utilized and also more water will be used in the cleansing process. In addition the higher salt content of the water may also harm grass seedlings as well. Some states are in fact banning water softeners for this reason and to also reduce water waste.

Do Water Softeners Harm Septic Systems?

In the research we found the answer to this question is inconclusive. However looking at this situation from a common sense perspective,  if your septic system is nearly full or not draining well, it may overflow with the additional water that is purged through the system when the softener is cleansing and discharging.

There is no known impact on bacteria in the septic tank from the salt however if you were to run the backwash often, there may be a build up of salt which may impact the efficiency of the septic system, as well as potentially causing an overflow.

What Does it Cost to Run a Water Softener?

In most cases running a water softener is pretty reasonable and when you consider the soap you save and the long term impacts,  it may not really be that expensive. Cleansing and purging  usually uses about 25 gallons of water for a domestic system and bags of salt are generally not too expensive to purchase. Compared to some of the long term impacts, this is not expensive at all.

The amount of water and salt you use will depend on how much water you use, and whether your system is set to automatic or manual.

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