The Many Benefits of Water Softeners

Jan 20 2017

shutterstockHard water can be a serious problem around the house. The hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium that leave residue on pipes, fixtures, and appliances are known as scale. Over time, this can reduce the flow through pipes. One of the most effective ways to combat hard water for the entire house is through water softening. Filtration and reverse osmosis can eliminate hard water used for washing dishes and drinking, but this is an expensive prospect on a large, house wide scale. Water softeners are the most economic and efficient option for eliminating the minerals that cause hard water buildup.

Water Softening Process

The basic process of ‘softening’ water is through an ion exchange where calcium and magnesium ions are exchanged for sodium ions. The sodium ions are favorable to ‘harder’ minerals since they do not cause buildup on pipes and appliances. This ion replacement is accomplished through tiny beads within a tank. These negatively charged beads bond with positively charged sodium ions and ‘swap’ places with calcium and magnesium ions as water flows past the beads.

Unfortunately, this process can’t sustain itself too long. After a few cycles, the calcium and magnesium replace the sodium. To address this, water softeners enter a regeneration process where a sodium chloride solution soaks the beads to eliminate the hard minerals and replace them with sodium to soften the water. At the end of this process, the water softener flushes the rest of this solution through the drain. This creates a large amount of salty water that must be disposed. Most home water softeners use this method, but different softeners have distinct cycles of regeneration. Some devices use electric timers based on a regular schedule, while others rely on a computer that determines regeneration by water use.

The Benefits

From having better tasting drinking water to protecting appliances and plumbing from hard water residue accumulation, water softeners can be highly beneficial investments. Depending on the type of softener and brand, you could spend anywhere from $400 to over $2500 on a home water softener, with installation costs possibly pushing the overall price higher. This higher initial cost can prove to be a valuable investment as quality, maintained water softeners can last a decade. You can also save time and money on repair or maintenance on plumbing systems and appliance damage resulting from constant hard water exposure. Over time, the benefits of a water softener on your home make these appliances reliable investments that may be anywhere from luxurious to essential depending on the quality of the water in your area. In some places, soft water is an absolute must for drinking, washing, bathing, and preserving plumbing, so a water softener should be considered as invaluable as a water heater or refrigerator.