We have very hard (calcium mostly) water in our area. I know it caused issues with my recently replaced hot water heater, but besides the buildup I see on faucets am I doing more serious damage by not installing a water softener?
Yep been there done that. Spend the money for the water softner. In fact I just had to clean and replace some components in my fairly new water heater at a rental due to really bad hard water. I hate doing it, takes forever.
Before you buy anything, you need to do some research. First, surf the next and learn about water hardness what it is and how it is measured. Then you need to know how hard your water is. If you have municipal water the water department should be able to give you this information. If you are on a well, have the water tested for hardness. Finally, start looking for a softener and here it is a trade off. Bigger units with higher grain capacity (Able to soften more water) will recycle/recharge less but will cost more initially. Smaller units are cheaper but you will use more salt and water, as the units will need to recharge more often. Estimate the costs and pick the unit that seems to be the best value for you.
Water softeners in the US will set you back $500-1,000 if you pick them up at a home center or plumbing supply house. If you can do the plumbing yourself (not familiar with UK building codes) hooking up is not much more that the cost of adding the pipe needed to hook the softener between your water source and your hot water heater. You will also need to locate the unit close to a drain so the unit can dump the brine water when recharging. When you do this make sure you have an air brake so you don't allow a vacuum to form between the drain and your softener or you may suck some nasty stuff back into your water line (Anyone knowing the name of the fixture please jump in!). If you have outdoor taps, suggest they be located before the water reaches the softener, as flowers dont mind a little lime buildup. Finally, Id suggest adding a particulate water filter ($20-40 US) before the softener as Ive replaced softeners that looked like they were filled with mud.
A top-notch water filter is better than a water softener. Water hardness is detected by using a centrifuge to precipitate the minerals from the water; you can actually see dirt or minerals in the bottom of the test tube. A water softener arrests the minerals and replaces them with sodium (salt); which do you want in your water. A reverse osmosis water filter is the best but it is very wasteful, about 1/3 of the water passing through it is used to rinse away the dirt and minerals. There are several "good" water filtration units out there without spending a fortune; you simply change the cartridges at regular intervals. I would recommend a dual filter which has a particulate filter and an activated charcoal filter to rid the water of excess chlorine and most odors. There are whole house filters and smaller ones for local use such as the kitchen sink or the bathroom. Take your time and shop around, you'll want to keep it and use it for a long time (be sure to price the cartridges too).
I was in the buissnes of manufacturing comercial RO systems for a number of years. Most large ROs go through a prefilter then a softener to achieve greater product flow. One excelent site is done by a chemistry professor that gives information regarding softener systems vs magneticand or whole house systems. Every softener should go through a prefilter first. www.chem1.com/QC/ I found the info on this site very valuable
A filter WILL NOT prevent or slow down hard water deposits. Household reverse osmosis units only produce 12 to 20 US gallons of water a day, and are therefore impractical for a whole house system. You are correct, you want a water softener to reduce the hard water build-up in and on your appliances. If you are one of the 5% or so of the population that is sodium sensitive, a distiller, or reverse osmosis unit are both effective for removing sodium.
I've found that the money saved on soaps, shampoo's, etc , more than compinsate for the cost of the water softner system as well as maintenance costs for the system. You'll find yourself using much less.
If you are on a Municipal or City Water System, I would venture to say that its not Calcium, but Lime that is going through your lines.
Most Water Systems inject lime into the water to "coat" the pipes, because most systems have old "lead pipes" that have been in the system if they are over fifty years or older. So, they need to have these coated, so that there is no leaching off of lead, to create lead poisoning to families. Thus the lime in suspension.
A whole house water filter, either string or carbon filter will take out the lime that is in suspension, and save your pipes and faucets from harm. I know, I have two of them in line. One coming into the main after my water meter,and another one coming up for the main sink and ice maker.
You will find that in one month or less, the main one will be "yellow" with lime and "gunky", or slimy from the film it puts on the string filter. It will take out calcium also, in suspension.
String filters take out .05 microns and carbon takes out .02 microns, and if your Water System loads lime heavily, or you have a line break near your home, you will be replacing filters about every two weeks. (The filters come two to a pack for about 7 bucks in my area). I can get away with one change a month, usually, but, I have changed them as many times as three times a month, when I didnt know they were flushing firehydrants!
But, in the long run, its cheaper with a whole house water filter, than the other one... Filter is probably 40 bucks or less, and you have to remember to take the pressure off, when changing the filters, by opening a faucet after shutting off the entire house, or valve before the filter, so there is no pressure and the wrench is easier to take it off with...
I iron water and rent a softener but can't get the owner to come out. There is clear water coming out of the leach line and the water in the plumbing is becoming hard again. I assume the unit is dead. Any suggestions.
I had bad, bad, bad, water. There are a million water softeners/conditioners on the net. I heard about the bans on water softeners and also found out that sodium and filters can cost a fortune each time you need more. I did a little research and found a small company that sells a water conditioner that needs no maintenance or installation and NO FILTERS AND NO SODIUM. I paid a one time price and i'm stoked. The conditioner is called VWP and is made by Nilemark(swedish). You can e-mail the guy i bought it from at: email@example.com
They give you a money back trial but i didn need it. You feel and taste a difference in days. AND ITS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!!!
Maybe your water is not that hard. When my old water softener failed, the water became rusty (stains in shower, sinks, toilets) and you couldn't work up a lather or rinse off soap in the shower. Clothes did not come clean in the washing machine.
If you are happy with your water, maybe everything is OK.
Unless you do not use water that much...you need to get it serviced. The tubes may be clogged and you need to do some flushing out . When was your last water test? You need to get your water tested evry year for bacteria, and all the other things that change over time. The water is capable of anything...it does change. Someone building up stream of your aquifier can do wonders to your water quality.
My opinion is, have it tested and clean it out. You should be using apx 80 lbs every 3-4 months at the least.
Tell us how you make out.
I have a service man coming next week to inspect my softener, but I must say they have the worst pricing method I have heard of.
They charge you travel time (I'm quite rural) from their last stop, not from their shop. So one day I may be lucky enough to have him travel from my neighbours, and pay nothing. Another day he may charge me an hour in travel time for the same job. So how much does it cost? it depends on who else has a broken system that day
I called a few others and they either weren't interested in coming, or knew nothing about my unit.
The service man came and took a look at my water softener and determined the seals needed replaced. Water was not going thru the salt container, so it was not 'recharging' and thus, was just hard water.
fwiw, he mentioned a working softener should use about 6lbs of salt for each recharge. I have 2 recharges a week, so thats 12lbs of salt a week, far greater than my previous 0lbs.