Health and Environmental Benefits of a Water Softener
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been curious about water softeners for a number of years.
In the 20+ years we’ve lived here, we’ve replaced half a dozen kettles, four immersion tank heating elements and we’ve got through our fair share of water filters too.
Our saucepans and taps have limescale on them and a humidifier I bought for the bedroom is just about hanging onto life because the electrodes are becoming corroded.
I’ve never found a truly ‘natural’ laundry product that really works effectively. Soapnuts just sit there and look at me. Eco balls do absolutely nothing. When I get out of the bath my skin usually feels tight, even if I’ve only used water on it.
It’s safe to say we have incredibly hard water here at Chez Green.
I’ve personally had many questions about running costs of water softeners, environmental benefit and potability for drinking, so when I heard that the team at Ultra Soft Water Softeners have an aim “to demystify the world of water filtration for domestic customers”, I knew I had to speak with them!
Here’s what they had to say:
Please tell us a little bit about yourselves
At Ultra Soft Water Softeners we specialise in the supply of high quality Water Softening, Water Treatment and Water Filtration products to the UK market. Established in the South East, Kent – we are all too familiar with the issues that can arise from being a naturally hard water area, from both a domestic and commercial perspective.
Sum up your mission in one sentence
Our mission is to empower the customer with the products and knowledge they need to make an informed purchase, through an abundance of product information, help guides and video’s.
For those who have never heard of one before, what is a water softener?
A water softener removes hardness molecules like calcium and magnesium that are responsible for forming lime scale from your water. Using a process called ion exchange to give you soft water. They are usually installed at the point at which water enters the property, just after the stop cock if possible. Water softeners are usually small and compact so can installed under the kitchen sink.
Sounds great. For the technically minded, how does it work?
Water softeners employ a technology called ‘ion’ exchange to remove hardness forming molecules from your water. The ion exchange process uses negatively charged resin beads (in the form of a resin bed) to attract the positively charged ‘hardness’ molecules and exchange them for Sodium. The molecules removed from your water include Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) and Magnesium (Mg) which are replaced with Sodium Chloride (or Salt) molecules.
What are the benefits for me and the environment?
Skin and hair feels and looks visibly softer
Great for eczema sufferers as softened water is gentle on the skin (Calcium and Magnesium are known skin irritants)
Use 50-75% less detergent and soaps during cleaning
No need to use dishwasher salt, limescale remover or fabric conditioner
Softener discharge is nutrient rich in calcium and magnesium **
**”The EPA has said that softener discharge is not harmful to septic systems and may actually be beneficial to the soil. “Soil structure in the soil absorption field is positively affected by the calcium and magnesium ions in water softener effluent.””
Is it safe to drink?
Softened water is safe to drink if under 300ppm (parts per million) hardness beforehand, however it is not recommended for anyone extremely old, young or immunocompromised due to the increased levels of Sodium. If drinking water is a concern, then an RO (Reverse Osmosis) system can be added post-softener to remove the slightly higher Sodium content and provide bottle quality water from your tap. Alternatively you can keep a hard water line for drinking, which is what we recommend to customers who don’t wish to purchase and RO.
How do you know which size softener to buy?
Sizing your softener should be based on the number of people in your house and your water hardness. Our website breaks down sizing a softener by number of occupants, for example 1-6 occupants would mean the system is suitable for up to 6 people. All of our systems are specified according to an average water hardness level of 300PPM which is used to estimate the volume of water that can be processed prior to regeneration. If your water hardness is above 300PPM then you should over-size your softener to accommodate for the increased level of water hardness. If your hardness is below 300PPM then you will benefit from an increase in volume prior to regeneration.
How long can a softener last?
The resin in a water softener is designed to be used for up to 15 years depending on your water hardness and how well your softener is maintained. You need to keep it topped up with salt and we would recommend a plumber or local service company come and check it out every couple of years to ensure all moving parts are in good order. When the resin needs replacing you can either have this changed, or buy a new softener. Your softener will help keep other water using appliances scale free and prevent problems associated with lime scale.
Can you talk us through any financial benefit?
The average 4 person home saves £200 a year on their heating bill after installing a water softener (as just 1.6mm of limescale build up in your pipework leads to a 12% loss in heating efficiency).
Water softeners clear out existing limescale build up and deposits, working from within your water-based appliances (saving you money on maintenance and repair)
No need to use dishwasher salt, limescale remover or fabric conditioner when feeding appliances with softened water
Use up to 50% less soaps and detergents when washing, saving an average of £30 a month (including using 100% less dishwasher salt, limescale remover and fabric conditioner)
I learned a lot through speaking with the Ultra Soft team. I never knew, for example, that having softened water meant you no longer needed dishwasher salt or that you could save on your heating bill. And it’s great to know that you can keep a hard water line in for drinking, if you don’t want to ingest softened water.
What about you? Have you got a water softener at home? Would you consider one for its health and environmental benefits?