Hard water is a prevalent problem in many houses, making water softeners an attractive solution. Whether you’ve already bought a water softening system or you’re still thinking about it, its likely that you have a lot of questions related to buying and operating a water softening system, to get the most out of the system. In this article, we cover the 20 most frequently asked questions related to water softeners.
1- What is hard water?
Hard water refers to water that contains high levels of minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. These naturally occurring minerals get into the water as it percolates through sediment and rock. Groundwater sources tend to have higher mineral concentrations than surface water sources.
Learn More: What is Hard Water
2- How do I know if I have hard water?
Over 80% of all homes in the US has hard water, so the chances you have hard water is high. Hard water has many negative impacts on your household and if you have it, you’ll know! Here are some things you’ll notice:
1- scale buildup on your faucets and tiles
2- higher utility bills due to reduced energy efficiency
3- shorter lifespans of appliances
4- water spots on glassware and shower glass
5- dry and itchy skin
6- dry and lifeless hair
7- white residue on the bottom of kettles and coffee makers
8- faded and worn out looking laundry
Learn More: How to Test for Hard Water
3- Is a water softener worth it?
Water softeners can be expensive to purchase and set up, but they offer many benefits that make it a worthwhile investment. For one thing, they will likely reduce the need for appliance maintenance, especially for water heaters. Additionally, they enhance the energy efficiency of water-based appliances, resulting in lower utility bills. You will be able to use less detergents, soaps and shampoo, due to the higher lathering capacity of softened water, and you will also spend less time cleaning the difficult mineral deposits in your bathrooms and kitchen. When you add up all these benefits, it’s clear that water softeners are worth it.
4- What’s the life expectancy of a water softener?
A high-quality water softener can last around 10 to 15 years, much like most whole-house water filters. If well-maintained, these systems can last even longer.
5- Does a water softener filter water?
No, a water softener conditions the water, but it doesn’t filter it and remove its impurities. While it does remove hardness minerals, the system adds salt into the water instead. If you have contaminated water, you might want to consider combining the water softener with a whole house filtration system or buy a 2-in-1 filtration and softening system
Learn More: The Best Whole House Water Filters
6- Is softened water safe to drink?
This relates to question 5. Because water softeners don’t filter water, softened water is only as clean as your water supply, without the minerals and with the salt. So, filtering it will be a good idea, especially if there are many types of contaminants in your water.
However, in terms of softened water itself, there isn’t a problem with drinking it, as it still has many nutrients in it. It does contain sodium, though, so if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, you may wish to avoid this type of water. It can also be unsuitable for baby formula, especially in areas where the mineral content is high, as this will mean higher sodium levels in the water.
7- How much does it cost to install a water softening system?
This will vary depending on the particular system you choose and whether you do the job yourself or hire a professional. Some systems, particularly salt free water softeners, are much easier to install and can be done like a DIY project. Others may be much more complicated. The cost will depend on your particular situation and could range up to $4000 for professional installation.
8- Is a dual tank better than a single tank water softener?
The main benefit of a dual tank water softener is that you’ll never run out of softened water. With a single tank softener, water softening is paused when the system enters the regeneration cycle. With a twin tank, the tanks alternate when regenerating, so you’ll always have softened water. However, these are larger systems and more suited for large households. Also, you can bypass the issue of not having softened water by programming the system to regenerate at night, when you’re not using water.
9- What should I consider when buying a water softener?
The main thing to consider is the capacity of your water softener, which you can calculate by considering the hardness of your water and water usage. You’ll also need to factor in the type of regeneration cycle the system has, how energy efficient it is and other similar features.
Learn More: How to Choose a Water Softener
10- What is the best water softener?
The best water softener will depend on your specific needs and water requirements. Water softeners vary in terms of how they work, their capacity, size and features. Once you know what you need to look for in a water softener to suit your situation, you can then zero in on the best softener for you.
Learn More: Best Water Softeners on the Market
11- Can a water softener cause a drop in water pressure?
If you’re water softener has been chosen correctly according to your water needs, you should not see a drop in water flow. However, there may be instances when the system can affect your water flow. For example, if there’s a block in your water softener, due to sediment or excessive chlorine that makes the resin compact, you may notice a drop in pressure.
12- What happens if I stop putting salt in my water softener?
Salt is at the heart of the ion exchange process. It’s the sodium ions that exchange with the hardness minerals and take them out of the water. If you don’t replenish the salt in your brine tank, your water softener will stop treating hard water.
Learn More: Best Water Softening Salts
13- What type of salt should I use for my softener?
When it comes to salt, you can choose between sodium or potassium chloride. If you opt for sodium, you have the options of rock, solar and evaporated salt. Of these three, solar and evaporated are purer and therefore better for your water softening system. Rock salt may contain a lot of non-soluble matter which can cause issues for the system.
Learn More: Types of Water Softener Salts
14- Is it ok to mix salts in the brine tank?
Salts can be used interchangeably but if they’re very different, then it’s best to finish one type before using another. For example, don’t mix potassium and sodium together as this negates the health benefits of potassium. Also, don’t combine rock salt with evaporated or solar salts, as this can cause issues.
15- What’s the difference between salt based and salt free softeners?
There are many types of water softeners, but all of them can be categorized into either salt based or salt free systems. Salt based systems use ion exchange to treat hard water, whereas salt free systems use a variety of methods, including electro-magnetic waves, Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) or Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) systems. Each has its pros and cons, but if you’re looking for a comprehensive water hard water treatment, salt based softeners are the best option.
Learn More: Salt Based vs. Salt Free Water Softeners
16- What is the water softener regeneration cycle?
The regeneration cycle is one of the most important aspects of the functioning of a water softener. During this cycle, the resin bed is cleaned, and all the accumulated hardness minerals washed away into the drain. The resin is then replenished with sodium and prepared for the next service cycle. There are several ways that a system can initiate regeneration, but in general, experts recommend the demand-initiated regeneration cycle due to its higher efficiency.
Learn More: What is Water Softener Regeneration?
17- Can a water softener remove iron from your water?
Water softeners can remove iron from water and most systems do remove some amount of iron impurities. However, these systems are primarily created to remove calcium and magnesium, so they aren’t a complete solution for iron contamination in water. If you have iron in your water, you may want to consider a pre-filter designed to remove iron.
18- Is softened water better for my skin and hair?
If you’ve ever showered with softened water, you’ll know that it has a moisturising, slick feel to it that give you hair and skin vibrancy and life. The reason skin and hair become dry and lifeless with hard water is due to the minerals in the water that suck out moisture. So, by treating this, you can alleviate the issue of dry skin and hair. While soft water can also cause limpness and lifelessness in hair, it’s much less damaging than hard water.
19- Can I use softened water for my plants?
Because of the high amount of sodium in softened water, it’s best to avoid this when watering your plants. Most plants can’t take the high salt levels which affects their water balance. The plants may become dehydrated and eventually die. This is also why it’s not a good idea to let the wastewater from your water softener drain into your garden or lawn.
Learn More: Best Water for Plants
20- Do I Really Need a Water Softener?
Not every house needs water softener, so before you purchase one of these systems, it’s worth carefully considering whether you actually need one. If you have hard water and you’re seeing the negative effects of it, then you would benefit from a water softener. There are two ways to make sure. One way is to look for signs of hard water in your home, like lime and scale buildup, residue in kettles or steam irons and water spots. The other way is to have your water tested, so you know the amount of hardness minerals in your water.