Most homeowners know that picking the right water softener is absolutely necessary for great water use throughout the home. If you have hard water, you’ve seen the signs. It leaves gross scale deposits on your dishes, your laundry seems dingy, there are rings around the bathtub, and so much more. This is because your water contains excess minerals like calcium, carbonate, magnesium carbonate, and manganese.
If you have a hard water issue, never fear. It’s easily remedied, and it’s not detrimental to your health whatsoever. However, these hard water mineral deposits can have an adverse effect on heaters, washing machines, and even your shower. Even worse, these issues take a huge toll on your pipes with buildup and, in time, overall corrosion. Basically, anything that utilizes water can be affected. For these reasons, among others, picking the right water softener is often a necessity.
Solutions to Hard Water Issues
It’s normal that water sourced from underground areas contains trace dissolved minerals. However, these minerals can accumulate, and that’s what causes hard water. The effects of hard water take time to appear. Because of this, it’s often a good idea to invest in equipment that determines whether you have hard water or not. Only once you’re certain hard water is at play should you purchase a water softener. Before you buy the first one you see through, make sure that you’re getting a good value for your money, and do your research.
Choose the Right Sized Water Softener
Water softeners come in different sizes – something that a lot of first-time homeowners aren’t aware of. The size of your softener directly correlates to its effectiveness in your household, so you need to make sure you’re purchasing the right one. Remember, the issue is not your unit’s actual size. Rather, it’s about your water softener’s ability to remove these minerals from the water as frequently as possible without regeneration.
When you start your search, you’ll notice that water softeners’ sizes are quoted by indicating the number of hardness grains per gallon they can remove each day. Ideally, you should opt for a water softener that works for at least three days without needing to recharge. To determine the best fit for your household, calculate the number of people in your home, multiply it by 75 (the estimated gallon of water usage per person, per day). Once you have that number, multiply it by the number of people in your home. This final number shows the hardness minerals your water softener needs to remove each day. For example:
- Number of family members: 8
- 8 x 75 = 600 gallons
- 600 x 8 = 4,800
- The water softener should remove 4,800 hardness minerals per day
Select Your Controls and Features
You should also pay specific attention to the water softener’s controls and features, as not all are created equal. Check its regeneration cycle, the length of each cycle, as well as the amount of both salt and water required for each recharge. For fully-automatic models, you’ll need to occasionally refill the salt. Here are a couple of the most common cycle controls:
- Timer control: This can either be a clock or an electronic timer control. It recharges the water softener automatically based on the time and day you set in advance. However, it may not function well if it notices the water usage goes beyond the normal daily capacity. There are times when water and sodium are wasted due to the regeneration process.
- Demand-Initiated Regeneration (DIR) Control: This is a sophisticated feature that recognizes when the resin needs to be recharged. The recharging can either be done electronically or by utilizing a meter that calculates the water usage. It only recharges when it’s necessary, so the regeneration water and sodium are utilized properly. Beyond that, a DIR control is capable of providing soft water even if the water consumption is unusually large.
Pick the Right Type
Likewise, there are several different types of water softeners on the market today. The most commonly-used in your typical household are salt-free cation exchange or salt-based ion exchange units. So, what differentiates these units? Let’s dig a little into their unique features.
Salt-Based Water Softener
The process of softening the water is done through two individual tanks. One tank features special beads of resin while the other tank contains brine. It follows the ion exchange principle by which the machine softens the hard water, replacing hard minerals (like iron, magnesium, and calcium) with sodium or salt.
Salt-Free Water Softener
Unlike the salt-based equipment, this water softener uses a potassium-chloride salt instead of sodium. A salt-free water softener is the best option for people who care a lot about their salt intake. It works like a descaler; it doesn’t decrease the number of hard water minerals, but it prevents the minerals from getting deposited on water pipes and appliances that use water.
Is Your Water Softener Certified?
Once you’ve picked the right type of water softener, it’s important to consider its certification. A quality certification directly illustrates its quality and overall effectiveness, so you want to pay it special mind. Look for an NSF International Certification, or search for a WQA Gold Seal issued by the Water Quality Association. While these don’t guarantee the overall performance of your individual machine, they certify the unit passed tests based on industry standards. Furthermore, it ensures your product is true to all its marketing claims.