When looking to add value and comfort to your home, there are few choices that accomplish both as well as a water softener. Water Softeners don’t just make your clothes brighter and your bathrooms easier to clean, they also create a comfortable environment that the entire family will enjoy.
Hard water is a buildup of minerals in the water supply. The buildup of minerals can plug up the pipes and wreak havoc on any water based appliances in the home, such as washing machines, dishwashers, faucets and other fixtures. To remove hardness from the water you need the best water softener system out there and at a price that wont break the bank.
What are the advantages of a water softener?
There are numerous reasons why a water softener should be considered a prime investment in your home. The first and most important reason is the removal of hardness from your water. Hard water clogs the plumbing and any water based application that relies on the plumbing. With a water softener, you will no longer need to worry about an increase in energy bills, or expensive repair cost. A water softener will also increase the lifespan of your clothing, and keep them looking like they were fresh and new. Soft water will leave a clean feeling on your skin after a shower or bath.
What are the differences between a water softener and a water conditioner?
Water Conditioners are devices that are created to prevent the minerals that cause hardness from forming scale. These devices use a physical media to inhibit the scale by neutralizing the hardness itself. Due to the fact that water conditioners use a physical media instead of a chemical media, they are sometimes considered a greener alternative in areas where it is forbidden to use salt. Water conditioners do not effectively remove hardness from the water supply, as the only way to do this is with a salt based media.
How Much do Water Softeners Cost?
Water softeners can be found online anywhere from $440 to $2000. When it comes to a water softening system spending more money does not always mean you are getting a better product. US Water Systems offers the highest quality water softeners, complete with warranties and satisfaction guaranteed for fractions of the cost that big name manufactures charge, with home systems starting at under $600.
The Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit international science and technology enterprise, recently completed a study on the energy and costs in heating water versus the savings with softened water. They also examined effects on washing machines, faucet fixtures, showerheads, and dishwashers using hard water versus softened water.
The US Department of Energy says “water heating can account for 14%–25% of the energy consumed in your home.” It is the second highest energy consuming area of a home, next to heating and cooling. Battelle conducted tests to determine how much energy savings household water softeners can provide homeowners.
Results of the study have shown that untreated hard water can cause significant efficiency losses and added costs in water heating – up to 48% in some cases. Battelle also found hard water to rapidly lead to clogged shower heads, possibly as soon as a year and a half of regular use. After just one week of constant testing with hard water, more than three-fourths of shower head nozzles became clogged, according to laboratory results. Shower heads using softened water, meanwhile, performed nearly as well as on the day they were installed.
Does a water softener actually save money on soaps and detergents?
Battelle Memorial Institute also completed a study showing that consumers can cut back on dish and laundry detergent use by 50 percent or more and lower washing machine temperatures from hot to cold just by using softened water, as shown by two new independent studies that were recently released. By using softened water in washing machines, they can reduce detergent use by 50 percent and save energy by washing in 60ºF cold water instead of 100ºF hot water, achieving the same or better stain removal and whiter clothes compared to results in hard water.
In areas having very hard water, consumers can cut detergent use in dishwashers and washing machines by more than 50 percent after softening, and get the same results.
The results show that softened water might not only save consumers money but could also be environmentally friendly, because they can reduce reliance on polluting fuels because of energy savings and help cut back on harmful detergents going into water streams.
The laundry study looked at stain removal, putting into the machines from half to the entire amount of manufacturers’ recommended levels. Water hardness ranged from none to 30 grains per gallon, and wash temperature was 60, 80 and 100ºF. It was found that soft water is better at removing stains than increased water temperature or more detergent being used.
Notably, softened water with the least amount of detergent and lowest temperature actually provides a higher degree of whiteness compared to increased hardness and both high temperature and large amounts of detergent. This was found to be true for all stains and all the detergents tested.
“Better performance and savings can be achieved with softened water,” the report’s authors concluded.
The dishwasher study included tests that removed difficult soils, in addition to evaluating spotting and filming. Researchers found that softened water uses almost 30 percent less detergent, but cleans as well as water at 10 grains per gallon hardness level. That detergent savings rises to nearly 70 percent when comparing softened water with water at a 25 gpg level.
In dishwashers, the relationship between detergent and hardness was investigated with two consecutive wash-dry cycles for spot and film. One detergent was evaluated for five cycles to ensure that effects do not change with increased number of cycles.
Are there harmful effects of water softener discharges on household septic tanks?
It is not true that water softener regeneration discharges pose a problem to septic systems or to the leach field. Studies have shown that water softener regeneration wastes not only do not interfere with the septic tank system drain field soil percolation, but, actually could, because of the polyvalent water hardness cations in the regeneration discharges, improve soil percolation particularly in fine-textured soils.
WQA has research reports by the University of Wisconsin and the National Sanitation Foundation on septic tanks and water softeners. This research was completed in the late 1970s. It was about that time that numerous regulatory agencies were contemplating restriction on the discharge of water softener wastes to private sewage disposal systems. More recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewed this research report, and an expert in on-site waste treatment wrote October 1993 that he "does not believe that the conclusions of the earlier study would change since the chemistry and physics of soils have not." He also goes on to say that he knows this work to remain "scientifically excellent." These studies conclusively show that water softener waste effluents cause no problems for septic tanks. The allowance of water treatment system discharges to hundreds of thousands of septic tank systems is practically universal now. It has not caused damage or hazards; but it has provided convenience and economic savings to many homeowners. This conclusion is supported by the Ten States? "Recommended Standards for Individual Sewage Systems" The states have concluded that even in Montmorillinite clay soils, "the disposal of brine wastes from water softening equipment does not have a significant effect upon the permeability of soils suitable for soil absorption systems."
The addition of sodium to a septic system by use of soft water actually has beneficial effects on the digestion of wastes by bacteria. The volume of wastes from water softeners (about 50 gallons per regeneration) are added to the septic tank slowly and are not of sufficient volume to cause any deleterious hydraulic load problems. In fact, they are lower in volume and rate of addition than wastes from automatic washers. And the calcium and magnesium in softener regeneration wastes contribute to good air and water movement (improved soil percolation) through the septic system drainage field.
The University of Wisconsin and the National Sanitation Foundation reports clearly indicate that when the sodium content from the softener regeneration cycle is discharged into the soil via a septic system along with other salts such as calcium, magnesium, and iron the result is an improvement in the soil's percolation rather than a detriment. The enclosed copy of a letter from Dr. Fred P. Miller, Professor of Soil Science, Department of Agronomy, University of Maryland, in which he evaluates this study clearly indicates this same conclusion. I specifically direct your attention to Dr. Miller's closing statements. Dr. Miller points out that when the septic system is receiving soft water only, containing a very low mineral content, and not receiving the mineral salts from the backwash cycle, this condition "might result in swelling and dispersion of clays and lowered hydraulic conductivity in the absorption field."
There are other advantages that are directly related to the use of ion exchange softened water when the hardness minerals calcium and magnesium are removed by softening. The homeowner uses less soap -- studies have indicated as much as 50% to 75% less. There is also less biodegradable products discharged into the system which relieves the loading on the system. It is a known fact that many homeowners do not maintain a septic system properly; not pumping the system at proper intervals allows detergent solids, as well as other solids, to be carried over into the drainage area causing clogging. Also, by having soft water or stain-free water available, the homeowner's fabrics are cleaner, and the amount of water used can be reduced. This reduces the loading on the septic system a great deal.
Many people may be under the impression that water conditioning equipment regenerates quite frequently and puts a high loading of sodium salts into the waste water. This, of course, is not true; the average family of four people would require a softener regeneration approximately two or three times a week.
The water quality improvement industry has earnestly sought to sort out the factual information on softener effluent. The septic tank study clearly indicates that there are no adverse effects when water conditioning effluent is discharged into properly installed private septic systems. There are a few additional reports that also explain further evidence of the hardness ions in a softener?s regeneration wastes causing less clogging and maintaining higher permeability than the regular septic tank effluent. (TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM THE WEBSITE OF THE WATER QUALITY ASSOCIATION)