How do you know whether or not you need a water softener? What does a water softener even do? Can you get by without one?
Maybe you’re a first-time homebuyer and you’re unsure about all of the things you’ll need (or won’t need) to settle into your home. Maybe you just moved to one of the many areas in the United States, like the American Southwest, wherethere are severe hard water issues. Or maybe all of your neighbors have a water softener and you’re not sure what the fuss is all about (and, in that case, you’re probably also wondering why you have a bunch of limescale forming around your sink).
In this article, we’ll go through some easy ways to check whether or not you need a water softener. It won’t take fifteen minutes, and by the end of it, if you still couldn’t figure out if you have hard water, you’ll have actionable first steps to take. At most, it’ll probably cost you around $15 to be 100% sure you have hard water, and you’ll accomplish it in an afternoon.
Method 1: Check Your Appliances and Sinks for Signs of Hard Water
What are the signs you need a water softener?
Hard water is water that’s loaded with magnesium and calcium. It leaves a white mineral residue on glasses, and it builds up on appliances and sinks, diminishing their effectiveness and lifespans.
Some common signs of hard water include:
Mineral deposits on glasses after they’ve dried (or after they come out of the dishwasher).
A filmy feeling on your hands after you wash them. Hard water is called hard water because it makes washing “hard.” With that said…
Your laundry is dull, grimy, and possibly has spots on it. This is probably the worst culprit, since you don’t want to be walking around smelling like you haven’t washed your clothes in a month.
A low-flow on your sinks and shower. Limescale build-up in your pipes can keep your water pressure from flowing strong.
Limescale build-up on your sinks, appliances, and pipes. It looks like this:
If you don’t have any of those problems, there’s a chance that you don’t have hard water. Keep in mind, though, that if you just installed new sinks and appliances, they haven’t had the time to build up a significant amount of limescale yet -- and you don’t want to get to that point before you deal with it. It’s better to be proactive rather than reactive.
Method 2: Check Your Consumer Confidence Report
Every year by July 1st, your public water supplier sends you a report on your water quality. If you just moved into your new home, then you’ve probably never received one of these reports, or maybe you’ve just ignored them.
Luckily, you can quickly and easily access your Consumer Confidence Report online. This way, you can have a better idea of the contaminants present in your water supply -- and those aren’t just limited to the magnesium and calcium in hard water.
For example, if you find that your public water supplier uses a lot of chloramines, an increasingly popular disinfectant, you might want to look into acatalytic carbon specifically made for chloramine removal.
Furthermore, you might find that there are plenty of dissolved gases in your water, giving it a slight rotten egg odor that won’t be cured by reverse osmosis, and you’ll need to look into a different filter.
Finally, you might find that your public water supplier doesn’t say anything about magnesium and calcium but you still have hard water issues. How can you be 100% sure that you have (or don’t have) hard water?
Simple: Buy a testing strip online, or go to a local department store.
Method 3: Hard Water Testing Strips
If you search on Amazon for hard water testing strips, you can quickly and easily find a $15 kit that allows you to test for hard water. The instructions are simple:
Dip a strip into water for 4-5 seconds.
Wait 45 seconds.
Compare the results with the chart on the box.
That’s it. You can repeat the process at different water points throughout your home and you can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that you have hard water.
Is a Water Softener Worth It? Why Use a Water Softener?
In short, it’s totally worth it. As a company that sells water softeners, we’ll admit we’re a little biased. Regardless, here are the numbers, courtesy ofWater Quality Products:
The average water softener can save as much as 30% in energy expenses, adding up to around $3k per year. According to theDepartment of Energy, heating water accounts for 15-20% of your total energy bill.
It saves up to 35% on detergent, since you won’t have to use more detergent to offset the hard water. “For every grain of water hardness, detergent use increases 2% to 4% per 1,000 gal of water used.” Over time, this number will easily exceed the cost of a water softener.
Most importantly, besides the immediate savings in energy and detergent expenses, you’ll increase the lifespan of your appliances.
Appliances don’t function well when there’s significant limescale build-up.Some estimates claim that water softeners will extend the life of your appliances by as much as double.
Here are a few more studies from theWater Quality Association going in-depth on the cost savings of your appliances with a water softener vs. without.
Conclusion: Do I Need a Water Softener?
There are three principal methods you can use to determine whether you need a water softener: check your home for signs of hard water (filmy hands after washing, limescale buildup around faucets, mineral stains on glasses), access your Consumer Confidence Report (which will also tell you about other contaminants), and buy a hard water testing strip.
If you find that you have hard water, though, can you get away without a water softener? Maybe, for a couple years, but unless you’re prone to throwing money down the drain on expensive maintenance visits and other appliances, as well as the ugly limescale build-up that occurs virtually everywhere water touches, you wouldn’t want to.
If you want to purchase a system that gets rid of limescale build-up, is easy to install, and is backed up by a lifetime warranty, don’t hesitate to check outFilterSmart systems.
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