Water softeners do a great job of removing hardness from water. They’ll even remove iron if it’s present in a low enough concentration. All salt-based water softeners operate under a very simple principle called ion exchange. A resin in the softener removes calcium and magnesium from the water. It then uses salt to periodically flush the accumulated hardness from the resin. It’s a tried and true technology that’s stood the test of time.
There are non-salt options, but I believe that they’re better classified as a descaler. There’s no doubt that descalers work differently from a salt water softener. They do not remove calcium and magnesium from the water. Instead, there’s a change to the chemical makeup of the calcium and magnesium so they don’t adhere to each other and result in scale buildup. Since those two chemicals are still present in the water, a dropper test to determine hardness will show no difference. There are, however, many manufacturers of tankless water heaters that require the use of descalers in hard water areas.
When it comes to standard salt water softeners, I don’t think you can say that one system works better than another if it’s using the same resin. (Remember, resin is the media that removes the hardness from the water.) There are, however, decisions that need to be made that can influence how well the system will work. The size of the system is one factor that makes a difference in this regard.
You don’t want to base the size of the unit on the number of people in the household. Let’s say you’re an empty nester and you have a very large four-bathroom house but only two people living in it. If you were to sell the home to a new owner who has three or four kids, they’re going to run into trouble. You really have to size for the home, not for the number of occupants.
The next decision you’ll have to make is how often the system will regenerate. It can regenerate based off of a timer or you can have it metered, which means that it will only regenerate itself when a certain number of gallons have passed through the system. In some rare cases, homes might have a manually regenerated system. (We don’t see them being used anymore.) Metered systems will probably end up saving salt because a timer based system will regenerate at a set time regardless of how much water you’ve used. Even if you’re on vacation and haven’t used any water at all, the timer will still go off.
It doesn’t make any sense to install a water softener only in the kitchen sink. Calcium and magnesium aren’t harmful to you. You’re removing them because they add scaling or hardness to your piping, water heater, and fixtures. Hard water is an aesthetic issue and it also reduces the life of your plumbing components. Additionally, soft water uses half as much soap as hard water to get the same job done. You would stand to benefit the most if your entire house had soft water. Think about how much money you would save each year if you cut your laundry detergent use in half.
Once you get a water softener installed in your home, maintenance is fairly straightforward. The salt needs to be replaced periodically. The system will also need to be cleaned occasionally depending on the quality of the incoming water. If properly maintained, hardness or iron won’t build up excessively in the unit.
If you want to find out if your home will benefit from a water softener, contact us online or give us a call today. We’ll send a Boulden Brothers technician to your home to test the water for hardness, iron, pH (acidity), and chlorine levels. If you have a concern that bacteria may be in the water, a test must be run in a state approved lab. We can help you get through that process as well.