If you live in Phoenix, Arizona, you’ve likely been told that you should have a water softener system in your home. In fact, about 1 out of 4 homes have water softener systems in the Phoenix area. So what do water softeners do? A water softener does just what it sounds like, it softens water. To understand what that means, first you’ll need to understand what hard water is and why so many people want to soften it.
Hard water is water that has a high concentration of minerals. While water is in the ground it picks up soluble bits of whatever it passes through. This could also include contaminates but is usually just minerals from the earth. Of the minerals that water picks up, the ones to be concerned about are calcium and magnesium as they affect the ability of water to function in our homes and are what cause water to be “hard”.
One of the more annoying effects of hard water is that it causes soaps and detergents to lose some effectiveness. Normally soap would dissolve completely but with hard water it combines with the minerals and forms a coagulated soap curd. This results in needing to use more soap while the sticky insoluble curd hangs around, clinging to skin, shower walls, hair, etc.
Hard water can also have a negative effect on your laundry. While washing your laundry with hard water, the aforementioned soap curds can work their way into your clothing, causing dirt to be trapped in the fibers. This can roughen the fabric and cause it to feel stiff.
Not only does hard water affect the washing process but the insoluble soap deposits leave spots on everything you wash while also leaving a soap film that builds up on your bath and shower.
Lastly, one of the more costly effects of hard water is what it can do to your plumbing system. As calcium and magnesium deposits build up in pipes, it reduces the flow of water to taps and appliances. This build up in the pipes can also cause serious problems with water heaters, causing them to lose efficiency and reduce the life of the heater.
The basic answer behind what a water softener does and how it works is that it removes the calcium, magnesium and other contaminates out of your water.
Most water softeners are simply a mechanical appliance in your home that is connected to your water supply system. They work by replacing the unwanted minerals in your water with something else, usually sodium. This process is called ion exchange. The result: softer water.
So why do so many homes in Phoenix use water softeners? Well, that’s because hard water is much more common in desert areas. Phoenix is actually one of the top 5 metropolises in the U.S. with the hardest water. That’s why water softeners are so common in the Phoenix area and why you’ve likely been told you should use one.
The next question you may be asking is, do I really need a water softener? Many people argue that the benefits of softer water don’t outweigh the high costs of a water softener while others argue the opposite. To help you make an educated decision and better understand the pros and cons of installing a water softener, we will discuss the benefits and disadvantages of a water softener in our next article.
As explained in more detail in our previous article, a water softener works by removing contaminates and minerals from your water. As water passes through the ground it picks up different minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium which cause your water to be “hard”. Hard water can cause problems with your plumbing, reduce the lifetime of your appliances, cause skin irritations and make it harder to clean.
In dry areas, such as Phoenix, Arizona, the tap water is usually much harder than in other areas. This is why water softeners are so common in the Phoenix area. The question, though, is whether they’re really worth it and what are the disadvantages to installing one. First, we will review the benefits of water softeners and then discuss the disadvantages.
While most of the disadvantages involve salt-based water softeners, they are the most commonly used. There are, however, some that are not salt-based and would eliminate many of the disadvantages, other than cost.
In fact, Arizona State University completed a study in 2011 and discovered the most promising technology for softening water without salt is the template assisted crystallization process. It tested four types of water softener not using salt: capacitive deionization, electrically induced precipitation, template assisted crystallization, and electromagnetic water treatment.
Another route you can take to reduce the harm caused by a water softener, should you choose to install one, would be to only attach the unit to your hot water line. This would allow you to take advantage of the benefits of softer water when cleaning, while reducing the negative impact it has.
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