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What Are the Benefits of Water Softeners?

a shower head

So what does “hard” water really mean? 

When rain falls, it is pure water. Once it seeps into the ground, it picks up minerals like calcium and magnesium. Water that has collected a large amount of such minerals is called “hard.” In fact, about 85 percent of water in the United States can be classified as hard water.

Is a water softener worth it? It’s important to first see if you are noticing the signs of hard water. Seeing stains on your sinks and tubs or on your kitchen utensils? It’s a good bet you have hard water. Seeing scale deposits on kitchen appliances and plumbing is another sign. Are you having to use more soap than usual? Hard water doesn’t lather well, so you have to use more. Hard water will also face your clothing and make your skin and hair feel dry after a shower. 

Water also has a continuum of “hardness.” It isn’t just soft or hard. Your water might be moderately hard, hard or very hard. If your water source is chock full of minerals, that doesn’t mean you just have to live with it! Adding a water softener can be very beneficial to you, your family and your budget. Here are some of the ways such an appliance can be a good thing.

Lower Energy Bill

One sign of hard water is limescale deposits in your pipes. That leaves less room for the actual water to run through them. Soft water improves the exchange efficiency of your water heater, which saves you cash. You also don’t have to use as much warm water in a shower to get clean, and that means more savings.

Healthier Hair and Skin

The minerals in hard water dry out both your skin and hair, even when you have just taken a shower. The water can also form a layer of film on skin and hair, and that’s not just unpleasant. It can also pose an issue for your hygiene.

Fewer Stains on Items

You have hard water if you find “water spots” on utensils, cups, appliances and stains on clothing as well. Such stains mean you have to wash your items more frequently and who has time for that? Adding a water softener removes the minerals that create the buildup in the first place. The device also pulls out small amounts of ferrous iron that discolor the hard water and also leave their own kind of stains in your sinks and tubs.

How Water Softeners Work

These appliances generally use a process called ion exchange to remove the minerals that are affecting your water. Mineral ions in your water become trapped by resin that is part of the softening system. They are then exchanged for sodium and potassium ions instead.
Some water softening systems use a mechanical filter to remove calcium and don’t use salt. However, this variety can’t remove magnesium in the water so it doesn’t work as well at softening hard water.
The third type of water softening system uses a process called reverse osmosis. It lets water flow through a semipermeable membrane. It gets out about 98 percent of any impurities but it is fairly expensive and uses a lot of water in its process. A reverse osmosis system is good at pulling out chemical impurities, however.
Talk to a licensed professional about what type and size of a water softening system would work best for your home and family. There are a number of factors that will affect the final bill.
First, the size of your home and the number of bathrooms you have will help determine which system you need. More bathrooms mean more water traveling through more pipes, and all of it will need to be softened.
Some units offer extra features like an ultraviolet lamp that kill harmful bacteria and viruses that could be lurking in your water source. Extra features mean added cost.
If you have a relatively new home or one with minimal pipe damage, you will have a lower bill. Older homes that have pipes that are out of date or have serious damage might need pipe replacement before a softening system can be installed.
Of course, like all appliances, a water softener will need intermittent servicing to keep performing well. And you will have to add salt to the system periodically as well, but that cost is fairly minimal.
a kitchen without blue stains

Can Water Softeners Cause Blue Stains?

A bluish or greenish stain on your sink or tub can be disconcerting. These stains are generally the result of a copper fitting or pipe becoming corroded. This is due to a reaction between the metals in the fittings or system and what is often called “aggressive water.”
When water’s pH drops below 7.2, it becomes slightly acidic. This creates the reaction that leads to the blue and green stains due to contact with “soft” metals like aluminum and brass. The scaling created by harder water acts as a barrier that keeps the stains from forming. But when water is softened, the scaling doesn’t happen. That leaves some of the fittings susceptible to blue and green staining.
If you notice green or blue staining, call in a licensed professional to do some investigation on the water softener. Several things can cause the staining, some related to water softeners and others not, so an expert’s knowledge will be crucial in discovering the cause and formulating a solution to get your water running clear again.
a kitchen with a water softener system

What Does a Water Softener Remove?

Water softeners remove calcium, magnesium and other minerals from water. The resin beads in water softeners trap these minerals and replace them with sodium or potassium. 
It is important to note that a water softener system is not the same as a water purifying system. Softeners treat the water to remove minerals and metals that have built up in the water source. They do not, however, remove any sediment or chemicals that might be in the water. For that function, you would want to look at a whole house carbon filtering system. Talk to a plumbing professional about what would be the best choice for your family.
Some people might have concerns about a softening system removing minerals and other nutrients that our bodies need, such as calcium and magnesium. It is true that not getting enough of either of these can cause health problems such as muscle cramps, inadequate sleep or chronic pain. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
However, the calcium and magnesium that are in hard water are not a type that our bodies can use. So a water softening system is not taking away anything that your body needs. It is actually making the water in your home healthier to drink and kinder to your appliances.

ABC Can Install a Water Softener in Your Home

If you want to improve the water quality in your home, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our professionals can test your water and offer advice on what your best next steps are. Additionally, we can install, repair and maintain your water softener for you, so you don’t have to worry about any of the technicalities.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair, and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014 as the HVAC Operations Manager and was promoted to Mechanical Operations Manager and then Division Manager. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales, and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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