So, you’re thinking of taking the plunge and purchasing a water softener for your home. If you’re not familiar with the terminology, the ins and outs of why a water softener can be beneficial might be confusing. Here, I’ll go over water softener benefits as well as some of the key points to consider before putting down a good chunk of money.
But first, why would anyone would want to install a water softener in their home? Typically, it’s because you have “hard” water running through your pipes.
What is Hard Water?
“Hard” basically just means that the water is rich in minerals and it contains calcium, magnesium, carbonate, and manganese.
How do you know if you have hard water? Typically, your soap and shampoo won’t lather very well, your dishes will have spots, your clothes will become dingy looking after several washes and there will be that annoying ring around your bathtub that you can never seem to get out.
If you want really specific information, you can often get that from your local water company. They publish annual water quality reports that are typically available online like these ones. You’ll have to wade through the info though and look for the parts on mineral content.
Is Hard Water Bad for You?
There are two ways to look at this. From a personal health point of view, the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that there are no adverse health effects of drinking hard water. In fact, some research has shown that there may even be benefits, especially for those with low calcium or magnesium intake.
That said, there are certainly negative effects for your house, appearance and time which I cover below.
Pros and Cons
If you have moderately to very hard water, there are several pros to getting a water softener:
- Appliance and pipes last longer: Softer water will prevent the build-up of limescale on various appliances and pipes over time, which in turn makes them last longer and run more efficiently.
- Showers, sinks and appliances are easier to clean: If you’ve ever had major limescale deposits on a tub or sink, you know the effort it can take to scrub it off (not to mention all the costs for special cleaners). So, softer water can mean less time scrubbing, something I think everyone would enjoy.
- Brighter clothes: Hard water deposits also build up on clothes over time, giving them a dingy, grayish tinge. Softer water keeps you clothes looking brighter, longer.
- Soaps lather: Everyone likes the feeling of a nice lather with your soap or shampoo. Soft water improves lathering which both feels good and may decrease the amount of soap you use, saving money.
- Smoother, softer skin: I’m not sure if there’s real scientific evidence on this but personally I feel like my skin is much softer and better moisturized with softer water. Some manufacturers claim this is because hard water clogs the pores. I’ve also heard soft water can be a great relief to those who suffer from eczema.
- Cost: The main negative of water softeners is the initial cost. Whole house systems can easily run several hundred dollars just for the system. Add on at least a few hundred dollars for simple installation. Depending on how your water pipes are set up, you may need to add additional plumbing as well which can run into the thousands. Also, don’t forget to calculate maintenance and servicing costs.
- When looking at costs, though, don’t forget cost savings mentioned above: appliances that last longer; less soap use; and clothes that look better longer.
- Taste: Most people decide to keep a tap that does not have softened water. Many state that softened water does not taste very good, so they opt to keep a drinking water tap as well.
- Increased water use: Water softeners require regeneration time, where the softener can recharge. Some softeners use water to “clean out” the extracted minerals, which in turn can increase your water bill by about 10%.
While it might seem like a tough and confusing purchase to make, there are many water softener benefits to consider. The biggest hurdle to purchasing a water softener system is the initial cost.
However, the pros include saving money on your energy bills because your appliances will run more efficiently when there is less limescale build up. So remember, what you’re putting down initially, will be made back over time. Also, in the long run, softer water can also be better for your skin.
Ultimately, just make sure you do your research. Finding the correct softener for your home and pocket book is a bit of a science, so make sure you’ve spend some time looking into it.