The functions of most appliances in our home are obvious. Water heaters produce hot water for showers and household chores, washing machines get our clothes clean, a furnace heats our home-- but what does a water softener do exactly?
If you’ve lived anywhere from the Midwest to the West coast, at some point, you’ve probably experienced less than ideal tap water. When the water we use in our home contains a significant amount of minerals like calcium and magnesium, it’s called hard water.
Hard water is known to clog pipes and complicate soap and detergents dissolving in water. A home water softener (also called an ion exchange unit) is an appliance that softens water by removing negative ion minerals and replacing them with positive sodium ions.
Why Use a Water Softener?
Soft water has numerous advantages. For one, it protects your home and plumbing system. Hard water is filled with foreign contaminants that can eat away at your plumbing. Switching to soft water easily increases the average lifespan of your plumbing system by preventing a buildup of minerals that clog pipes. Soft water is far gentler on fixtures and appliances, resulting in less strain on your system.
Hard water doesn’t just take a toll on your pipes and fixtures, it also affects all your water-using appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, and coffee makers. Using soft water will improve the performance of these appliances. In the absence of calcium and magnesium, soft water is far better at producing a lather which increases the effectiveness of soaps and detergents. Using hard water to clean will nearly double the amount of cleaning agents needed to do the same amount of work.
Soap Scum Wars
Soap scum is that sticky white film that accumulates in your sinks and showers. If you have hard water, you’re bound to see a cloudy coating on your shower door, or even on your skin and hair. Water spots on glasses and dishware, even when freshly washed, are another byproduct of soap scum. Soap scums builds upon itself; the battle never ends when you can’t prevent it from forming.
Lather is created when foaming agents in soaps, detergents, and shampoos mix with air and water. Soap contains sodium salt from stearic acid. In soft water, this sodium salt dissolves easily. In hard water, it binds to the hard minerals and produces insoluble calcium or magnesium stearate (soap scum).
Soap and hard water leave a film on your skin that can cause irritation and prevent bacteria from being completely removed. It also produces build-up in your hair, so it appears dingy and feels straw-like. Hard water is notorious for drying our skin in the shower and causing brittle and lifeless locks. Over time, hair becomes unmanageable as hard minerals combined with shampoo cause a lack of sudsy lathers. In addition, soap scum can damage fabrics, stain bathtubs and toilet bowls, and ruin drains and shower heads. Genesis water softeners rescue our appliances and our hair and skin by creating optimal tap water for efficient cleaning, and a long lifespan for our hard-working appliances.
Installing a Water Softener
When appliances fail long before their time, it’s often blamed on the appliance itself. Truthfully, the problem may be hard water. The scale that forms from hard water minerals puts your appliances at risk for unnecessary wear and tear, becoming less efficient until they’re eventually beyond repair.
For example, an energy efficient water heater that uses softened water cuts utility costs nearly 30% per year, and performs optimally for as long as 15 years. On the flip side, you’ll need to invest in new appliances 50% sooner when hard water is used. To avoid untimely failure of water-using appliances, the optimal solution is to install a system that removes hard minerals from water throughout your home.
The hardness of your region’s water can help you choose the type of softening equipment you need. Grain capacity refers to how much mineral content your system can remove; areas with higher water hardness levels require devices with higher grain capacity. Consulting with a professional will aid you in selecting the appropriate capacity for your home’s size and number of inhabitants.
The average cost to install a whole home water softening system is around $1500 but varies greatly by size, softening capacity, and features. You can expect a professional water treatment company to charge anywhere from $50 to $200 per hour. An easy job that requires a simple hookup to existing pipes may be completed in less than two hours. Switching out an old water softener system for a new one may require even less time.
Softeners must be installed near a home’s water main. When your home is pre-plumbed for a softener, or the water main is easy to reach, the price of labor decreases. If your water main is not easily accessible, or it’s necessary to trench a water line, the difficulty of the job will reflect in the installation costs.
The good news is, after the initial cost of a softener installation, this type of filtration system increases your home’s equity between $5,000-$10,000. Water softening systems are a worthwhile home improvement investment that not only saves you money, but also puts money back into your pocket.
A whole home treatment system, like a water softener, offers security in knowing your home is protected from damage caused by water contaminants. When you remove hard minerals from your water, you reap the benefits in the form of increased equity, decreased utility costs, and longer appliance lifespan.