What You Need to Know About Water Softeners

YP Editors

Hard water has a heavy concentration of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. The less mineral content water has, the softer it is. Water softeners work by filtering out calcium and magnesium ions, leaving you with softer water.

When rainwater fall, it is soft and devoid of minerals, but acquires mineral content as it travels through rock and soil. Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg). Hard water generally measures between 7 to 10.5 gpg or more.

Problems Caused by Hard Water

Water quality varies from region to region However, it's estimated that 85 percent of all homes in the United States have hard water. Cities such as Minneapolis, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Tampa are known for having the hardest water in the nation.

Hard water doesn't pose a health risk. In fact, the calcium and magnesium present in this water can contribute toward your daily mineral requirements.

However, hard water does cause problems related to buildup. The high amounts of calcium and magnesium in hard water leaves residue when washing your skin and hair. This can leave your skin dry, and can cause hair to look dull and limp.

Soap reacts with the calcium in hard water to create soap scum, and this often means that more soap is required when cleaning. Hard water can also result in increased utility bills, since heating this type of water requires your home's water heater to use a lot more energy.

Hard water can cause also scaly buildup on your bathroom and kitchen fixtures. The minerals present in hard water can clog pipes and and cause plumbing problems.

Water Softeners: Useful Facts

Most water softeners use salt or potassium to remove calcium and magnesium from your water. Most water softeners remove hardness by passing water through a brine tank that uses salt or potassium to displace calcium and magnesium ions. Salt is a less expensive choice than potassium. A 40-pound bag of salt for your water softener costs $5.50, while a comparable bag of potassium costs roughly $27. However, using salt in your water softener will raise its sodium content, and this can be a problem if you're trying to reduce salt intake. Also, in some states, it's illegal to use sodium water-softening agents in homes with septic tanks.

They come in different capacities.  Water softeners are measured by the grains per gallon that they can soften. If you have a household of one to five people, a softener with a capacity of 32,000 grains will meet your needs. Some water softeners models have capacities of 64,000 grains or more.

Some water softeners use magnets and electricity to soften water. Some water softeners attach to pipes and create a magnetic field that reverses the water's ion charge, which can help prevent the buildup that comes with hard water. These devices are controversial, and while some users are satisfied with their results, some water-testing organizations claim that they don't work.

Cost and Installation

A 33,000-grain salt- or potassium-based water softener has an average cost of around $350. Larger units can cost $1,800 or more. You'll need to hire a plumber to install the system, and installation costs can run between $250-$400.

Magnetic/electronic water softeners are less expensive and easier to install, and cost about $200.