Cloudy spots on glass dishes. Crusty, white deposits on your sink’s faucet and coffee maker. Clothes that never seem to get clean in the washing machine. Low water pressure. Using more than enough shampoo to wash your hair but never seeing suds. These are all indications of hard water.
About 85% of American households have hard water to varying degrees. Hard water is caused by excessive amounts of dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. These minerals are not harmful for human consumption, but they can cause problems within your household.
The effects of hard water can range from annoying to damaging. For example, maybe you can deal with the spots on your dishes, but prematurely replacing your hot water heater because of scale built up is costly. Scale build-up can impact your pipes and appliances, causing costly replacements.
The solution is simple and effective: get an efficient, high-performing water softener system for your home that either removes or neutralizes these minerals that cause hard water.
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Types of Water Softeners
Water softeners come in a variety of types and sizes to accommodate the size of your household. Each differs in its process, but they all share the same result: removing or eliminating the effects of hard water.
Here are a few common types:
Salt-Based Ion Exchange:
The salt-based ion exchange water softener works through exchanging the hard minerals for sodium (salt). The exchange takes place when hard water passes over the resin beads in the softener’s tank. The negatively charged resin beads attract the positively charged calcium, magnesium, and sodium minerals. The sodium ions then pass through the resin bed and deliver softer water.
Dual-tank water softeners are ion exchange systems that feature two resin tanks so that one tank is always available while the other is in the regeneration cycle. These systems will never run out of soft water and may appeal to large households or homes with high water usage.
Technically, salt free water softeners or conditioners don’t actually soften the water. Instead, they neutralize hard water minerals through Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). This technological process hardens minerals so they won’t stick to the surfaces of pipes and appliances, thus preventing damaging effects from hard water. Salt-free softeners are eco-friendly because they don’t use chemicals, electricity, or produce water waste.
The least common softening systems are magnetic water softeners, also known as Descalers. This type of salt-free softener uses magnets in or around water pipes to stop limescale from being formed. The downside to magnetic softening systems is that the water should be used within 48 hours, or it will regain its hard chemicals.
How Do I Know Which Water Softener is Best for My Home?
With all the types of water softeners on the market today, knowing which one is best for your home takes thoughtful consideration. When shopping for a water softener, you should think about these factors:
First, you should know the level of hardness in your water so you can figure out which capacity of water softener you need.
Water hardness is measured in GPG (grains per gallon), and you can find out your water hardness level by contacting your municipality if you have city water or by using a water hardness kit. The following are the levels of hard water:
- Soft water: 0-3 GPG
- Moderately hard water: 3-7 GPG
- Hard water: 7-11 GPG
- Very hard water: 11-15 GPG
- Extremely hard water: over 15GPG
To determine the appropriate water softener size for your home, multiply the number of people in your home by the gallons of water each uses daily. (Most people use approximately 80 gallons per day).
For example, if there are four people in your household, you will use approximately 320 gallons of water per day and 2,240 gallons a week. At a water hardness of 10 GPG, your softener should be able to manage 22,440 grains per week. When searching for a softener, look for the grain capacity to let you know how much water hardness the system can strip.
You will need to base your decision on your household’s size and needs. If you have an extremely large level of hard water, you will want a salt-based water softener as opposed to a salt-free water softener. Also, if you want hard water minerals completely removed, then you will want to go with a salt-based water system.
If you have a large household or use more water than average, you may opt for a dual-tank water softener so that you will never be without soft water.
However, if salt is a concern for you or if you want an eco-friendly option, then look for a salt-free system. Salt-free systems are becoming more popular because of their minimal maintenance and environmentally-friendly properties.
If possible, don’t let cost be the deciding factor when shopping for a water softener. An expensive water softener does not automatically mean it’s the best choice for your family. Likewise, an inexpensive one does not necessarily mean it’s not of good quality. There are certainly overpriced softeners out there, as well as some that are reasonably priced and work well.
In general, salt-free softeners are cheaper than salt-based softeners. You will also save money with a salt-free softener because they do not require electricity or produce water waste. However, most water softener companies offer a payment plan, if needed, and most also come with money-back guarantees and warranties, so these are all factors to consider.
Read our extensive guide on water softener price.
Obviously, the installation is pretty important because if your water softener is not installed correctly, it won’t work correctly. Some softeners are easier to install than others, so be sure you look at customer reviews on installation when you’re previewing a water softener. If you are installing one yourself, make sure you read the directions, watch the videos if they are provided, and have the tools needed.
You can always hire a professional to install your water softener for you if you don’t want to install it yourself. Some companies require this anyway in order to hold the guarantee accompanying their product.
Another factor to consider is the water softener’s maintenance. Salt-based softeners usually require the most maintenance, while salt-free softeners require hardly any.
With salt-based softeners, you will need to check the salt levels in the brine tank and replace it as needed. You will also need to perform the backwash cycle for cleaning if the system does not do this automatically. If the softener includes an activated carbon and sediment filter, you will need to replace this every few months. In general, you will need to keep a close eye on salt-based water softener to ensure it is working properly, as well as have it professionally serviced once a year.
Since there is no electricity or water waste with salt-free water softeners, virtually no maintenance is required. Once it is installed, you can pretty much just forget about it and let it do its work, although if it includes a sediment filter, you will need to replace that every few months.
Where Do I Buy a Water Softener?
Do a Google search on “where to buy a water softener,” and you will be overwhelmed with options. Indeed, there are many great products out there, but SpringWell Water Filtration Systems is a great place to look. SpringWell is a leading water filter and softener brand backed by over 20 years of experience in using premium certified products and the conviction that “every family deserves the absolute purest water available.”
SpringWell’s Salt-Based Water Softener System is one of the highest-rated ion exchange water softeners on the market today. SpringWell promises that this water softener will completely remove hardness causing minerals from your water. You will notice little to no limescale build-up, your appliances will last longer, you will use 40% less detergent when washing clothes, and the water spots you may see on dishes and glasses will be gone.
SpringWell also features the FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener, a chemical-free, maintenance-free, eco-friendly system that eliminates and appliances while providing 99.6% scale prevention scale and gives you the benefits of soft water. Installing this salt-free system will eliminate scale, extend the life of your pipes and appliances, all without electricity or water waste.
Both softeners also promise not to drop your water pressure, which is a huge perk. The average water softener’s standard GPM is 6-7 GPM for a 1-3 bathroom unit. SpringWell’s softeners all start at 12 GPM and increase depending on the unit. In addition, both SpringWell softeners come with a six-month money-back guarantee, free shipping, and a limited lifetime guarantee.
Water softeners are truly essential when it comes to reducing damage caused by hard water minerals. Spending money on a quality water softener can save you problems in the long run with damages and repairs. Plus, with a trusted water softener, you can say hello to brighter, cleaner clothes, higher water pressure, and the peace of mind knowing your appliances and pipes will last their true lifetime!