Water is water, right? Why would you need a water softener? If you are living in the modern world, you are probably thinking water softeners are only needed by people who live near water sources or water-intensive jobs like hydroelectric power plants. However, it turns out that even if your source comes from a city water system and your water bill isn't that high, you might need a water softener. You can spot signs of hard water around your household and if you do, chances are pretty high you want a water softener to protect your water system and water appliances. Here is an article about when do I need a water softener? What Is Hard Water? Hard water contains high levels of magnesium and calcium ions. Hard water typically has a pH level of around 8, so it is also alkaline water. Hard water scale buildup can damage water heaters, hot water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, faucets, water pipes, and water appliances. A water softener will remove unwanted water contaminants and reduce water hardness. On average, a water softener will only cost $35 to $50 a year to maintain and it can also improve water clarity and water flow. Installing a water softener is best done by professional plumbers who know how to properly size the water softener for your household water system as well as install the water softener correctly. Signs that a house needs a Water Softener Even if you don't live close to a water source, you might still need a water softener for your household system. There are water hardness signs of water that can be detected around the home. If you see these water hardness signs around your water system, then it is pretty safe to say that a water softener is needed. Signs include: -A film of white or light gray on hard surfaces like sinks, shower stalls, toilets, and bathtubs -Drain pipes buildup scale deposits (white chalky buildup) -Tub and sink fixtures often get stuck when water is turned off, or very slow draining -bathtubs or showers start to overflow with water when they're drained after use -A water heater that has water leaks, rusting around connections, and signs of water arcing -Soap and laundry detergents don't seem to lather water well while washing dishes, or water spots don't rinse off while cleaning dishes -Water doesn't feel very soapy while doing laundry, and clothes come out dirtier than before What is a Water Softener? A water softener is an appliance that removes water hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium ions. Hard water can cause water heaters, water pipes, water appliances, water heaters to deteriorate. Installing a water softener in your home is best done by professional plumbers who know the size of the water softener that needs to be installed for your household water system. Water softeners typically use salt or potassium chloride as their main agent for removing water hardness minerals which is why water softeners are also known as salt-free ion exchange softeners. A water softener often contains 3 parts - a water supply pipe, brine tank (reservoir), and brine solenoid valve. The water softener water supply pipe is where water enters the water softener. The water in the brine tank has a higher salt content than water in water pipes which causes water hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium ions to be attracted to the brine (salty) water, and this makes them leave your water system. The water solenoid valve opens when the water softener is being regenerated. Regeneration means water softener salt has been used up and water softener needs to get more water hardness minerals so it can work properly. How does a Water Softener regenerate A water softener regenerates water by adding water hardness minerals. Regeneration takes water hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium ions away from water where they are in low levels (the water in the brine tank - water pipes). When water is regenerated, the water solenoid valve opens which opens up the brine tank (reservoir) to release water into the water supply pipe which refills salt levels in the brine tank. There are usually 2 types of water softeners: point-of-use water softener and whole house water system; each has its pros and cons. How Does A Water Softener Work? Water Hardness Mineral Removal When water leaves the brine tank, water enters a special unit where water hardness minerals fall out of the water, and the water softener gets rid of water hardness minerals which makes water soft. Water Softening Water is softened when water hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium ions leave the water system. Water Softener Salt Replacement Water softener salt needs to be replaced regularly so water softener can continue to work properly. A water test strip will tell you when water softener needs water softener salt. What are the health effects of not softening your hard water? Water hardness water can affect water flow in your water system. Hard water increases water spots that are formed when the water has evaporated or when water hits a surface that's cooled. Hard water also affects water appliances by wearing them out which is why installing a water softener in your home is recommended. There are other health issues caused by the lack of water softening due to hard water. For example, adding hard water to dishes in laundry increases the amount of soap needed in order to get the dishes clean. If you don't have enough soap, you run the risk of bacteria growing on these dishes. When water is not softened, it leaves a film on your dishes and laundry. If water isn't water softened, water spots can form on water glasses and water appliances. What size of the Water Softener do I need? To determine the size of the water softener, water tests need to be done to determine water hardness. The water test can provide water hardness readings and the water softener is then sized according to those readings. Water tests can be obtained from water providers or water treatment companies. The water softener salt tank capacity is needed in the water hardness test so water softener can be sized accordingly. Once water hardness mineral levels are determined, water softener sizing can proceed. Water hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium ions need to be removed from the water system. When water leaves the brine tank, water enters a special unit where water hardness minerals fall out of the water and water softener gets rid of water hardness minerals which makes water soft. Water hardness capacity is measured in grains per gallon (gpg). If a water test shows water has 10 grains per gallon then the water softener needs to have at least that amount before it can work properly. Water tests are best done by water treatment professionals who have water pH test strips and water hardness testers. Frequently asked questions about Water Softeners What water hardness levels does water softener work? A water softener will generally work when water hardness mineral levels are at or above 5 grains per gallon but there are various levels that require some kind of softening system so it's always best to do your research. What is water pH? Water pH level is a measure of water acidity. A water softener does not work in acidic water conditions. Water conditioner systems can neutralize an acidic water supply and create a better water quality for water softeners to work in the water system. How do water hardness minerals affect water softeners? Water hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium ions need to be removed from the water system. When water leaves the brine tank, water enters a special unit where water hardness minerals fall out of the water and water softener gets rid of water hardness minerals which makes water soft. Why do water hardness minerals need to be removed from the water system? When water leaves the brine tank, water enters a special unit where water hardness minerals fall out of the water and water softener gets rid of water hardness minerals which makes water soft. How do water conditioner systems work with a water softener? Water conditioners can neutralize acidic water and create better water quality for the water softening systems to work in the water system. Are there any downsides to water softeners? Water softener systems can cause water pH levels to increase and water can become too alkaline. Water conditioner systems can neutralize water alkalinity as well as water acidity, creating a better water quality for the water softener system to work in. Always check the details of the water softening system you wish to buy. What causes water to be hard? In water, water hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium ions need to be removed from the water system. When water leaves the brine tank, water enters a special unit where water hardness minerals fall out of the water and water softeners get rid of water hardness minerals which makes water soft. Do all appliances require a water softener? No, water softeners are not always needed as it depends on the mineral deposits in the waters supply and in-built filters.