Last time we talked about how Reverse Osmosis systems were possibly the most misunderstood water treatment units in the plumbing industry and why they are actually a convenient, cost effective way to provide quality water for drinking and cooking in the home, and not the water-wasting, costly beast they sometimes are made out be. This month we are going to talk about water softeners which run a close second to having a large amount of misinformation surrounding them.
Let’s start off by saying that a salt water softener is the best solution for addressing hard water issues in a home. Old misinformation regarding water softeners sometimes discourage the contractor from recommending a softener or deters a homeowner from making a qualified good decision when contemplating a whole house unit. So, let’s see what’s different with today’s professional softener.
The professional water softener of today may resemble the softener of the past and its basic operation will be similar. That’s where the similarities end, the control valve now allows for precise amounts of salt and water to be utilized. Only the amount of salt and water required to operate the softener is necessary, making the water softener of today more efficient than in the past.
How is this accomplished? The regeneration cycle on the new wave of control valves is initiated by actual water usage, which is tracked by a turbine located in the valve that sends water flow information to a circuit board/computer. This allows the valve to track every gallon of water passing through the unit and regeneration only occurs when necessary to maintain soft water 24/7. This has reduced salt usage down from 8- to 10 bags a month, to just a single bag a month for the average family of four, as you can guess this also has significantly reduced the amount of water required to operate a softener.
The valve also allows past and present information to be read immediately or stored and recovered to indicate current or past water usage, flow rate, regenerations etc. this lets the contractor monitor the performance and to periodically make adjustments as needed to maintain maximum performance and efficiency. Touch screen displays have just been introduced and blue tooth technology is around the corner, which will make monitoring future equipment even easier.
In days past the old day timer valve that we had to operate a softener (where some of this old misinformation comes from). The softener valve was set up to regenerate every other day or every third day, rarely any longer between regenerations. We always wanted to make sure no matter what the unit would not exceed its capacity/ability for softening water and go back to hard water before regenerating again.
Was this being inefficient, using more salt and water than was actually necessary? You bet it was, but it was all we had at the time. Recent advances in water softening technology have improved the overall performance and efficiency of today’s water softeners. Today we can input the water hardness into the valve along with the unit’s capacity and, with this information the control valve will automatically calculate the amount of gallons that can be softened before regeneration is required, allowing the unit to regenerate as it approaches the actual water softening capacity. Regeneration now is not too soon using unnecessary salt and water or too late going back to hard water before regeneration.
This technology alone has had an enormous impact on the efficiency of today’s water softening units. Imagine going from regenerating twice a week to once a month or longer between regenerations. Add to this that we now can now fine tune each cycle to the actual amount of time needed using only the amount of water and/or salt required to accomplish that specific cycles goal, this along with new higher efficient water softening media that requires less salt to regenerate. Put this all together and the results are a water softening unit that is the most cost effective way to handle hard water, all the while using little salt or water and requiring very little attention. This all makes many of the reasons invalid that consumers hear, read or remember about water softeners and will use to talk themselves out of purchasing a water softener or that will cause a contractor to recommend some alternative device in place of a water softener.
Here are the most common arguments we hear when recommending a salt softener and how it pertains to the operation of today’s water softener.
Don’t want to deal with all that salt! The average family will only have to add salt to the unit once or twice a year. Not the weekly or monthly chore that was once required.
Don’t like the slick slimy feel of soft water! Because of the increased efficiency, soft water from a professional softener today will not have this feel.
Don’t want all that sodium from the softener in my diet! This isn’t a concern anymore. Excess sodium is now thoroughly rinsed to drain; a negligible amount of sodium actually goes downstream to the home. Still concerned about sodium being in the water? These water softeners can use potassium in place of salt so no sodium at all is introduced to the water.
When presented with this information a contractor or consumer that previously indicated they didn’t want a salt softener often makes the statement: “Well, I guess a water softener IS what I want.”
Here we go again, old misinformation about a water treatment device that sometimes steers a prospective customer away from what is very likely the best water treatment solution for their application.
The control valves now are also able to provide the flow rates needed for the larger home of today. Larger homes with more bathrooms, bigger main water supply lines requires higher flow rates. A standard professional control valve today can move up to 35 gpm and will have full port sizes between 1 ¼” and 1 ½”. Very common in the past to reduce down the main line size coming into the home to match the water softener which was usually only ½” in and out with even more flow reduction inside the valve. Complaints with these old valves about water flow or reduced water pressure after the installation were common. Lack of flow or reduced water pressure is not a concern anymore.
Why is a water softener the best water treatment solution for hard water? We don’t have the space nor is it probably necessary to go over the technical process of water softening. A basic simple explanation is a water softener will remove calcium carbonate and magnesium salt, the two elements in water that cause hard water. You cannot have hard water or the issues hard water creates when these elements are no longer present in the water — simple as that!
We’ve all seen the results of hard water and how it affects things around a home, both aesthetically and operationally. A water softener is the best solution for both of these issues.