Wife wants a Water Softener. Bad idea?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by LawyerRon, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. LawyerRon

    LawyerRon New Member

    We have hard water that leaves calcium on the shower door, dishwasher, etc. My wife would like a water softener to help with this problem. However, the bit of research I've done reveals that water softeners have a few disadvantages like salt in the water, etc. Also, I do not have a drain in my garage for the regeneration cycle required by salt type water softeners.

    Therefore, is there some sort of newer, alternative technology to soften the water, ie, get rid of those annoying minerals, etc, that someone would recommend?
  2. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Water softners do an ion exchange, so you get sodium in your water instead of calcium, you don't get salt. There are alternatives but my understanding is they are expensive, I have my drinking water plumbed separately and filtered before I go through the softner. For the backwash cycle of the softner you don't need much beyond a garden hose unrolled out your garage door to a convient drainage point, I don't think there is even enought salt in the backwash that it would even kill the grass.

    Oh and by the way if your wife wants one, then is it a very good idea, and I would hurry up and get one installed!

  3. plumber1

    plumber1 Plumber

    I just plain like the quality of water when it has been softened.
  4. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    New Hampshire
    Don't fall for the junk magic filters that some disreputable places try to peddle. The only thing they remove is the money from your account.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2007
  5. mikepdaviskc

    mikepdaviskc New Member

    There is some evidence that soft water is not as good for you as hard water.
    Google "soft water heart disease" and you will see what I mean.
  6. Plumb or Die

    Plumb or Die Plumbing Instructor

    Southern BC Canada
    True. We all need the minerals that come in water. There's signs at the college I work at in the science labs where there's taps for de-ionized water. The signs say "Don't Drink". It won't kill you, but that kind of water will actually leech the minerals right out of your body.
  7. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    San Diego
    The waste water from a softener most definitely WILL kill your plants. Just using the softened water from the tap will cause leaves to turn yellow, unless you use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride in the softener. Not to mention if the EPA or your county enviromental services dept. catches you running that water into the storm drain or even into your yard, the fine will be enourmous.
  8. TedL

    TedL New Member

    NY Capital District
    Why install in a garage? Where does your water enter the house?

    Because of the sodium concerns, I've got unsoftened cold water to my kitchen sink (as well as the hose bibbs & toilets).
  9. Pewterpower

    Pewterpower New Member

    The drain for my softener went thru the garage wall and into the ground next to the house. The grass and weeds loved it, my lawn mower did not. It was always 10 times thicker and lusher right there.
    I loved the soft water when I had it. But I let it go for a couple years, and now it doesn't work worth a damn, so I'm thinking about getting a new one.
  10. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You can run the drain line up to and across a ceiling and then 30'+ to the side. Or to a dry well (depending on where you live).

    Mechanical/Physical anti-scale/descalers do nremove hardness. They are supposed to effect the water ions to prevent them rom forming scale. In closed loop systems that operate 24/7 or close to it, they can work but in residential water lines no. An ion exchange water softener is your only choice unless you go with nanofiltration, which I wouldn't suggest.

    The sodium added to the water is calculated by 7.85 mg/l times the grains per gallon (gpg) of compensated hardess. I.E. you have 20 gpg hard water times 7.85 and you get 157 mg/l of added sodium; roughly a quart. Now if you check a loaf of bread you'll find from 10-160 mg of sodium. An 8 oz glass of skim milk, 530 mg, V-8 juice, 560 mg. And so on, so the added sodium, not salt, is next to nothing and unless you're on a sodium restricted diet, it's not a concern unless the hardness is way higher than the average 10-30 gpg.

    DI (dionized) water has all ions, both positive and negative charged, removed and thereby is very aggressive water. A softener only removes positive charged ions.

    Potassium chloride, salt substitute is not as efficient as soium chloride because no softeneing (cation) resin is made in the potasium form, they are all sodium form. In many cases, depending on the salt dose efficiency of the softener, you must use up to 30% more potassium than sodium chloride.

    Running hard water to the kitchen faucet and toilets, or a separate hard water faucet at the kitchen sink, is not a good idea because hardness causes a lot of hidden problems to all fixtures and appliances it is used in. And, you must drink A LOT of hard water to get any benefit from any minerals in it. And drinking too much water will kill you. Plus there usually isn't enough added sodium (BTW all waters contain some sodium) to justify it.

    Softener discharge will kill vegetation by drowning or from sodium IF the water can not soak to below the roots of the plants/trees. So it's not a good idea to put it on the ground. Dry wells can contaminate wells in the area but some states require them because they ban the discharge to septic/sewer systems; where it belongs says the EPA after two studies. Some states, namely CA bit it's spreading, want to ban softeners due to very poor science (being repeated all over the country) saying the discharge is taxing sewer treatment plants and responsible for them not meeting chlorides content maximums. Their chlorides come from the Colorado river and the repeated agriculture reuse of the water adding it back to the aquaducts. That's not to say that old softeners don't add more than a softener should, but to require no softeners when there is no other choice but to live with 20-30 gpg hardwater...

    As to what softener, I suggest a correctly sized softener using a Clack WS-1 control valve.
  11. JohnD

    JohnD New Member

    New York
    As in a previous post you can use potassium instead of salt to clean your resin beds. You can also run a hard water hose bib, prior to your softner. Here we are allowed to run the drains from our softners into our sewer systems.
  12. TedL

    TedL New Member

    NY Capital District
    Just as all factors must be weighed in the first consideration above, all factors should be weighed in the second. I'm dealing with 8-10 gpg, and I prefer the taste of the unsoftened water. In 25 years, I've had no problems with fixtures...our major objective is clean rinsing for the hair of the XXs in the house (most bad hair days eliminated!), clean laundry and spot free dishes.
  13. LawyerRon

    LawyerRon New Member


    My water enters the house in the garage. Also, that's where the water heater is. I don't know of another location I could install it in.
  14. plumber1

    plumber1 Plumber

    We always ran a third water to the kitchen sink ( it tastes better) and certainly wouldn't waste softened water to the outside sillcocks........................

    Toilets, soft water helps to keep them clean.

    I've never considered soft water to be a disadvantage.
  15. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Good water has no taste. It's things in water that give it a good or bad taste.

    In the last 20 years I've sold and serviced thousands of softeners and talked to many thousands of people across the US about their water quality issues and it is very rare for anyone to mention being able to taste any difference in softened or hard water. Unless the softened water being iron, manganese, copper, lead, radium etc. free (all+ are removed by a softener) causes an improvement in the taste.

    Some folks think they can tell the difference because the hardness has been removed but give them a blind test and they can't; mostly it's mental. Some of that comes from the word on the street that softened water isn't good for you. That's usually due to folks seeing all the salt in the brine tank dissappering and mistakenly thinking it is added to the water. 7.85 mg per roughly a quart of softened water times the gpg of hardness in the water; in your case at 10 gpg you get 78.50 mg of added sodium and it is very unlikely that anyone in your family could taste that but... it's next to impossible for most folks to get any taste from only 10 gpg of hardness.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2007
  16. TedL

    TedL New Member

    NY Capital District
    I have my daily taste test, comparing the water in the bathrooms to the water I drink at the table with meals. I prefer my unmodified tap water to the softened, Brita'd, or any bottled water, including those that add back minerals to get away from the "flat" taste of distilled or RO water (e.g. Dasani or BJ's H2O).

    I realize that the "definition" of water is colorless, tasteless, etc. But that's pure water, which is not what come from our taps. You make it sound like the "things" are rare occurrences, when, in fact, they are the norm. Some of us even like them! Taste is ... a matter of taste! Blond or brunette.....pepperoni or sausage pizza...etc.
  17. Cookie

    Cookie .

    High blood pressure problems.

    Water softeners: How much sodium do they add?

    Provided by: [​IMG] Last Updated: 05/25/2005
    I have high blood pressure, and I'm trying to reduce sodium in my diet. How much sodium does a water softener add to drinking water?

    The amount of sodium a water softener adds to tap water depends on the "hardness" of the water. The best way to decrease your sodium intake is by cutting back on table salt and processed foods. But the water from your tap also may add a significant amount of sodium to your diet. Reducing dietary sodium can lower systolic blood pressure by 2 to 8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
    Hard water contains large amounts of calcium and magnesium — dissolved from the soil by rainwater. A typical water-softening system removes calcium and magnesium ions from hard water and replaces them with sodium ions. The higher the concentration of these minerals, the more sodium needed to soften the water.
    Contact your local health department for the sodium and other mineral content of your community's water supply. Water naturally contains some sodium. This information can help you determine the total amount of sodium your tap water may have before being softened.
    It can also help you estimate the amount of sodium (milligrams per liter) a softener adds to your water. Use the following formula:
    • <LI class=doublespace>Multiply the hardness of the water in grains per gallon by 8 (or 7.866 to be more precise).
    • Add this figure to the amount of naturally occurring sodium in your water (the figure you get from the local health department) to determine total sodium.
    Water softeners: Sodium added depends on initial water hardnessInitial water hardness
    (grains per gallon)Sodium added by softening
    (milligrams per liter)1.085.04010802016040320
    If you find that your tap water is high in sodium, you may consider:
    • Switching to another type of water-purification system
    • Buying demineralized water for drinking and cooking
    • Softening only the hot water and using unsoftened cold water for drinking and cooking
  18. Haven't drank the water in my area for 14 years, and never will.

    In my apprenticeship I along with others were taken on the tour of the water treatment plants in my area and watched how the raw water is processed.

    Basically one huge RO system with periodic backwashing over sand gravel charcoal ?

    Thing is, they HAVE to really crank the chlorine levels up to get the base water safe, then accommodate for the # of miles of lines they have to travel and THEN test the water quality at those points.

    2-11% loss over the miles of lines that can have a reversal of flow and draw water into the mains, causing a backflow/contamination issue.

    I've mentioned on one of these forums that I can't even fill my jacuzzi without the overwhelming smell of chlorine.......makes me sick!

    I drink Polar water and I'm not dead yet.....they consistently have the same good quality of water. Who knows though.....probably comes out of a contaminated water supply in jacksonville.
  19. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Check the labels on the food and beverages you use for the sodium content and compare that to the amount of added sodium from your softened water.

    Here's a link that will help.
  20. mariner

    mariner New Member

    Hixon, BC

    I would go and make the wife happy and install the water softener - you won't regret it at all. On the plus side, if you sell the house having the water softener installed will be a plus.

    I bought my place with an older softener already installed. It did work and slowly over the last two years the performance dropped off until it finally quit. Boy what a difference - the new toilet showed rust stains within a few days of being cleaned, water tasted metallic, white deposits on everything etc. and the water filters delevoped sludge type coating on the outside of the cartridge.

    I contacted Gary Slusser and asked a few question which he was happy to answer. I finally fixed the old unit for $100 and it is working like a new one now - had the water tested again and the hardess was less than 0.5 gpg and the iron didn't even register in the test. Initially it was 20gpg hardness, 2.0 iron, 7.8 pH and 270 ppm TDS. The difference is amazing and I am still getting used to the new soft water. The big plus is clean showers and baths, no extra soap required for washing and glassware drying with any white stains or smears and I don't use a dishwasher. As far as taste goes you can always add to the water for meals if you want.

    Idon't thnk you will regret installing a water softener at all and they really aren't too expensive. I guess the average good quality one would be around $500 - $600 range for average family of 4. Gary Slusser could tell you exactly what the needs are and solutions with cost.


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