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To explain why water softeners are beneficial and how they work, it helps to understand the differences between hard and soft water. You also should be certain that the water your using meets all health regulations and is deemed safe.
Hard water is saturated with large amounts of calcium and magnesium, these two minerals cause the dry skin feeling, sludge build-up and lime residue on bathroom fixtures. While suitable for drinking and gardening, hard water will cause mineral build-up in water heaters, some water pipes, dishwashers and showerheads, in some cases restricting the flow. Your soap and shampoo’s ability to lather is reduced, and laundry becomes stiffer and duller in appearance.
Water hardness is measured with five different classifications and can be expressed in mg/litre or parts per million (ppm) or grains per gallon (gpg):
A water softener uses a medium that serves to exchange "ions" of calcium and magnesium with sodium and potassium.
This occurs in four steps:
Automatic water softeners are usually programmed to recharge at specific times that will not disrupt the occupants. It is more water-efficient to have a metered model that will regenerate only when required.
A water softener reduces water hardness, making it easier to shower and clean fabrics and dishes. With softened water, less soap is needed for bathing and laundry. Skin feels cleaner and clothing softer.
Pipes, fixtures and appliances have less scale build-up. With less build-up, appliances can operate efficiently. Fewer deposit stains on bathroom fixtures.
Water softeners come in four different types— offsite, manual, semi-automatic and automatic.Offsite— the portable exchange unit does not regenerate at your home, a company replaces the cylinder. Manual requires manual operation to perform backwashing, brining and rinsing. Semi-automatic;— all functions are controlled automatically, with the exception of regeneration. Automatic— all functions are performed automatically, and in some cases electRodically, including regeneration.
This last type of softener can be controlled by the following systems:
Time-clock— regenerates on a pre-set schedule.
Water meter— regenerates based on volume of water; has two units so one can recharge while other is operating.
Hardness sensor— monitors the hardness of the water and activates regeneration when necessary via a sensor. This system is most costly to buy but will use less water and salt.
Water softeners are installed where the water line enters the home. Always best to use a professional installer to carry out the installation. A separate cold line will be required for drinking and cooking purposes if you prefer to not consume softened water. In most cases, you would get more salt from a can of coke than you would from a glass off softened water.
The price of water softeners varies according to the type and sophistication of the system. Automatic softeners are the most expensive, selling for around $900 and up, on average. Some of the most popular units retail for $1800. Installation fees are extra, averaging about $450 and up per unit.
Did you know that for 2006, water in south Calgary has been averaged 15.2 grains hardness per gallon, while water in north Calgary has averaged 11.5 grains hardness per gallon? This means that you should check to make sure your water softener is set to soften as per the hardness of your water. A little softener optimization will save you money on salt and water.