3. Benefits of water softeners
Salinity from water softeners can cause harm. But softeners provide many benefits too. Your goal should be to run your softener smartly to get the most benefit with the greatest efficiency.
Most people know the obvious benefits of softened water – better shampoo lather, fewer spots on dishes, reduced films on shower walls. But there are many other practical advantages to softeners: Saving energy and money, reducing the use of harmful detergents, helping appliances last longer and keeping our landfills a little less full.
Softeners are often the enabling technology that keeps the rest of our houses running efficiently and clean. Studies have demonstrated this. In recent years, the not-for-profit Water Quality Research Foundation and other independent researchers have shown how helpful softeners can be.
Showerheads and faucets. Showerheads and faucets last longer with softened water. One study found that showerheads on softened water maintained a brilliant luster and full flow. Faucets on softened water performed well throughout the study; nearly as well as the day they were installed. Showerheads on hard water lost 75% of the flow rate in less than 18 months.
Major appliances. One team of researchers ran dishwashers and clothes washers 30 days, completing 240 wash cycles using both softened and hard water sources. They found the units using softened water were almost completely free of any scale build up -- appearing as if they could be cleaned up to look like new with just a quick wipe down. The appearance of the inside of units using hard water, however, showed the need for deliming and cleaning due to the build up of scale and deposits.
Reduced detergent use. Research conducted recently by the independent testing firm Scientific Services S/D, Inc. of New York found:
- In washing machines, softened water allows detergent use to be reduced by 50% and saves energy by washing at the cold water setting instead of the hot water setting, achieving the same or better stain removal and whiter clothes compared to results in hard water.
- In dishwashers, with areas having very hard water, softened water can mean cutting detergent by up to 70% by softening water.
Water heaters with a storage tank. Water heaters that use gas storage tanks and were operated on softened water managed to maintain their original factory efficiency rating over a 15-year lifetime. On the other hand, hard water can lead to as much as a 48% loss of efficiency in water heaters. In electric heaters, the life of the heating element will be shortened due to scale build up, because of increased operating temperature of the heating element.
Tankless water heaters. Indoor instantaneous gas water heaters (tank-less heaters) operated on softened water maintained the original factory efficiency rating over a 15-year lifetime. On the other hand, tank-less water heaters operating on hard water failed after testing for the equivalent of 1.6 years.
Softeners and pipes. Can softeners harm pipes? Here’s the reality: “The addition of calcium is not considered a corrosion control treatment strategy… the removal of calcium may not necessarily increase the corrosivity of water.” That quote comes from an EPA pilot study. It was conducted the EPA’s Drinking Water Research Division (Thomas J. Sorg, project manager, and Michael R. Schock, principal investigator). In other words, the suggestion that ion exchange water softeners promote corrosion is a misperception and the suggestion to use scale build up as a corrosion control method is inappropriate – as proven by the EPA.