Soft Water: Better for Your Home and Wallet
Nearly 90 percent of U.S. homes have hard water, according to the United States Geological Survey. So it's no surprise that water hardness is the most common water problem reported by consumers.
Hard water is water that contains higher-than-normal amounts of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals cause many problems in a home, including deposits in bathtubs and sinks, spots on faucets and fixtures, and buildup that clogs plumbing and shortens the life of appliances.
While hard water itself is not a safety issue, it can be an expensive nuisance.
"Hard water buildup not only makes appliances and plumbing work harder, shortening their life spans, but it requires them to consume more energy, costing homeowners money," says Jerry Kovach, vice president of research and development at Kinetico, a leading manufacturer of water treatment products.
Soft water, on the other hand, can provide families with benefits they can literally feel and see. Some of those include:
- Detergent Savings. With soft water, households can use less soap – whether it is laundry detergent, dish soap or shampoo – and they'll get better cleaning results. In fact, a recent study funded by the Water Quality Association (WQA) found that when hard water is softened, detergent use can be reduced by 50 percent and the washing can be carried out in 60 F cold water instead of 100 F hot water and achieve the same or better stain removal yielding whiter clothes.
- Appliance Life. Appliances will last longer because soft water prevents the build-up of scale – from mineral deposits – and allows them to operate effectively. Washing machines and dishwashers can wear out nearly 30 times faster when using hard water.
- Plumbing Stays Clean. When scale builds up over time, it will cause clogged pipes and reduced water flow. A 2010 WQA study tested showerheads and found they lost 75 percent of their flow rate in less than two years when using hard water. The same build-up that affects the inside of pipes also affects the outside of showerheads, faucets and drains, eventually making them lose their high polish and become harder to clean.
Different products are available on the market to remove the hardness-causing minerals from water.
"Water softeners provide the best protection against the problems hard water creates and keep everyday appliances in tip-top shape for years to come," says Kovach.
Kovach recommends looking for water treatment systems that only regenerate when necessary by measuring water usage to indicate it is time to recharge. That means when a homeowner goes on vacation, so does the system.
Homeowners can assess the hardness of their water by getting a thorough water quality evaluation to see if any kind of water softening system is needed. Many local water treatment professionals offer in-home testing for free.