Do you have hard water in your home?
“Hard water” means that water coming through your lines has a lot of minerals dissolved into it, which is typical in areas where municipal water is coming straight from a natural source like an aquifer. Water can also pick up minerals as it travels through the sewer lines or if it gets filtered through the soil. However, you can remove these minerals from the water by calling for a water softener system installation! That is probably the greater of the benefits of a water softener.
Water softening systems aren’t expensive, and they can improve your plumbing – and your quality of life – in a lot of ways. So in this article, we’ll talk about why you might want a water-softening system, what it does, and why it’s always a good idea to let professional plumbers handle the installation.
1. The Problem With Hard Water or Where The Benefits of a Water Softener Begin.
So, what’s wrong with having minerals in your water? After all, people pay a lot of money for bottled water with minerals!
Well, it mostly has to do with the effect that hard water has on your pipes and fixtures. When hard water evaporates, it leaves minerals behind. Basically, every time you run a faucet, flush your toilet or take a shower, you’re adding another tiny layer of mineral crust. Over time, this causes substantial buildup.
So after a while, you may notice white-greenish materials on your sink faucet or covering the interior of your toilet’s tank, for example. The more these mineral deposits build-up, the harder they are to clean off. In worst-case situations, they can potentially even clog a pipe or fixture. A bad enough layer of minerals is so hard to clean that fixture replacement is often easier than trying to fix it.
Another issue with hard water is that it reacts with most types of soap to create a sticky byproduct. This is the source of the “soap scum” which can end up covering the sides of your bathtub or shower walls. It’s also why your dishes sometimes seem dirty even after being washed.
Plus, hard water can also be rough on your hair, especially if you have delicate hair. If you take a shower, shampoo your hair, and it still feels dirty or dried out, hard water may be to blame.
2. How Water Softening Systems Work
There are two basic types of water-softening systems. There are small units that attach to a single fixture – like your kitchen sink – and soften only that water. Or, you can install a larger unit that softens and filters water as it comes into your home, providing soft water to the whole house.
Either way, this is accomplished by sending the water through a filtration system made up of resin beads covered in sodium. The sodium grabs the minerals out of the water as it passes through, leaving pure water behind to come out of your faucets.
Most water softener systems also have a second tank, which is filled with a saltwater brine. This is because the filter will periodically lose its sodium, so the system sends salt water through the filter to “recharge” it. However, you will periodically need to refill this tank with special water-softening salt, as it runs low.
The filter won’t work during the recharging process. However, most modern water softener systems are smart enough to do this at convenient times, such as overnight.
3. Why You Want Professional Water Softener System Installation
While it might be tempting to “DIY” your water softening system, it’s a good idea to turn to professionals – especially if you’re installing a large filter that covers the whole house. There are numerous reasons for this.
a. Legal restrictions
First, and most basic: most municipalities legally require major plumbing upgrades to be handled by certified professionals, and may even need official inspection after installation. This is particularly true if installing the water softener system requires making any changes to your electrical system, which must be inspected and certified afterward. Trying to DIY your water softener system installation could get you in big trouble with the city.
These restrictions don’t apply if you’re installing a small under-counter unit, but it’s still a good idea to let pros handle the installation for other reasons.
b. Choosing the right water-softening system
There are numerous water softener system designs, which are better at handling different types of minerals and other contaminants. You want professionals to take samples of your water and analyze the mineral content so that you can pick the right water softener for the job.
While most hard water contains calcium and magnesium, it could have other contaminants as well – potentially even mildly radioactive elements like radium 226/228 or barium. If these are detected, you’ll need specialized filters to take care of the problem!
Only trained professionals who know water filtration systems well will be able to properly recommend the best water softener for your needs.
c. Doing the job right the first time
Since a whole-house water softener system is going to be installed near the main inlet for water entering your house, that means proper installation is essential. Otherwise, you could have major leaks! You really want pros who know how to do a water softener system installation right without any problems, rather than risking your home with an amateur installation.
4. Things To Know About Water Softener System Installation
A water softener should be installed as near as possible to the water supply’s point of entry. Typically this is on the ground floor, or underground. If you have a tank-based hot water heater, it may already be near this location, and the water softener will be installed next to it. However, it is important that the water be softened before it enters your water heater. The heating tank can be damaged by mineral buildup.
On the other hand, if you run off well water, the water softening system will need to be close to where that enters your home.
Also, the water softening system does need substantial electrical power. Hopefully, there is a suitable power line or outlet near the proper location for the water softening system. If not, minor electrical upgrades may be needed to add a 220V outlet to that area.
Finally, the water softening system should be installed someplace with a fairly constant temperature, since heat fluctuations can affect the chemical exchange process.
b. Installation time
Assuming no other upgrades are needed, installing a water softener system shouldn’t take very long. It’s typically around two hours, or potentially even less.
This is important because your home’s water will be shut off while installation happens. Sorry, there’s just no way around that. So be sure to plan ahead and bottle enough water to last through the installation, since you won’t be getting anything out of the taps.
c. Time to soften your water
It will take some time for the water softener to start treating the water in your home since there will be a lot of water already in the pipes that need to be flushed through. Also, your water heater probably has many gallons of untreated water still sitting in it.
So expect it to take around 48 hours for all the old water to go away, and for the new soft water to start flowing through your pipes. Cold water will be softened first since it doesn’t have to go through the water heater.
5. Water Softener System Maintenance
Generally, your water softener should run for months with minimal issues.
The biggest maintenance issue will be periodically refilling the salt in its brine tank. This will need to be done every few months, depending on the size of the tank and your own water usage. Your installers will be able to give you a good estimate of exactly how often this will need to happen.
Also, you’ll want to call an experienced plumber to do water softener check-ups and maintenance once a year. This is important, even if you aren’t having problems. Most water softener systems’ “lifetime” warranties require annual check-ups, and you could risk voiding the warranty if you ignore this requirement.
Finally, be aware of signs that you’re having water softener problems:
- White crust and other mineral deposits starting to come back.
- Dry or frizzy hair, or dried-out skin, after a shower/bath.
- Discolored clothes after sending them through the washer.
- Salty-tasting water. Despite the sodium exchange, you should not actually be able to taste salt unless something is wrong.
If any of these happen, you’ll want to call experienced plumbers to look into the problem.
Roto-Rooter California Knows Water Softeners
Roto-Rooter California is your partner for water softener system installation, maintenance, and repairs. Don’t keep putting up with mineral deposits, soap scum, and dissatisfying showers. A new water-softening system makes your plumbing so much more pleasant to deal with!