Best Water Softener Systems
Are you thinking on installing a water softener system at home today? If you’re tired of hard water problems like us, then I suggest you keep on reading as we have all the information you need to buy the right water softening device and help improve your existing water situation…
“Water is life. And clean water means health…”
- Audrey Hepburn
The importance of water in our lives is unquestionable. And as the passage suggest, we simply cannot live without it. Yet, the very same element that gives life does not necessarily bring us good always. For no matter how clear our water looks, there are always ‘hard’ minerals and microscopic imperfections that thrive in it which negatively affects our healthy way of living. Impurities are always present in raw water. And these impurities can only be removed after installing an efficient water softener system at home today.
Over the years, a lot of people have become aware about the negative effects of hard water in our homes. And because of this, the demand for water softeners and other filtration devices has switched from obscure luxury to mainstream necessity. Water softener has turned into a conventional home appliance that 8 out of 10 homes in the United States have already installed it! And most likely you are one of those people who are itching to install a softening system in your residence soon.
Yes you are an eager customer, but the fact still remains: buying a water softener is not an easy decision to make because you are going to invest on something big. Yes you may have a bit of an idea of how water softening works, and probably you have also heard about the benefits of treated water. However, certain questions still lingers in your mind like “What system to be used in treating my house water?”, “Which brand to consider?”, “Which is the best choice?”, and etc. and it’s no secret that you came here in search for answers… And such answers are we so willingly give for free!
Was I able to spark your interest even more..?
TAKING AN IN-DEPTH LOOK ON WATER SOFTENERS AND HOW IT WORKS
Perhaps by now you know how water softening method works. Sure the idea is to let hard water pass through the water softener system and soft water will come out after, that’s it. But to really understand why it’s essential to soften water, let’s take a look into the root cause of the problem: HARD WATER.
So how can you determine if you have hard water at home? One of the best indicators is to look at your shower head. If you see rough mineral formations (commonly known as “soap scum”) around the holes where the water comes out, then hard water is being supplied in your area. The same buildups can also be seen on your drains as well as other chromed fixtures in the bathroom and even kitchen appliances that uses water. Other than that, another way of identifying hard water is to check on your soap’s ability to produce soap bubbles. If the foam is not as lathery as expected, then you’re definitely dealing with a hard water problem at home.
And here are the other known effects of hard water at home before installing a water softener system:
- Pipe issues – Hard water scum has the tendency to build up in pipes the same way as cholesterol blocks our arteries. And you know what happens when you’re arteries are completely blocked – cardiac arrest! Well, it may not be the same when hard water minerals have blocked your water pipes entirely. But it will surely give you a heart attack once you see the bills coming in due to the frequent plumbing repairs you have to make.
- Damaged clothes and garments – Have you experienced wearing something that’s stiff and ‘crusty’? Well that’s what you get after washing your clothes with hard water. This ruins the quality of your garments. And without a doubt this will make you buy new clothes more often than the usual.
- Reducing the lifespan of your appliances – According to experts, dishwashers and washing machines using hard water are more prone to being damaged compared to appliances that wash with soft water. So if you don’t deal with that hard water problem now, you’re probably looking at replacing your washers sooner than you think.
With all these things in mind, do you still want to continue using hard water at home..?
Now that we have established the possible damages caused by hard water, let’s try to understand what a water softener device is and how the process of water softening really works.
The softening procedure being employed will actually depend on the water softener system being used. The most common of which is by replacing the hard minerals with salt-based ions. In this method, the tap water will enter a brine tank filled with rows of charged sodium ions. And once the hard minerals will come into contact with the resin bed, the sodium ions will switch places with the calcium and magnesium minerals in water to make it soft. This process of softening hard water is called “Ion Exchange”.
If you ever wonder why salt-based agents are often used in softening water, it’s because most experts agree that sodium ions is the most effective in battling hard water problems. By far, salt-based water softeners are the most popular devices in the market today as they are known to get rid of water hardness for up to 100% at a time. However, the use of excessive salt is also linked to certain diseases. So for health conscious people, they are given to option to use potassium regenerants instead of sodium ions in treating hard water at homes or install other softening devices as an alternative to treat hard water.
Other than that, hard water can also be treated without the help of salt-based agents. This can be done through the “salt-less” technology being used by recent water softener models. This time however, the procedure is more complex as it involves alteration of the H2O’s atomic structure to decrease the hardness factor and remove existing scale buildup in pipes.
Although an emerging trend nowadays, salt-less/salt-free softening systems are not as effective as salt-based water softeners. Therefore, we can only recommend this if your water at home is not really that hard. Don’t worry because we are going to provide you instructions on how to test the hardness in tap water in the next succeeding sections of this article.
In addition to this, there are devices that utilize unconventional (and sometimes, controversial) means of softening water and these are called magnetic water softeners. In this system, a magnetic field is produced by placing coiled wires directly into your water pipes to ‘paralyze’ the flow of hard minerals resulting into soft water. The thing about magnetic softeners is although they are significantly cheap compared to conventional softening devices, they are still not as effective in producing soft water on a regular basis.
Please refer to the table below to compare the pros and cons of the different water softeners being mentioned here:
WHAT ABOUT REVERSE OSMOSIS SYSTEMS (ROS)?
Another device that is commonly sold in the market is the Reverse Osmosis System. Basically, the logic behind the water purification process of this device lies in the idea that tap or untreated water is pushed into a very small valve (semi-permeable membrane) to filter out impurities (or at least, most of it) and ensure that only water will pass through. In reality, reverse osmosis has already been used long before water softeners became popular. And without a doubt, it is also very efficient in cleaning raw water according to its many users.
WATER SOFTENING OR WATER CONDITIONING, WHICH IS BETTER?
Some of us are led to believe that water softeners and water conditioners are the same devices because they appear to treat water the same way. However, if go back to the definition of how to they actually “purify” water, you can say that they function differently from one another.
In actuality, a water softener system removes hard minerals to enhance the quality of water in a particular area or residence and therefore resulting to these benefits:
- Reduces scaling and soap scum being eliminated because the hard minerals are removed
- Improve the quality of soap’s lather
- Moisturizes skin
- Longevity of clothes increased up to 15%
… While a water conditioner treats water to get rid of scaling and improve the water’s taste which will only give you these benefits:
- Reduces scaling W/O the removal of hard minerals in water
- Improves the taste of the water after treatment
And for that reason, we cannot really classify water conditioners as softening devices because technically they don’t produce soft water at all.
TESTING WATER HARDNESS TO HELP YOU DECIDE WHICH WATER SOFTENER SYSTEM TO BUY
Buying a water softener is a big investment. Therefore, you have to make sure that what you buy will really solve your hard water issues. And so in this section, we are going to provide some tips on how test your water to determine its hardness factor:
1. Water hardness test kit – This is the most common and effective way of testing your water at home. A typical test kit will comprise of test tablets or test strips and a color indicator chart. The process of testing is very straightforward. All you need to do is to get a sample of your tap water and dip the test kit or drop the tablet and wait until it changes in color. Wait for a few minutes then compare the resulting color to the indicator chart being provided. This will tell you how hard your water is and as a result will help you decide which water softening device you are going to buy.
Water hardness test kits are available at your local hardware. You can also get it from any water testing companies and plumbing service companies near you.
2. Soap test – If you are more of a DIY person, there is also an inexpensive way of testing your tap water by means of soap test. This method of testing is also very simple to do and the materials that you need can be found inside your kitchen. What you need are the following: An empty 12oz. clear plastic bottle and a bottle of your favorite dishwashing liquid. And here are the step by step instructions on how to do the soap test:
I. Fill the empty bottle with a sample of tap water. About 6oz. will do so you can still have room for the soap bubbles to rise.
II. Dip about 10 drops of the dishwashing liquid and shake it vigorously until the empty space of the bottle will be filled with soap bubbles.
III. Check the bubbles and determine how thick it is. The thickness of the soap bubbles will indicate the hardness factor of your tap water and measure the hardness is grains per gallon (GPG).
- 10 drops of soap needed to produce thick bubbles means that your water hardness is at 0 to 1 GPG (your tap water is not hard but rather very soft)
- 20 drops of soap needed to produce thick bubbles means that your water hardness is at 1 to 3.5 GPG (your tap water is a little hard)
- 30 drops of soap needed to produce thick bubbles means that your water hardness is at 3.5 to 7 GPG (your tap water is moderately hard)
- 40 drops of soap needed to produce thick bubbles means that your water hardness is at 7 to 10.5 GPG (your tap water is hard)
- 50 drops of soap needed to produce thick bubbles means that your water hardness is at 10.5 ++ GPG (your tap water is very hard)
- 60 drops or more of soap needed to produce thick bubbles means that you have a serious hard water problem and you need to have a water softener system installed soon to have it fixed.
One thing to remember though, doing the soap test will not give you accurate results but only an educated guess. Meaning, it will only provide you an estimate on the hardness factor of the water you are using. Hence, we still recommend that you get a water hardness test kit when you can so you can purchase the right water softener for your home.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO WATER SOFTENER INSTALLATION
After choosing the right water softener, the next thing you are going to deal with is the installation. Now, installing the device can be easily handled by experts if you have the money. But if you think you can do it on your own and avoid spending extra money in the process, then here are some do-it-yourself instructions on installing your water softening device:
1. Prepare the things you need for the installation – Secure the tools you need first. A typical water installation process will usually require these items: Your water softener system along with its service manual, regenerant agent (if needed), funnel, sand paper, duct tape, gravel, drain, lubricant, clamps, screwdrivers, and flexible tubing. It will also help to remember the local plumber’s number if there are some issues with the installation process.
3. Turn off the main switch of your water supply – This is to ensure that water will stop from flowing into your pipes. Make sure that the all the faucets are drained and unplug your heater just to be safe.
4. Decide on where to put your water softener – Look for an open area near a drain. This is the ideal place to install your softening device. Also, make sure that the floor will be always dry to avoid damaging the exterior shell of the device in the long run.
5. Locate the portion where the distributor pipe should be inserted – Once the device is in place, you need to do this. Then, open the tank and place the screen intake. Make sure you push it below so that it will be situated at the center bottom of the tank.
6. Use the duct tape to secure the tubings – This is to ensure that the tubings are tightly sealed to prevent the resin beads from mixing with the water. Securing this area is essential to make sure that the device will produce quality soft water all the time.
7. Add gravel into the tank – This step is done so that the screen intake will be secured in place once the water passes through the tank.
8. Fix the top basket of the tank to the valve control - Use a lubricant to grease the ‘O’ ring. This part should be attached to the top portion of the tank. The hole of the valve must fit perfectly to the distributor tube. Once the tube and the valve are connected, tighten it by it turning it in a clockwise motion.
9. Connecting the bypass valve to the main control – Locate the arrows and use it to align the valves properly. Use your clamp and screwdriver to secure the areas needed to be tightened.
10. Fix the water connection of the water softener system to the bypass valve – Then get a 3/8” size plastic tubing and direct it to the area where the drain is located. This is where the waste water will come out every time the device will perform a softening treatment process.
11. Fill the tank with water and softener salt – For this step, make sure the tank is partially filled with H2O to make some room for the softener salt. See to it that the amount of water and salt is perfectly balanced just enough to fill the tank with 4-6” to spare on top. You can adjust the content, but make it a point that there’s more water (about 4 gallons will do) in the tank and the salt is only about 25% of the size of the tank. Don’t fill it all the way otherwise the device won’t treat hard water efficiently.
12. Check if the device is working properly by performing the first cycle of water softening – Once the device is all set, it’s time for you to do the initial service cycle. First, set the water softener system to the backwash cycle and fix the bypass valve into position. Turn on the main switch in your home’s water supply as you simultaneously switch the supply valve of the device. Open the valve about 1/4 of the way to allow the air to pass through the tubings all the way to the drain.
13. Slowly increase the opening of the supply valve until the water continuously flowing – Allow the air to pass entirely to prevent intermittent flow. Doing this is simple thing will also ensure you that the product will function correctly the moment you are going to use it. You can open valve all the way once you notice that water is flowing steadily into the tubings.
WATER SOFTENER BRAND COMPARISON
Brands also play a crucial role in choosing a product to purchase. In fact, if a brand is patronized by many customers, this will also give you an idea that the quality of this product is good and therefore will worth every penny that you spend. So what are the best brands to consider in choosing a water softener system?
But this doesn’t mean that you’ll only focus your eyes on Fleck water softeners alone because like we said there are a lot of great water softener brands out there. And some of these brands of softeners worth mentioning are GE, Morton, and Kinetico.