A water softener is considered useful when the household has hard water supply, and choosing the best suitable water softener for the whole household can be quite tough, confusing and complicated, most especially when you are unfamiliar with a water softener.
You need to acquaint yourself with some of the required features of a water softener, its types, and its advantages and disadvantages over the other. Furthermore, you are also required to be informed about the usual temperature of your location because there are some water softeners that are susceptible to freezing temperature.
In this article, information, tips, suggestions and advices are going to be shared to you on how to select the perfect water softener for you and for the whole family. This is going to be the crucial stage in partially owning a water appliance since your money is the main investment here. Being informed about the technicalities and benefits of a water softener is necessary to make most of your monetary and time investment.
As you can notice, hard water is notably rich in superfluous amounts of minerals such as calcium and magnesium carbonate. Certain hands-on experiences are evident on how much of a nuisance the hard water can be in terms of household chores, bathing, cooking, drinking, and cleaning water-related appliances and pipes. If you can notice, detergent soap, shampoos and other soaps do not actually lather very well because of the hard minerals that the current water supply has. The dishes have white spots, the bathtub has rings, the clothes have soap residues, and scale deposits are on the pipe fixtures and appliances. Hard water really does cause problems that are tedious and exhausting to fix. Although these minerals are not proven to pose health risk at the highest level, the concern for such hard water is not that in a very alarming state.
Following image from Iron Pro 3 Water Softener
Iron Pro 3 Water Softener
Solving Hard Water Problems
Since hard water comes from the underground sources and from the aquifers, the dissolved minerals seem to be inevitably collected from the rocks. These hard minerals are recognized to be the main culprit in having hard water supply because of their undesirable characteristics that cause soap residues and scale deposits inside the household.
The degree of hardness is usually measured by grains of minerals per gallon (GPG) or by parts per million of mineral (PPM). One GPG is equal to 17.1 PPM. When the water supply subsumes more than one GPG of dissolved hard minerals, it is considered hard already. However, realistically, water that has 3.5 GPG is still considered relatively soft. On the other hand, water that has more than 10.5 GPG is evaluated as very hard water. In order to learn how hard your water supply is, a water test kit is always readily available online or on any hardware store.
Hard water poses problems in terms of potential expenses rather than the issue of health. Since hard water can causes serious scaling in the plumbing fixtures and pipes, there can be possible malfunction that can occur in the household’s plumbing system and in the water-related appliances as time passes by. When the water is heated, the dissolved hard minerals are recrystallized and form limescale that can eventually cause clogs in the plumbing fixtures, and reduce the water flow. The limescale and deposits greatly bring additional expenses on the repairs and cleaning of water-related appliances such as the water heater, dishwashers, coffee makers and even water purifiers.
In the worst-case scenario, the scale deposits cake on the interior surface of the water eaters, leading to a failed water heating operation. According to a study lead by the Water Quality Research Council at the New Mexico State University, the water heaters can only operate 22 to 30 percent less effectively when contaminated with limescale. The problem caused by the hard water is a nuisance when bathing, cooking, doing laundry, and cleaning the whole house. Calcium and magnesium hard minerals react negatively with soaps, cleaners, shampoos and detergents, since soap does not lather very much. Furthermore, more soaps are needed in order to have the lathering and cleaning ability is more effective. The scale deposit can also form a scum on the tiles and a bathtub ring that is quite difficult to wash away. The soap curd is referred to as the spots and scales on the cooking ware, and the hard minerals can leave the water supply an undesirable odor and taste. People who utilize hard water are more susceptible to skin problems and rashes, since the hard water changes the skin’s pH leading to clogged pores and soapy skin.
Features of a Quality Water Softener
HIGH QUALITY RESIN
The internal process of the softener lies in the quality of the resin. Having poor quality resin means having low capacity of water softening, which leads to frequent regenerations of salt. When resin cannot operate at a rate of 20 to 30 percent each year, you are left with buying a new water softener. Using a water softener with an ineffective resin means that the softening process may not be thoroughly complete.
Upflow brining is the injecting of hard water at the base of the resin bed, which allows hard water to flow upwards through every layer of the water softener before soft water is delivered in the household. This factor is very important for a water softener to have because the capacity of the resin is fully utilized through the upflow brining. On the other hand, generic softeners are widely unfavorable for having a downflow brining, which hard water flows through the softener above the resin bed and enters the resin bed to forcefully complete the ion exchange. However, the hard water is settled above the resin, and passes through the upper layers of the resin bed, leading to an incomplete softening process and to a frequent regeneration.
The earlier model of a water softener typically has a scheduled clock mechanism that regularly determines the schedule of the next regeneration process. This softener then regenerates on a weekly basis as specified to a set schedule. On the other hand, modern water softeners are manufactured with a Flow Meter that can determine recent water usage, and can trigger the regeneration process only when the water supply is already out. Some water softeners have embedded microprocessor that can manage the average water usage up to a year and that can maintain a reserved amount of soft water. This feature is beneficial to saving hundreds of dollars and energy costs.
High-end water softeners have digital clock displays that can be utilized only to provide up-to-date information about the condition and status of the softening and regeneration process. A digital clock display is also geared to be flexible with 12 or more programmable cycles. Water softeners that do not have such feature usually leave off high energy bills because of their uncontrollable setting.
Water Softener Size
When deciding on a new water softener, you should be able to select one that fits on an empty space in your household. Consider the capacity of the space that your household can furnish for the water softener. This is important because buying a new water softener that is not the perfect size at all is useless and wasteful. What can you do with a water softener that does not fit in the household? You may need to do extra work in taking out some of your things in order to fit the softener. Remember that you need to measure the space and decide where to put the water softener. Its location must be considered permanent as the installation is very tedious and difficult, and once it is installed, there is usually no turning back.
A large and expensive water softener is not at all necessary when there are smaller and more economical versions available in the market. The water softener that you choose must be able to handle the water demands of the whole family. Physical size does not matter, but on the softener’s ability to remove the hard minerals out of the water supply. It is advisable to purchase a softener that can last for at least three days between the regeneration process, and that can handle large volumes of water.
A water softener is rated by the amount of grains of hardness that it can remove by using a specific amount of salt and volume of resin in the tank. In order to be cognizant on how to efficiently know the perfect size of the water softener, you need to define two points:
- The average water consumption of the household on a daily basis.
- The average grains per gallon of hardness in the water supply.
The size of the water softener can be calculated by multiplying the number of people in the household by 75, which then gives you the average number of gallons utilized per person per day. The average is also used to estimate the total amount of water that everyone uses on a daily basis. The average is then multiplied by the number of grains per gallon or GPG of hard minerals in the water to calculate the capacity of the whole water supply.
For an instance, you have a family of five and you estimate around 375 gallons of water are utilized per day – 5 x 75. If your water supply has 10 GPG, then you have 3750 GPG (375 x 10) of hard minerals, which needs to be removed everyday.
Grain Removal Capacity
Some households need to have to purchase a hard water testing kit to determine the level of hardness in the water supply. Furthermore, some households are also worried with the iron content in the water supply, which is why some purchases an iron testing kit to separately calculate the hardness rating. Households in the U.S receive municipal drinking water that has no high levels of iron, but those who have private reservoir need to have accumulated grain hardness to compensate the iron in the water. For every one MG/L, three GPG of hardness is required to sum up the total hardness value.
Most households are recommended to purchase a water softener that can likely remove hardness from the water supply around seven days before the regeneration process. Calculate the daily hardness removal process, and multiply by seven to determine the necessary capacity of the water softener. In that approach, a family of three with 60 gallons of water per person and with hardness of 23 GPG, potentially needs a water softener that can remove around 4,140 grains of hardness every day. The softener should be able to remove around 28,980 grains of hardness for seven days.
Water softeners vary from size and capacity to remove the grains of hardness. That is why it is recommended to determine the level of hardness that your water supply has. A water softener is set up to regenerate before the resin tank is exhausted, to employ salt efficiency, and to guarantee that the treated soft water remains soft until the evening regeneration time. For example, a water softener with the capacity of 32,000 grain comes with a cubic foot of resin, and the softening process remains effective once the regeneration process treated 20,000 of grains. Sometimes, the water softener takes around five to seven pounds of salt to regenerate 20,000 of grains of hardness, while other softener nearly takes 36 pounds of salt to regenerate 30,000 grains. The more grains that the water softener needs to remove the more salt it actually needs.
Water Softener Controls
Most water softeners with regeneration cycles have embedded controls for you to take charge. The control determines how long each regeneration cycle takes, how much salt is required for recharging, and how much volume of water is needed to accommodate the household’s water supply. Controls vary from different models of the water softeners from various manufacturers. Some are automatic, while others need occasional check when refilling with salt. There are two main types of controllers in the softening unit.
- Time Control – the clocks or timers can automatically recharge the softening unit at a given schedule, according to the average usage of water needs. The time is usually customized by the user, taking full charge of the regeneration and recharging. However, this control is less beneficially when the household has sudden large water usage. This is because the control tends to waste salt and water upon regeneration whether or not it is necessary.
- Softener DIR Control – the DIR control refers to the demand-initiated regeneration, which is a more sophisticated method. This control is able to sense when the resin bed needs to be recharged, either with a meter that calculates and measures water usage or with electronic means. A demand-initiated regeneration-softening unit is advantageous in lowering down the energy costs and salt usage because it does not start with the recharging unless deemed necessary. This is the best deal when handling sudden large volume of water supply.
Buying and Leasing Tips
If you could ask yourself, do you prefer to buy a water softener or lease it? For a short period of time, leasing is the potential choice because there are no considerable direct costs. You can only spend around USD 15 to USD 50 per month or more on a lease, depending on the service package and materials that the manufacturer offers. Furthermore, you need to pay for the softening unit, which ranges from USD 400 to USD 2,500 or more, depending on the features of the unit.
Try to get at least two quotes, and ensure that the quotes are supported on the same consideration level – the regeneration cycle, the type of controls, the level of service, and the warranty on the control valve and on the resin bed tank.
Working with an established company is usually the best recommendation to guarantee a secure future investment and safety from possible loss. You can also have a quality product supplemented by the company. The company that you choose must be stable in financial matters and in business matters, and it must be a veteran in the field of water softening.
Determine if you need a plumber or anyone professional to do the installation for you. Remember that the installation process is difficult, and there is no room for mistakes since you are dealing with a water softener that has many wires and pipes. Some professionals are paid for only one time, while others prefer installment on a monthly basis.
Some softener manufacturers provide services that can regularly exchange the exhausted water softening units with newly charged softening units. This type of service is a favorable deal for households that are located near wastewater sewage. Since sodium is considered as a pollutant, some municipal water treatment plants recycle wastewater from sewers.
Lastly, look for softening units with certification from trusted organizations that are known for their credibility in the softening industry. The NSF International is considered an independent testing organization that certifies and tests water-treatment products. The Water Quality Association, a water industry’s trade organization, also provides certification for the equipment used in the water softening unit. Its seal is the WQA Gold Seal. However, take note that these organizations only provide a seal or a mark, indicating that the equipment and the softening unit has successfully passed the industry’s standards and testing. These organizations do not guarantee the softening performance of the unit, and they also validate the manufacturer’s claims towards their products. Knowing that these claims are being examined by the certification organizations gives a worry-free usage on the buy whether you buy or you lease the unit.
Types of Regeneration:
- Meter-Regenerated: a meter-generated water softener has a regeneration process that can keep track of how much volume of water does an individual use. During the installation process, you are provided with a controller that lets you customize the basic settings. The settings include how many grains per gallon that the softener can operate, how hard your water supply is so that the softener knows what it’s dealing with, and how many individuals that the controller need to track based on the water usage. Sometimes, a default setting is set such as 100 gallons of water per person with a scheduled regeneration at two in the next morning. The advantage of this meter-regenerated water softener is that it does not regenerate when the whole household is not using the water supply. This is convenient when you and your family are on vacation, and the water softener is left to conserve water for you. It is tailored to regenerate when necessary, and it is very efficient with the salt consumption.
- Timer-regenerated: a timer-regenerated water softener is mostly based on a time clock basis. You generally set the timer once in every seven days or depending on the built-in setting of the softening unit. No matter how much gallons of water that each individual is using, the softener automatically triggers the regeneration process, and uses the salt provided each time it recharges. The timer-regenerated softening unit is quite cheaper compared to the meter-regenerated water softeners, but they are deemed expensive with the salt usage and energy costs.
- Manually regenerated: A manually regenerated water softener already explains what it is just by its name. A softening unit with this type of regeneration does not have either timers or meters, instead, it only has a simple procedure of the regeneration that allows you to trigger the process only when you preferred to. This is can be quite handy when you do not have a drain for the placement of the softener. A garden hose can be attached and put it to the drain only when necessary for the regeneration.
Single VS. Twin Tank Water Softeners
A single-tanked water softener regenerates only when hard water is available. This softening unit takes around an hour or so to do its operation usually at the break of dawn, assuming that the whole household is not using water supply yet. A single-tanked softening unit has fewer parts compared to a twin tanked system. Most high-end, sophisticated water softeners monitor the water usage and adapt the regeneration process automatically to guarantee that soft water is readily delivered to the household in need.
Furthermore, a twin-tanked water softener has two resin tanks in which either tank can function accordingly, while the other resin tank is on hold. Both tanks can be utilized in parallel, and one of the tanks needs to go offline when regeneration is necessary, so that soft water is delivered to the household 24/7. Nevertheless, not all households need a 24/7 soft water supply. Using a twin-tanked water softener has the possibility of reducing the flow of the water supply when regeneration is still in the process. Take note that this kind of softening unit is much more complex than a single-tanked unit does, so you need to reconsider when choosing a water softener.
Sodium and Potassium Concerns in Soft Water
When opting for a water softener, most especially the ion-exchange types, sodium or potassium is a requirement in the softening process. Both sodium and potassium are a requisite in exchanging the hard minerals, normally calcium and magnesium, into soft minerals. Expect that the treated soft water has already traces of sodium or potassium. For those who are in sodium restriction, the sodium intake must be limited to 3,000 milligrams per day as advised by the American Heart Association, and a teaspoon of salt usually contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Sodium can be beneficial to the body as it can maintain water balance and electrolytes, however, too much sodium intake can be unpleasant. Kidneys can be exposed to illness and blood pressure can be elevated. The heart can be put into an extra strain and medications may not be effective.
In order to limit the amount of salt in your daily intake, try avoiding table salt, and replace it with herbs and spices. Consider purchasing fresh food aside from the usual processed, canned and repackaged food such as hotdogs, luncheon meat, corned beef and packed sausages. Furthermore, consider a healthy living lifestyle by balancing the salt intake into your body. Since your soft water has amounts of sodium, your food must be less or without any salt.
Refer to the instructions manual that the manufacturer provides in the unit’s package. Check if the water softener can handle the substitution of sodium to potassium chloride. The latter mineral has less health risk when consumed compared to the sodium. Most people already have problems with sodium diets, so replacing it to potassium may be a good idea. However, potassium chloride is expensive. A little investment can do no harm when you are concerned with your health and with the health of your family members.
Various water softeners are available already in the market, and each caters to the individual needs or to the whole household. Being aware of the technicalities and choices of a water softener is needed so that your investment may not be turned to waste. Be informative about the different types of regeneration process, so that you can choose which among best suits your preference.
Remember that a water softener is important in providing fresh, soft water for the whole family.