Water naturally evaporates from oceans, lakes, and rivers to form clouds. Pure water then falls to the earth as rain, snow, and sleet cleaning the air, and picking up contaminants on the way down. This water, which falls back to the earth, becomes more aggressive. As moisture hits the earth and filters through layers of rock and dirt, it picks up minerals like calcium and magnesium which concentrate the hardness of the water.
Hardness can cause a variety of aesthetic challenges for homeowners. Hard water creates a mineral buildup on water-using appliances such as water heaters, dishwashers, and laundry machines. This mineral scale decreases efficiency and causes premature ware on the appliances. In addition, because hard water contains contaminants that interfere with cleaning, homeowners find themselves using more soap and products to clean. To avoid these problems, homeowners often invest in a water softening unit to remove the hardness from the water.
Basically water hardness is measured by the amount of hardness minerals (generally calcium and magnesium) in your water. These amounts are measured in grains per gallon (GPG). The following table illustrates the hardness magnitude of water:
|Hardness Magnitude||Grains Per Gallon (GPG)|
|Soft Water||0.0 – 1.0 gpg|
|Moderately Hard Water||1.0 – 3.5 gpg|
|Hard Water||3.5 – 7.0 gpg|
|Very Hard Water||7.0 – 10.5 gpg|
|Extremely Hard Water||> 10.5 gpg|
Often people say, “I’ve heard of places that are 30 grains hard, or even 60 grains hard. This scale cannot possibly be all encompassing!” The United States has some areas that exceed 100 gpg in hardness, but this scale is based on appliance tolerance to hard water. Take your dishwasher for example: The softer the water, the longer it will last. Under moderately hard water, your dishwasher will last several years–even though it’s not entirely soft water. On the other hand, if you’re on extremely hard water, your dishwasher may only last a few years before hard water completely incapacitates the appliance. Certainly the dishwasher will run on 50 gpg hardness, but its lifespan will be dramatically shortened.
If you’re not used to soft water, it is not uncommon to leap into a shower and lather up as usual only to feel slick and slimy later. Soft water is exponentially more effective than hard water for dissolving substances—including soap. The same soap is now 50-75% more effective in the soft water. So when you’re used to using a certain amount of soap in a hard water shower and then use the same amount in a soft water shower, you’ll be swimming in suds and find them difficult to wash off. This feeling can be greatly reduced by simply using less soap. Soft water also allows the natural oils of your skin to be retained. Hard water can strip away these oils which can cause the “squeaky” feeling.
Soft water is safe to drink for virtually everyone. If you participate in a very strict sodium-restricting diet, salt-softened water may not be right for you. To give you an idea how the additional salt affects your sodium intake, consider this: an average soft-water consumer takes in about five grams of sodium through normal eating and drinking. Of those five grams of sodium, one-third of one gram (0.336 g) is from softened water the equivalent weight of half a watermelon seed. A black olive contains 238 times the amount of sodium you’ll consume in an entire day from soft water! That’s how little sodium is added to your diet through soft water.
Soft water cleans much more effectively than hard water. To accomplish the same results, soft water requires 50-75 percent less soap or detergent than hard water. This alone creates a great cost savings over time. When you first start using soft water take special care to quarter the amount of soap you typically use. For a lightly soiled load of laundry in a laundry machine, a heaped teaspoon of powdered detergent should be sufficient. You don’t need to fill your dishwasher detergent bin to heaping–in fact only fill it a quarter of what you used to. While the 1/4 rule is generally sound, experience is the best teacher in this area.
First soft water is not a cure-all for dry skin and eczema. That said, dry or itchy skin is often caused by foreign substances on the skin, substances that can be greatly reduced if not eliminated with soft water. Many sufferers of dry skin or eczema report improvement after using soft water. Because so many factors influence the skin, it’s impossible to quantify the effects of soft water on the skin.
However, many benefits are unchallenged: soft water requires less soap or detergent and rinses cleaner than hard water, soap curds and other chemicals are rinsed away leaving pores naturally open–allowing the skin to “breathe.” With clearer skin, and less products to irritate the skin, dry skin sufferers and eczema patients generally experience softer, healthier skin with continued use of soft water.
Yes you can. While many plumbing fixtures become part of the home, many people choose to take their water softening system with them when they move. Basically you’ll have to place the system in bypass (which allows hard water to flow through the valve independent of the softener), then disconnect the system.
You are also the original purchaser so your warranty will still be in force. Alternatively, some people elect to leave the softening system in the home and sell it with the home and purchase a new one when they arrive at their new home.
Yes, soft water systems require the regular addition of a salt to the brine system. Consumers have the choice of using one of two commonly available salts—Sodium Chloride or Potassium Chloride. The salt is dissolved to make the brine that the system uses to regenerate/clean itself so that it can continue to create soft water. Without the brine solution, a softener would not be able to regenerate and would eventually exhaust its ability to make soft water.
|Softener||Regeneration Salt Usage (lbs)|
Hardness varies across the United States. This map should provide at least a general idea of hardness hot spots in the U.S. according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Remember that both hard and soft water have minerals that will ultimately be deposited in the soil. Most plants don’t take to soft water, as sodium is more difficult for a plant to deal with than magnesium and calcium (the hardness ions). Rain, distilled, or deionized water is the healthiest for plants because they generally do not contain elements that are difficult for plants to use.
We recommend leaving your outside hose bibbs tapped to the hard water line as watering your garden with soft water is both wasteful and more difficult for plant survival. On the other hand, other applications such as car washing persuade some consumers to turn one hose bibb soft and leave the other hard.
Due to the aggressive nature of pure or purified water, manufacturers recommend that all tubing as-sociated with high-purity water, including reverse osmosis systems, should not be metal. When water flows down a stream it gradually gathers particles from what it is passing over. In rocks, this creates erosion.
Pure or purified water is very aggressive in that it is able to quickly absorb particles from its surroundings. If reverse osmosis water was allowed to contact metal tubing (like copper) it would slowly pull parts of the copper into the water creating a water leak in the pipe. Plastic tubing is used for reverse osmosis systems to prevent this from occurring, because the purified water is not able to breakdown the plastic.
No, power outages will not damage the softener in any way. The valve head has an 8 hour memory backup to remember your water usage patterns even if the power goes out. The clock is digital and will be affected by power outages lasting longer than one hour, so you will need to reset the time on the controller. All other settings will remain as unchanged.
Yes you can install a softener outdoors in certain conditions. Be aware that while the brine will not freeze, the water inside your softener tank can. When the water freezes it expands and can crack resin beads, the softener tank or piping all of which can potentially destroy the unit. Some customers elect to keep the unit inside and then run piping from the unit to the brine tank outside. This can conserve some space inside while still ensuring your unit will not freeze.
If you live in a climate that does not reach freezing temperatures, the entire unit can remain outside safely. In order to prevent cosmetic sun damage, it is recommended you keep the unit out of direct sunlight. A simple enclosure generally remedies this problem.