How Can You Save Money on Your Water Softener?
by Carl Jensen
Plumber, Welder, Contractor
> 2 min read
Materials such as calcium carbonate and magnesium are often present in water, making it hard. Hard water makes it difficult to wash clothes, dishes, and even your hair because it inhibits soap lather creation. This not only makes cleaning difficult, but it also deposits a layer of soap scum. Mineral deposits can lead to irritable skin and scalp, as well as damage home appliances.
A water softener is an appliance that combats hardness in the water supply of your home. It does this by neutralizing the minerals in a process called ion exchange. There are several types of softeners at a variety of price points. Here’s a look at how you can save money on your water softener.
HERE ARE OTHER QUESTIONS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE ABOUT WATER:
How to Save Money on Your Water Softener
Determine Your Water Softener Needs
The majority of households in the U.S. are supplied by hard water, meaning there’s a strong likelihood that your home has a hard water supply. However, if you’re among the 10% to 15% of households with soft water, you don’t need a water softener to treat it.
Although many people prefer soft water due to the lack of mineral deposits and corrosiveness, hard water isn’t necessarily bad. It contains healthy minerals that can help you reach your recommended daily amount.
For more pleasant cleaning experiences and reduced wear and tear on your home appliances, investing in a water softener is generally the best approach. If you’re unsure as to whether your home water supply is hard, here are some signs to look out for:
- Your drinking water has a foul taste (e.g., a metallic, rotten egg, or salty taste).
- You can see sediment in the water.
- Brown or reddish staining in the sink, shower, bathtub, or toilet.
- You notice soap scum when you wash and clean.
- There are mineral deposits on your hair, skin, and scalp after showering.
- Your showerhead gets clogged from minerals.
- Clogged pipes from scale deposits.
- Clothes are damaged during washing.
- Home appliances that use water are wearing out quickly.
Some water sources contain other unwanted substances such as sediment, bacteria, and dirt. Depending on the softener, it may not be capable of filtering these contaminants. Analyze your water, test it, and determine exactly what you need from your softener. Home test kits are available; you can also consult the U.S. Geological Survey Water Hardness Map or your local water company and request the latest test findings.
Choose the Right Type of Water Softener
There are several different types of water softeners, and choosing the right one is the best way to save money on a water softener.
The most common type is the salt-based (ion exchange) water softener. If you are looking for long-term savings and willing to do some upkeep, this is the water softener for you.
Salt-based systems use resin beads to replace calcium and magnesium from your water with sodium ions. Once the resin runs out, you can use salt to regenerate it. This regeneration generally needs to take place every week.
This type of device removes the hard water materials effectively. The resin is long-lasting and is inexpensive to replace once it’s completely gone. This makes it an ideal choice for households that want long-term savings.
Salt-free water softeners don’t remove hard minerals through ion exchange. Instead, they alter their state, stopping them from bonding with other substances in the water supply. This prevents the minerals from building up and depositing on your body or appliances. These softeners also remove certain other bacteria and chemicals from the water.
Salt-free systems don’t require regular upkeep or salt additions, meaning you can save money on weekly salt costs. However, they are typically more costly to purchase upfront.
Portable water softeners are some of the most cost-effective systems due to their size. They don’t need electricity to run, making them ideal for RVs. The main drawback of these devices is that they don’t have the necessary water flow to service an entire home. However, they can treat enough water for a single bathroom or for multiple people to drink.
Reverse osmosis systems aren’t technically water softeners; however, they remove most water contaminants, including the minerals that cause hard water. Due to the filtration process, these systems can be expensive to buy and install.
A relatively new and affordable type of device is a magnetic water softener. In a similar way to salt-free softeners, these devices alter the minerals rather than remove them. However, they use a magnetic field during the process. Although these provide a good opportunity to save money on a water softener, they generally use electricity to run, which can increase your utility bills.
"Salt-based systems use resin beads to replace calcium and magnesium from your water with sodium ions."
Pick the Optimal Size and Capacity
Choosing the right size and capacity of water softener is an essential way to save money.
Find out how much water you use as a household and establish the water flow rate in your home. Use a water-use meter or an online calculator to work out the usage. The flow rate can be found using a store-bought meter.
You also need to determine the number of hard materials present in your water. You can find out how many grains of hardness there are by using a soap test kit. You can also find out the hardness level in parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg/L) using a paper strip test that you dip into the water and compare the color change to a chart.
Once you have established the water output, flow rate, and hardness, you can determine exactly what size and capacity of water softener you need, allowing you to get the best value for money. If you want to know how to test the hardness of your water, check out our instructional guide on the process here.
Look for Quality Certification
Many water softeners come with a certification of quality, such as an NSF International or an American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These certifications are not only important in securing a safe product, but they are also crucial in ensuring you get value for money.
The independent quality certifiers determine whether or not a water softener meets its standards. A product that doesn’t come with such a certification may require repairs and replacements, costing you in the long-term.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to water softeners, costs tend to vary a lot. Depending on your home’s size, water system, water usage, and water hardness level, you may use a specific size or type of softener.
To get the best value for money, opt for an ion exchange or magnetic water softener. Next, do your research and pick a device that will run efficiently without the need for expensive repairs and maintenance.
About the Author
Carl Jensen is a plumber with over 50 years of experience in the industry, as well as related jobs like underwater welding. He runs a successful plumbing practice in Tampa, Florida, and contributes his plumbing expertise to our DIY articles, and helps to fact check and consult on most of our other stuff to boot.