Water hardness in the province of Ontario varies widely. However, our tap water within the Greater Toronto Area falls into the “moderately hard to hard” category.
While hard water is not hazardous to human health, it can have harsh, unpleasant effects on your hair and skin, not to mention your household appliances and cause common plumbing issues. Fortunately, water softeners can treat your home’s water supply to counteract these negative consequences. Our customers who have installed water softeners are generally delighted with their benefits.
In the following guide, we will detail why hard water is problematic, how to identify a hard water issue in your home, and everything you need to know about getting a water softener installed.
Table Of Contents
- How Does A Water Softener Work?
- What Is Hard Water?
- Why Is Hard Water A Problem?
- Do You Have Hard Water?
- What do Water Softeners Remove?
- What Are The Benefits Of Using A Water Softener?
- Water Softener vs. Water Filter
- How Long Do Water Softeners Last?
- How Much Do Water Softeners Cost?
- How Often Should a Water Softener Regenerate?
How Does A Water Softener Work?
Home water softeners work to remove dissolved minerals via a process of ion exchange. You should install your water softener as close as possible to where your water supply enters your home for the best results.
A water softener consists of 4 main components:
- Mineral tank holding tiny resin beads
- Control valve
- Brine tank containing salt
- Hose to drain the saltwater after regeneration
Water flows into your mineral tank, which holds electrically charged resin beads. This charge attracts dissolved minerals. The resin will hold onto the calcium and magnesium, as well as any other positively charged ion (such as iron) in solution form, and releases soft water into your plumbing system.
As the beads fill up with mineral particles, the control valve automatically signals that it is time to regenerate (or “brine”). Saltwater from the brine tank flushes out the particles and is then drained.
While the resin beads usually last for a water softener’s lifetime, you will need to replace the salt occasionally. This is quite simple, though, using salt in pre-measured pellet or cube form.
HEALTH NOTE: A tiny amount of sodium remains in the softened water, so if you must severely restrict sodium in your diet, talk to us about the best water-quality-improving option for you. Some water softeners use less salt than others. Alternatively, you could use a reverse osmosis device to remove sodium from your drinking and cooking water.
What Is Hard Water?
First, let’s give a definition of hard water. Minerals, notably calcium and magnesium, are naturally dissolved by water as it passes through soil and rock on the way to your faucets and drinking water systems. Hard water contains a high concentration of these minerals — more than 120 ppm, or .120 grams per litre.
Why Is Hard Water A Problem?
Here’s the issue with hard water: some mineral content will end up deposited on all sorts of items that the water touches. Left alone over time, these deposits will build up into hard sediment (also known as “limescale” or just plain “scale”), which tends to be tricky to remove. That’s assuming you can even get at it — it’s not an easy task when the sediment is on the inside of a plumbing pipe, for example.
Do You Have Hard Water?
If you live in a GTA city like Brampton or Mississauga, you most likely have water that is classified as moderately hard. And if you’re in one of the surrounding rural areas and rely on a well rather than the municipal supply, your water could be even harder.
Clues that you may have hard water include:
- Whitish, crusty buildup inside kettles and coffeemakers, on showerheads, or around faucets and tub drains
- Filmy scum on bathroom components like sinks glass shower doors
- Dry, dull hair and complexion
- “Clean” laundry that feels rough and looks dingy
- Spots on glasses and dishes after washing
To investigate further whether you need a water softener, try testing your household water supply. You can pick up a water quality test kit at your local hardware store. Depending on the type you buy, these easy-to-use kits may check for chlorine, bacteria, and other measures of water quality, as well as the hardness level.
What do Water Softeners Remove?
Water softeners are designed to remove minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium ions, from hard water. These minerals cause scale buildup in pipes, appliances, and fixtures, reducing their efficiency and longevity.
A water softener operates through a process called ion exchange, where the calcium and magnesium ions are replaced with sodium ions, making the water “soft.” Besides preventing scale formation, softened water also improves soap lathering and reduces soap scum, leading to cleaner dishes, clothes, and skin.
However, it’s important to note that water softening does not remove contaminants like bacteria, heavy metals, or chemicals. For those concerns, additional water filtration systems might be necessary.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Water Softener?
Water softeners have many advantages which you may not be aware of. They will save you two precious commodities, time and money, in the following ways.
1. Lower Energy Bills. A coating of mineral scale will interfere with the proper functioning of your hot water tank’s heating element. With a water softener, you will avoid this scale buildup and increase your water heater’s energy efficiency. As a result, you’ll save money on your energy bills. (BONUS: Your water heater will last longer, as well.)
2. Less Frequent Replacement Of Appliances. Hard water scale also decreases the efficiency and the lifespan of other water-using appliances, such as your washing machine and dishwasher. However, softening your water will prevent this, so you won’t have to pay to replace your appliances as often.
3. Fewer Plumbing Clogs And Other Problems. Another issue with mineral sediment is that it eventually can narrow the inner diameter of your household plumbing pipes, causing reduced water flow and clogs. Although piping typically can last up to 70-80 years, it will likely need replacement sooner (a huge, expensive job!) unless you use a water softener.
4. Savings On Household Cleaners And Personal Care Products. Cleaning products — whether for your home or for yourself — just won’t lather up as they should in hard water. Detergents, cleansers, shampoos, and soaps all work much better in soft water, and you’ll need smaller amounts as a result. You will also be able to stop purchasing pricey cleaners specifically designed to cut through mineral scale.
5. Reduced Wear On Your Clothes. Laundering in water full of limescale can make nice new clothes appear old very fast. After water softener installation, your clothing, bed linens, and towels will come out of the wash brighter and less “beat up” looking.
6. Water Softeners Save You Time. Time is money, and anyway, who wants to spend their time scrubbing away at scummy scaly hard water deposits on shower doors, sinks, faucets, coffee machines, etc., etc., etc.? No one ever, that’s who. Water softener installation will save you a lot of time that you used to spend cleaning. That leaves you with more precious hours to enjoy the essential things in your life.
7. Your Skin And Hair Will Look — And Feel — So Much Better. Wow! You and those around you are sure to be impressed. Your skin and hair will look fresher and glossier and feel so much softer when you cleanse with softened water. So you and your family members can stop overspending on expensive personal care products — without tangible results.
Now you’ve got a simple solution which will improve your appearance, make a great impression at work, and give your self-esteem a welcome boost.
Water Softener vs. Water Filter
Although they sound similar, don’t confuse these two terms! A water filter system is any purification device designed to remove contaminants from your water supply. These contaminants could be minerals, bacteria, chlorine, and many more.
On the other hand, a water softener is a specific type of water filter, which handles dissolved minerals only.
How Long Do Water Softeners Last?
On average, water softeners have a lifespan of 10-20 years. Your softener will last longer if you choose a high-quality model and perform some routine maintenance steps, namely:
- Replace the salt regenerant according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Wait until the tank is only one-third full. Leave about 10-15 centimetres of empty space.
- Remove “salt bridges” (undissolved crusts of salt).
- Change the filter regularly.
- Adjust the setting precisely. Too low a setting will not soften your water correctly; too high will wear out your water softener faster.
How Much Do Water Softeners Cost?
The cost of water softeners can vary widely depending on factors such as brand, capacity, features, and installation expenses. Basic water softeners might start around a few hundred dollars, while more advanced models with higher capacity and efficiency can cost over a thousand dollars.
Additionally, installation costs can be a significant factor, as professional installation ensures proper setup and functionality. The pros at Dr. HVAC can help educate and compare options to find a water softener that meets your needs and budget.
How Often Should a Water Softener Regenerate?
Water softeners need to go through a regeneration cycle to recharge the resin beads that remove the hardness minerals. The frequency of regeneration depends on factors like water hardness, water usage, and the capacity of the softener.
Typically, regeneration occurs every few days, with some models having sensors that trigger the process based on actual water usage. It’s important to find the right balance; regenerating too often can waste water and salt, while regenerating too infrequently can lead to hard water issues.
Consulting the manufacturer’s guidelines or seeking professional advice from Dr. HVAC can help determine the optimal regeneration schedule for your specific situation.
Are You Ready For A Water Softener?
Do you recognize your home in this description of hard water problems? If so, talk to Dr. HVAC about water softener installation. You’ll love the difference softer water makes — and the money it will save you!
We carry a wide variety of water softener solutions to treat a single source or your entire home.