A water softening system is a small, yet effective, system. It reduces the mineral count in water to prevent scale buildup which, over time, damages plumbing and appliances.
But, what is a water softener? How does it work? And is it really worth the investment? When you consider it will work hard to protect major investments - like your dishwasher and washing machine - we think it pays for itself in huge dividends.
Let's explore the ins and outs of these systems, their benefits, and proper maintenance.
What Is a Water Softener?
A water softener system treats what's known as "hard water." Hard water has high mineral content that, over time, causes scaling and damage to pipes and appliances.
Some of those minerals include calcium and magnesium. You might've seen this type of buildup before. It has a chalky, white consistency that's difficult to remove from glassware, utensils, pots, pans, faucets, and sinks.
The best water softener will easily remove buildup by exchanging mineral ions for sodium ions. It breaks up some of those damaging minerals and prevents the buildup of scale.
There are three main parts to a water softening system.
1. Resin Tank
This is a tall tank where the softening takes place. At the base, there's a bed of microbeads, resin, and sodium ions. The sodium ions work hard to break up some of the harmful minerals.
2. Head Valve
Next, there's a head (or control) valve that sits atop the resin tank. This is considered the "brains" of the operation. It controls the water flow direction and rate, putting the system through various cycles.
3. Brine Tank
As you shop for the right system, you'll also notice a shorter tank. This is the brine tank; it's where the salt is stored. Some tanks can hold up to 300 pounds of salt or more.
There are other important components, like the valve motor, flow meter, riser tube, and fill tube. But, these three are the heavy hitters in any given system.
Benefits of Water Softeners
A water softener system can have positive benefits on your hair, skin, clothes, and dishes. That's a lot of territory for one small system to cover.
Also, remember that water with a lot of buildup or sediment from too many minerals can clog pipes and ruin appliances over time. Let's explore each of these benefits.
1. Hair and Skin
A water softener will allow you to see tangible differences in your hair and skin post-shower. It won't feel so dry because, with the water softener salt, the water won't strip away all the natural oils in your hair and skin.
Beyond dryness, hard water can also cause skin irritations and rashes for some people.
Likewise, your clothes will come out of the wash a little softer. You'll feel all the materials in your shirts, t-shirts, jeans, and other articles of clothing are now much softer to the touch.
With those hard minerals removed before the water even sprays your dishes, you're also going to enjoy cleaner, streak-free dishes.
4. Pipes and Drains
We've said this before, but it's worth reiterating. A water softener will save your pipes because it prevents some of that harmful build-up.
Over time, too much residue can cause major damage to your plumbing. It can also reduce the efficacy of your favorite showerhead.
Of course, if all that hard water isn't making its way through the pipes and into your appliances, then water softeners will also work to save your dishwashers and washing machines.
Hard water affects the performance of these machines and drastically reduces their lifespan. Dishwashers and washing machines are costly to replace and, without question, two of our most valuable appliances in the house.
How to Choose the Right Water Softener
The size and type of your water softener depend on how many people are in your household. Monitor your water levels for a few days because what you'll want to do is multiply the number of people in your house by the number of gallons your household uses every day.
On average, people use about 80 gallons of water per day. So, if you have a family of five, then you're looking at 400 gallons of water per day.
You'll multiply that number by the grains of hardness in your water. Let's say the hardness of your water is 10 grams per gallon. Then, 400 x 10 = 4,000 grains. This tells you how many grains need to be removed on a daily basis.
As you begin to research water softeners, you'll see manufacturers mostly post units of 24,000, 32,000, 48,000, and 64,000 grains.
With the example above, your daily water requirements are 4,000. So, you will need a water softening system with a capacity for 28,000 grains because 4,000 x 7 = 28.000. To be safe, you'd opt for a system with 32,000 grains.
Maintaining Your Water Softener
Water softening systems are wonderfully low-maintenance. When you first have one, you'll have to enter your water hardness level and regenerate timing parameters.
After that, the main requirement is refilling the salt. But, aside from these small tasks, they mostly just hum along quietly and do their job.
As you conduct your research, you'll see there are three different types of water softener salt: evaporated, rock, and solar. We like evaporated salt because it's the purest form of salt at 99.99% sodium chloride.
But, solar salt is also quite soluble. Rock salt tends to be the least soluble of all. It's known to leave a lot of residue in the tank. But, it's also the most affordable option.
Improve Your Water Today
Water softeners are a wonderfully simplistic system that carries out some deeply scientific machinations.
What you're left with is protected appliances, softer skin, and softer clothing. If you live in the greater San Antonio, Boerne, or New Braunfels area, we can get you set up with your own water softening system.
We'll help you answer all those questions about grain levels and salts. Feel free to schedule your service today and we'll look forward to meeting you!