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What you need to know about water softeners

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What you need to know about water softeners

We use water every day, drinking it and using it for many different purposes. It is such an important resource that we need to be aware of what might be in it. I’m talking about hard water, which isn’t so much a health concern for us, but rather for our homes and the things that use water every day. A water softener can combat this issue, but first there are some things you need to know. 

What is hard water?

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “hard water” and wondered what it is. It’s not hard like ice or a rock, but it does contain minerals that are considered hard, such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals can seep into the ground water and too much of them can make the water hard. Hard water is measured by grains per gallon (GPG) and anything above 7 GPG is considered hard. You can buy a test to determine how hard your water is. However there are some signs you can look for to figure out if you have it. For instance, if your soap doesn’t lather when you shower, your water may be hard. Because of this, you may also find spots left on your dishes after you’ve run the dishwasher. But the biggest problem hard water can cause is scaling on things like your pipes and water heater. A build up of scale in your pipes can be a huge problem for the function of your home.

What is a water softener?

So if hard water is bad for your home, then soft water is good for it. A water softener is a unit that gets connected to your home’s water system. Through a process called “ion exchange”, the water softener removes the hard minerals and replaces them with soft ones, namely sodium. There are ones that use potassium instead and are best for those on low sodium diets. As the hard water goes into the unit, the sodium or potassium does its job to flush out the hard minerals. It will regenerate the process every so often. 

Type and Size

There are three different types of water softeners that will operate depending on your needs. A timer-regenerated unit can be set to regenerate whenever you want it to. So it can regenerate once a week and use about 8 pounds of salt each time, no matter how much water you use. Whereas a meter regenerated one will keep track of your water consumption. Such a unit can be adjusted so that, if you go out of town, it will regenerate less often. This one is most popular since it is so efficient in its use of salt. Lastly, there are manually regenerated water softeners that have a simple level to allow you to regenerate whenever you want to. The capacity of a water softener is measured in the number of “grains” of hardness that can be removed before it needs to regenerate. So depending on how hard your water is and how many people live in your house, you can determine what size you need. There are calculators online that can help you figure out this number. Some models will even come with dual tanks, so that while one regenerates, the other is in operation.

The cost of a water softener can range from $400 to $2500. Of course, there are ones you can lease for about $15 to $50 a month. It’s best to have it installed professionally, unless you have basic plumbing skills.

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