If you’ve been thinking about adding a water softener to your home, you may have some doubts. While water softener systems are very effective at treating hard water, many myths have cropped up around their use. This makes it more difficult to decide if a water softener is the right option for you.
In today’s post, we’ll talk about how water softening systems work and dispel 9 common myths many people believe about them that simply aren’t true.
What is a Water Softener?
A water softener is a water treatment system designed to remove high concentrations of minerals that cause hard water, typically magnesium and calcium. Most systems consist of a tall, slender tank containing resin beads and a short brine tank, typically filled with salt pellets.
Water from the home’s main water supply enters the tall tank at the top and makes its way down through the resin beads. The resin beads are negatively charged to attract positively charged minerals in the water. This process, known as ion exchange, causes minerals to cling to the resin, while softened water continues to flow from the tank to the rest of the house.
Eventually, when mineral levels rise within the resin, the system will need to regenerate in order to continue the water softening process. The regeneration cycle draws saltwater from the brine tank to rinse the minerals from the resin. The saltwater and minerals are then flushed out of the tank and water softening resumes.
Have more questions about water softener systems? See our answers to the top 10 questions about using a water softener.
Now that you understand a bit more how water softeners work, let’s get into the myths.
Myth #1: Hard Water Only Affects Your Shower
While a clogged shower head is certainly a nuisance, your shower isn’t the only thing affected by the hard water in your home. In fact, much of the damage from hard water occurs in places where it’s difficult to see.
Scale deposits from hard water build up in steel piping, constricting the flow of water that can lead to backups and expensive plumbing repairs.
Scale deposits can shorten the life of your appliances from your washing machine and dishwasher to the ice maker in your refrigerator. Hard water makes soaps and detergents less effective, too, leading to extra cycles, more wear and tear, and additional energy consumption.
Myth #2: Water Softeners Make Water Taste Salty
Most people assume that since water softeners use salt that their water will end up tasting salty. This is understandable unless you know how the process works.
As mentioned above, water softener systems use a process called ion exchange to remove mineral deposits from water. The resin in the softener tank is made up of negatively charged sodium ions which attract and remove minerals with a positive charge.
As mineral deposits build up in the resin tank, the resin eventually loses its ability to attract minerals, and the softener tank must regenerate. In a typical regeneration cycle, saltwater from the brine tank flows up into the softener tank, rinsing the mineral deposits from the resin beads and replacing the negatively charged sodium ions. The resulting saltwater and mineral deposits are flushed from the tank through a discharge hose.
While softened water may contain sodium and trace amounts of salt (sodium chloride), your water should never taste salty.
Myth #3: Treated Hard Water Leaves a Film When You Shower
Many people believe that softened water leaves a film on the skin since their skin feels slippery or slick after a shower in softened water.
Actually, the opposite is true. Hard water and soap don’t interact well together, making it difficult to rinse soap from your skin while showering. The soap and minerals in the water leave a sticky residue behind that dries out your skin.
Softened water, on the other hand, thoroughly rinses soap and dirt away, leaving no film. The slippery feeling comes from the body’s own essential oils. It’s what clean actually feels like.
Myth #4: Water Softeners Are Always Salt-Based
While most water softener systems are salt-based, it is possible to substitute potassium chloride pellets for salt pellets in most systems. However, potassium chloride pellets are much more expensive, coming in at $25 to $30 per 50 lb bag. Salt pellets typically cost $4 to $6 per 50 lb bag.
Myth #5: Water Treatment Systems Are Expensive
It’s true that water systems do require an upfront investment, but the money they can save you in the long run is substantial.
First, scale, caused by hard water, will eventually clog showerheads or other plumbing fixtures, so you’ll need to replace them more often. Magnesium and calcium also clog pipes over time, leading to expensive plumbing repairs down the road.
Hot water heaters and household appliances run longer and work more efficiently when using softened water. Hard water can leave sediment in your hot water heater that causes it to work less efficiently. This may force you to set your hot water heater at a higher temperature, increasing energy consumption and reducing its service life. Since heating water accounts for 14% to 18% of a household’s energy costs, according to the Department of Energy, this can add up to substantial savings over time.
You’ll also save money on detergents, soaps, and shampoos since these products lather more readily in softened water, so you use less.
Myth #6: Water Softeners Remove All Minerals, Metals, and Chemicals
Water softeners are only designed to reduce water hardness, and they do an excellent job. However, water softeners do not remove other damaging or dangerous contaminants such as iron, lead, chlorine, sulfur, bacteria, or nitrates.
If you have concerns about water quality, we recommend having your water tested. Installing a reverse osmosis system, in addition to your water softener, can ensure your water is truly pure and healthy to drink.
Myth #7: A Water Softener System is Difficult to Manage
Some homeowners aren’t thrilled with the idea of adding an additional device to their home that will require upkeep and maintenance. But water softener systems aren’t hard to manage at all. The initial setup involves entering the hardness level of your water and setting the regeneration timing parameters, so the system regenerates when needed. At Garden Spot Mechanical, our installers can help you with the initial setup of your system to ensure it works perfectly.
After the initial setup, you’ll just need to add more salt or potassium chloride pellets from time to time to keep the system running.
Myth #8: Hard Water Systems Take Up Too Much Space
Many homeowners are concerned that a water softener will take up too much space, especially in smaller homes. However, water softeners have a pretty small footprint when compared to other household appliances. Most standard water softener systems measure 26”x15”x62” and can be installed in a utility closet or small corner of the basement with ease.
The only real requirement is that the system should be installed as close to the main water intake as possible.
Myth #9: Only Water Softening Systems Work on Hard Water
While water softening systems are the most popular way to eliminate hard water problems, there are other ways to treat hard water, along with a host of other water issues.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
While not specifically designed to
treat hard water issues, reverse
osmosis systems remove many contaminants, including magnesium and calcium,
the primary minerals responsible for hard water. Most reverse osmosis systems
are primarily used to purify drinking water, using a small, under-the-sink
unit, but whole-house osmosis systems are available for those with particularly
challenging water problems.
Now that we’ve dispelled many common myths about water softening systems, we hope you can see the many benefits of adding one to your home. Whether you’ve been dealing with hard water for years or just moved into a new home that has hard water issues, now is a great time to contact Garden Spot Mechanical to have your water tested!
With over 50 years of experience, Garden Spot Mechanical offers a full range of plumbing and HVAC services, as well as a complete line of water treatment solutions to residential customers throughout the Lancaster, PA area. Contact us today for expert advice for your toughest water treatment challenges.