Water softeners - A way to take care of your home

Today, we're going to look at water softeners, what they are and what they do. But first, let's explore why you may need one. You might not be surprised to hear that water softeners are used to soften water, but why does the water in your home need to be softened in the first place?

How Does Hard Water Become Hard?

Hard water happens naturally. Water picks up lots of different material as it moves around the ground. Some of this material is quite nasty and makes the water undrinkable, but most of what gets picked up is natural, including calcium and magnesium ions. And it's these calcium and magnesium ions that make water hard. Water softeners are useful because they remove all ions that are the cause of so much damage. Now you may be asking yourself, how much damage can water really do?

Before we continue to discuss hard water and how it can cause havoc, it’s important to understand that whether you can drink the water that comes out of your taps has nothing to do with how hard or soft it is. Soft water can be drinkable and hard water undrinkable and vice versa. 

What Will Hard Water Cost You?

Hard water is not just an annoyance, it costs you money. For example, clothes are not cheap, and when you buy them, you'd like them to last a reasonable amount of time. Hard water ruins clothes. It ruins the colour, causing them to fade or go grey. The fabrics in clothes also become hard to the touch, making them uncomfortable to wear. On top of that, hard water weakens the fabric, causing rips. In sum, you have to replace your clothes sooner than you should.

Hard water also brings about other issues such as stains on your work counters. It clogs up your kettle with nasty limescale, it can contribute to skin problems, such as dryness, acne, dermatitis, and eczema, to name just a few. While not exactly life-threatening, skin problems can be painful and expensive to treat. All this can be avoided with the simple addition of a water softener in your home.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

Now that we know how water becomes hard and what damage it can cause, let’s take a look at how water softeners work. We’re going to try and keep this as simple as possible, as this is in no way meant to be a piece about the science behind water softeners. We’ve already read about how calcium and magnesium ions get into the water. Water softeners are used to take these same ions back out of the water.

How this works is fairly simple. All water softeners work in more or less the same way. Hard water goes in, the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions stick to negatively charged polystyrene beads. After this process, the water is no longer hard. Of course, that is a very simplified version of what really happens!

What Are the Pros & Cons?

There are many advantages to having a water softener installed in your home. The most obvious one is that it turns hard water into soft water, which doesn’t wreck your clothes, damage your kitchen gadgets, or cause skin damage. Plus, although they can run into the thousands, many water softeners are surprisingly inexpensive, meaning you’ll get a return on your investment fairly quickly.

One of the biggest disadvantages of using a water softener is the sheer amount of water used. It’s difficult to determine exactly how much, but there are plenty of well researched articles on this topic for you to read. Most say that for every 1000 gallons used, a little more than 100 gallons are wasted. However, this does not apply to poorly-maintained water softeners that are often to blame for excessive wastage, so maintenance is important but another disadvantage.

What Should You Look for in a Water Softener?

The first item on the list should be size. For this you need to think about how many people live in your home and how many bathrooms you have. The more people and bathrooms in your house, the bigger your softener will need to be. Of course, if funds are short, you don’t need to plumb your entire house into it.

Another important consideration is how easy it is to use. Quite honestly, if you need a degree in chemical engineering to use it and you don’t have one, then it probably isn’t the right choice for you. The easier the handling, the more you’ll like it. And as a bonus, if you’re thinking of selling your home in the future, the easier it is to use for a future owner, the better too.

Regeneration is also something you should consider. Water softeners use regeneration as part of the process to take the calcium and magnesium ions out of the water. You can find softeners, that feature automatic, timed, or manual regeneration. Choose the one that’s best for you.

And there you have it. Water softeners are a valuable addition to any home situated in a hard water area. All that is needed is some thought about which one best suits your needs. Once you have that decided, the rest is easy.