Water softener

User Forum Topic
Submitted by kcal09 on May 3, 2014 - 10:22am

I am shopping for a water softener for my home (5 people, 3400 sqft). We have seen many different models and it is not easy to decided which model to choose. The prices are also vary considerably between around $1,000 (Whirlpool) to 4,000 (Kinetico).
I would like to get some feedback. Thank you!

Submitted by CA renter on May 4, 2014 - 1:12am.

Nothing to add because we're in the same boat as you, but wanted to bump this, too. :)

Submitted by zk on May 4, 2014 - 11:13pm.

We bought a Morton water softener from Walmart over 3 years ago for less than $450. Works great, no problems. I can't think of any reason to pay a lot more than that for a bigger name brand.

http://www.walmart.com/msharbor/ip/2216467

I really love having soft water and really wouldn't want to have to do without it.

Submitted by kcal09 on May 5, 2014 - 2:38pm.

Thank you! How about installation and maintenance? Can it be done without an installer?

Submitted by zk on May 5, 2014 - 5:36pm.

kcal09 wrote:
Thank you! How about installation and maintenance? Can it be done without an installer?

I had a plumber put mine in. I don't remember how much he charged me, but it was less than a hundred bucks. 50 or 75, I think. I have his number, if you want to pm me. He's a bit cranky, but he does good work and cheap.

He had to use a torch and stuff like that. I don't know plumbing, and he was cheap, so I had him do it. There also needs to be a place for the discharge water to go. I think most water softeners would be a similar installation, but I don't really know.

As far as maintenance, there really is none. If you buy the clean salt, anyway. It "refreshes" (or something like that) automatically.

Submitted by edna_mode on May 6, 2014 - 1:09pm.

Two thoughts:

1) Are you doing potassium or sodium? The potassium is predicted to be more expensive but is better for the environment.

2) Have you discussed with a plumber what effect this may have on your other metal surfaces of your plumbing? While this does prevent scaling and the annoying hard water stains on your countertops, I was advised by a good plumber who had experience with both installing and servicing systems with water softeners. He said the added soluble ions tend to increase the rate of corrosion of metal parts of things like water heaters, plumbing joints, appliances... This makes sense to me as a chemist -- you lose the "protective" layer of scaling that happens with some hardness in the water, and the increased ionic strength may increase the corrosiveness of the water for any cheap metal parts of your systems which may then spring leaks.

In the end I opted not to do water softening and just clean more often...

Submitted by edna_mode on May 6, 2014 - 1:09pm.

Two thoughts:

1) Are you doing potassium or sodium? The potassium is predicted to be more expensive but is better for the environment.

2) Have you discussed with a plumber what effect this may have on your other metal surfaces of your plumbing? While this does prevent scaling and the annoying hard water stains on your countertops, I was advised by a good plumber who had experience with both installing and servicing systems with water softeners. He said the added soluble ions tend to increase the rate of corrosion of metal parts of things like water heaters, plumbing joints, appliances... This makes sense to me as a chemist -- you lose the "protective" layer of scaling that happens with some hardness in the water, and the increased ionic strength may increase the corrosiveness of the water for any cheap metal parts of your systems which may then spring leaks.

In the end I opted not to do water softening and just clean more often...

Submitted by FlyerInHi on May 6, 2014 - 1:36pm.

Interesting, Edna. In Vegas, the water is very hard and almost everyone has a water softener.

I have a friend who switched to sodium from potassium because it's cheaper. The softener doesn't care.

As a chemist you probably know that they removed phosphorus from household detergent(to prevent algae blooms). I was sick of having dirty dishes so I did some research. Add some citric acid (Lemi shine) and/or add TSP Trisodium phosphate to the dishwasher detergent for spotless dishes.

Spray bathroom with lime away. That does the trick. No need for water softener.

Submitted by zk on May 6, 2014 - 4:00pm.

If you don't mind the extra cleaning, that definitely reduces your need for a water softener. But the thing I like the most about a water softener is that soft water is much easier on my skin. I don't like walking around with soap scum on me, which is uncomfortable and seems to dry my skin, especially on my face.

Submitted by kcal09 on May 10, 2014 - 9:09am.

I think I will try Lemi shine and see how it works. Thank you for your tip!

Submitted by UCGal on May 11, 2014 - 8:25am.

kcal09 wrote:
I think I will try Lemi shine and see how it works. Thank you for your tip!

I add 1/4 cup of vinegar to the dishwasher. (white vinegar, bought in bulk at Costco for dirt cheap). I add it AFTER the first rinse, right after the soap dispenser opens... (About 11 minutes in for our dishwasher.)

Jetdry didn't work... lemishine was more expensive. Vinegar works great for us.

I also use vinegar with a drop of soap and a few drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle for cleaning the kitchen counters and bathroom surfaces. Again - super cheap - antibacterial, anti fungal (because of the tea-tree oil), non-toxic.

Showing my age here- there used to be a newspaper column called "Hints for Heloise" - she suggested vinegar for cleaning back in the 60's.

Submitted by CA renter on May 11, 2014 - 5:12pm.

Totally right, UCGal. I use boiling hot water and vinegar for washing floors, too. Nothing works better.

Submitted by kcal09 on May 14, 2014 - 6:35pm.

I agree. Old fashion methods work the best!

Submitted by treehugger on May 15, 2014 - 11:17am.

Water softners are banned in many municipalities and becoming an even greater problem in the Southern Cal (not sure how other water districts regulate this, we have not been effective and are conducting more research and public outreach).
When the systems regenerate, they flush salty wastewater into the sewer system, which can end up in the waterways, rivers, and Ocean the by products (chlorides) are problematic). Many areas recycle the water. The extra salinity – much of it added by water softeners – causes problems. That means it may have to be treated at the wastewater plant(at taxpayer expense). Be aware that often, if you use salt system you can't water your yard and may need to install a by pass. Also elderly folks or people with medical conditions may want to avoid for health reasons.

In the water industry we are struggling with the issue. We build water treatment plants that reduce the natural hardness of the water, but people still like the "soft" water for their skin and hair and that is just not possible for us to achieve. Benefit of hard water is that it tastes better! Soft water does not taste good.

Vinegar is great for removing the hard water deposits and environmentally/pocket book friendly.

Submitted by zk on May 15, 2014 - 3:02pm.

You can easily install your water softener to serve only your house and not your sprinklers (that's how it's usually done), thus retaining the ability to water your yard.

It does add salt to your tap water, so an RO system to remove the salt is a good idea if you have a softener. Especially if you're on a salt-restricted diet. I think an RO system is a good idea whether you have a water softener or not. You don't need a whole-house RO system, just one at the kitchen sink works for us.

Submitted by FlyerInHi on May 16, 2014 - 1:55pm.

zk wrote:
But the thing I like the most about a water softener is that soft water is much easier on my skin. I don't like walking around with soap scum on me, which is uncomfortable and seems to dry my skin, especially on my face.

I have a water softener in my Vegas house (came with it)... and the water feels slick and slimy.

You're actually cleaner when you shower in hard water.
http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsw...

As was mentioned, water softeners are bad for the environment. There's lots of literature on that.

I find that cleaning the shower area with lime away and a good degreaser (from the auto section at Costco) is the easiest way. Soap scum is just oil/grease from the soap.

Vinegar cuts mineral residue but not grease.

I don't think vinegar should be used on granite/stone and wood. OK on ceramic/porcelain.

Did you notice that some people/cleaning services always use too much scouring power and they wear off the chrome and fiberglass surfaces. Thankful, I don't have fiberglass but I notice that a lot in hotels and in other people's houses.

Anyway, interesting chemistry stuff.

Submitted by zk on May 16, 2014 - 6:37pm.

FlyerInHi wrote:

You're actually cleaner when you shower in hard water.
http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsw...

Yeah, not buying it.

http://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-chemical-so...

My skin is significantly less dry and irritated when I use soft water.

Submitted by CA renter on May 17, 2014 - 2:08am.

treehugger wrote:
Water softners are banned in many municipalities and becoming an even greater problem in the Southern Cal (not sure how other water districts regulate this, we have not been effective and are conducting more research and public outreach).
When the systems regenerate, they flush salty wastewater into the sewer system, which can end up in the waterways, rivers, and Ocean the by products (chlorides) are problematic). Many areas recycle the water. The extra salinity – much of it added by water softeners – causes problems. That means it may have to be treated at the wastewater plant(at taxpayer expense). Be aware that often, if you use salt system you can't water your yard and may need to install a by pass. Also elderly folks or people with medical conditions may want to avoid for health reasons.

In the water industry we are struggling with the issue. We build water treatment plants that reduce the natural hardness of the water, but people still like the "soft" water for their skin and hair and that is just not possible for us to achieve. Benefit of hard water is that it tastes better! Soft water does not taste good.

Vinegar is great for removing the hard water deposits and environmentally/pocket book friendly.

Thanks for posting this, treehugger.

Submitted by kcal09 on May 23, 2014 - 7:30am.

Very helpful comments indeed. Thank you guys!

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