Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 42 seconds
I was recently asked to look into add water softeners for several clients. Having added them before I thought I would explore a bit about what hard water is and why anyone would want to condition it in the first place.
Here is what I found
Water naturally has elements and minerals in it . Calcium and Magnesium are two of the biggies, there are other but this Calcium is the one that causes hardness.
Hard water is what leaves spots on your glass, it makes scratchy clothes, it makes itchy dry skin, it makes you use lots of soap.Soft water is done by adding salts which binds the calcium and makes water soft. Soft water is more slippery, you need less soap, there is less opportunity to have the calcium deposit onto things like the inside of your water lines.
If you have very hard water the deposits can clog pipes and once you add soft it will not reverse the damage done by the build up of calcium, but it will prevent it from getting worse. In one case we had to use a very strong acid and chip away at calcium deposits that were so nasty they clogged a shower drain and ruined a tile shower.
Any lab can run the test but the results are sometimes difficult to interpret the results because there are several scales that are used. I got a kit to test it myself.
Hard water is a range. Usually municipal water systems take care of the water hardness for you. In Boise we use underground water from wells, different wells have different hardness. All new homes must have a water loop to allow for easy installation of a softener if you want one. Most have a drain nearby too but it is not required. We have seen some pretty crazy drain installations that are not done correctly (With an air gap) If you are having one installed make sure the drain is not scabbed in.
Be sure that the drain lines are insulated if needed, we had a flood where a drain froze above a garage attic space, so when the unit discharged on the second story it overflowed into the wall and soaked a hardwood floor
Which system is better?
Is one companies softener better than the other? Who knows, It is so confusing. Different water softener companies use different technology and different tests to numerically explain how good their products are an how inferior their competitors are. This is a marketing ploy that makes customers confused. If you are going to compare softeners INSIST that you pick the same metrics to compare. Also ask questions about how much water the unit wastes.
“Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/l, equivalent to parts per million, or ppm). Water up to 1 GPG (or 17.1 mg/l) is considered soft, and water from 60 to 120 GPG is considered moderately hard. A water softener’s effectiveness depends on how hard the incoming water is. Water over 100 GPG may not be completely softened”.
A real life situation
When we replaced a melted unit from a house fire, the client recalled hearing the darn thing going off every night and regenerating itself. She did not notice any hard water issues, she was just concerned that it wasn’t working because the thing was not making any noise. Turns out we installed a smarter unit that one recharges when it is needed based on internal testing and amount of gallons that are used.
The test was simple, finding the test material was not difficult. Turns out the water was with in normal limits and she was impressed.
Here is a link to a great article about how most water softeners work
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