Water softening is something I only recommend when it seems an absolute necessity … I do offer water softeners and scale reducing equipment. Unlike traditional water softener sales people I do not believe that softening is critical at low levels of hardness. In fact, I like hard water. Hardness consists of calcium and magnesium and generally results in an off white colored build up on fixtures or spotting on glass.
Traditionally water with a hardness of 5 grains would lead to a recommendation of softening. My threshold is 15 grains. At that level or higher I don’t think you have any choice but to manage water hardness because it will be damaging.
Water softeners use salt, either sodium or potassium chloride, to cleanse a resin bead media. The resin attracts calcium ions and releases sodium into your water. A backwash then cleanses the resin replacing the calcium with more sodium and washing the calcium and the chloride down the drain. Water softeners will also remove magnesium, iron, and manganese at very low levels. I do not use water softeners to treat iron.
Many people buy the wrong water softener and are then disappointed with the results. You have to match the capacity of the softener to the hardness of your water. You may request my short paper on this topic here: How to Buy the Right Water Softener.
There is both consumer and environmental pressure to move away from water softeners to systems which don’t use salt. I’ve tried a number of these and found that most don’t work. But a review of a study by ASU that compared various systems led me to start selling the Scalenet system by Watts Water. The technology is proprietary so I don’t at this time know exactly how it works but the basic idea is this: the calcium is not removed but somehow modified so that it is less likely to stick on fixtures and more readily removed by cleaning. The system is very low maintenance with media being replaced every three years. Of course this depends on water use and is only an estimate.
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