Water Softener Question

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I need a water softener due to calcium in my well water. I am looking for anyone has any positive or negative feedback on the two systems I am thinking about. System 1 is the traditional salt charged water softener. System 2 is a water conditioner that treats the water using ceramic magnets. SoPhTec advertises this type of system in this magazine. Thanks!

-- Rod Phipps (rkphipps@simflex.com), October 03, 2000


I've heard that water softeners add an unhealthy amount of salt to the water. Mary

-- Mary Fraley (kmfraley@orwell.net), October 03, 2000.

We have had the 'salt softener' for four years now, and can't imagine living w/o one! Never noticed a salt taste ing the water, soap lathers up real well, etc. We had iron in our water something terrible, and the softener cleared that right up. We use maybe a 50# bag of salt every two months, so the price is minimal...just buy a good one when you get one, one that recharges on demand, not on a timer, and you'll never be sorry! Good luck!

-- Joe (Threearrs@AOL.com), October 03, 2000.

Some people do not taste the salt in the water, but I do. When I purchased mine, I looked for a company that would installed it correctly. The cold water tap in the kitchen, only the kitchen, is NOT hooked to the water softner. This gives me water without the taste of salt. In addition, I also purchased and had them install a water purifyer at the same time. I'm sure you're wondering why I had the cold water in the kitchen not hooked up. When I'm doing alot of cooking, I soon empty the holding tank of pure water. This way I still have water that has not been thru the softner. I use a softner because of old plumbing. I discovered that soft water cleans out the build up in the old pipes and the pipes last longer. Since I always buy old houses, this is important. I also have the pure water hooked into the fridge for ice and cold water. Yeah, I know, I like my creature comforts. Ice cold water with lots of ice on demand. I can live without it but, I'm sure grumpy. And no one ever filled that water jug!

-- Cheryl Cox (bramblecottage@hotmail.com), October 03, 2000.

In addition to the regular sodium salt used in water softeners, there is also a potassium salt available (locally I see it at Sears). It is recommended for people worried about sodium - like heart patients or others on low sodium diets - although I used it for a while and found that it caked up worse in the softener. Either way, there is very little of the salt in the softened water since it is used only in a separate cycle to regenerate the ion exchange resin in the water softener. The resin is rinsed well and then the water passes through it to be softened.

I agree too with the previous post to get a softener that regenerates on demand and not just on a timer. Saves lots of salt that way. Mine is from Sears and it has been great. Cost under $400 about a year ago and came with a do it yourself installation kit.

-- txcountry girl (nancyk@icsi.net), October 03, 2000.

I, too, am interested in hearing about anyone using the magnets for water softening. I know magnets have been credited with lots of things that are probably a hoax and was wondering if the water softening claim is also worthless. Without a softener our water is so full of calcium, the dishes look as if I washed them in milk! When we got the softener repaired, one pass through the dishwasher with the soft water and dishes looked CLEAN! So much salt is put into the water, we don't use it for drinking, coffee, tea, or cooking anything that absorbs much water. Can't even use it for ice cubes-- they have a white crust that is pure salt. Had the repairman out several times and finally gave up on it. Now we buy water (33 cents gal. for refills) for personal consumption and use the soft water for laundry, etc.

-- ruth (bobtravous@email.com), October 03, 2000.

I worked for two separate water conditioning companies over a period of nine years, so I have a few suggestions:

First of all, make sure you get the proper size softener, as there are different sizes of softeners. You'll need to get the hardness tested, this is measured in grains. This is compared to the number of people living in your household to figure out your average water consumption. The on-demand or "metered" softeners will save you money. If you're on vacation, they won't regenerate. But if you have more people visit, or for some reason use more water than usual, it will regenerate as needed to save you from running out and getting hard water.

Get a REPUTABLE company to give you an estimate, and get more than one. If the salesperson is pushy in any way, DON'T sign anything!! Check around to see who's been in business for awhile, see if you can get some referrals, and see what their service is like. If you're getting a softener from someplace like Sears, see if they will do a hardness test for free to "size" the softener. Some plumbers and plumbing stores will also do this for free. Just be aware that the water softening business is surprisingly a very competitive one, take your time in choosing.

Make sure that you don't have more than 1.5 ppm of iron, or sulpher in your water. (Can usually tell sulpher by the rotton egg smell.) More than 1.5 ppm of iron is more than the softener can handle, and steady amounts of sulpher will "cook" the resin. Keep in mind that there are many types of water filters, each designed for a specific purpose.

As far as the amount of salt you're going have in the water, the average softener puts no more salt into your daily intake of drinking water than 2 slices of bread. When the softener regenerates, the last part of is the backwash, washing all the residual salt off the resin.(Much like the rinse cycle in your washing machine washing away all the soap.) As the resin softens the water, it does what is called an "ion exchange", the resin will grab an ion of calcium/hardness minerals and kick off an ion of salt. During regeneration, it will exchange the salt for the calcium/hardness minerals. Unless the water is REALLY hard (40 grains or so) it hardly puts any salt in the water. Usually if you're tasting salt, this is caused by either the softener not working, or there is some kind of naturally occurring sodium in the groundwater that the softener is not designed to remove. You won't normally taste this sodium when you're drinking the original hard water, as the minerals disguise the taste. A drinking water system will take this out.

The water usually tastes "flat" after the minerals are taken out, just a matter of getting used to the taste. As someone mentioned earlier, you can bypass the kitchen cold water tap to take water directly from the well.

As for magnetic ones, I don't recommend them. When you're softening water, what you're doing is taking minerals OUT of the water. That's why a softener has a drain, to flush these away. Where would the minerals be going if you had a magnet on the line? They don't just disappear into thin air...er, water.

-- Chelsea (rmbehr@istar.ca), October 07, 2000.

I use a Kinetico dual tank on demand softener. It's not cheap, like the sears models, but they are guaranteed for 7 years, it is totally non electric, using water pressure to drive the system. I live in Amish country, and they can use this softener. I have never had a single problem with this softener. I did have them come to clean it out when my old well rusted through, and I got sand in everything. The bill for a total rebuild was $35. And it was done on site. All of the moving parts come in a little 1" x 2" baggy.

If you do install a water softener, and start to notice a sulphur smell coming from your hot water, you will want to remove the stink rod from your water heater.

I also prefer to use "dura-cube" softener salt. It is compacted sheets instead of pellets. It doesn't cake up at all.

Oh, and I don't work for either of these companies, I'm just letting you know what works for me.

Personally, I have never liked the taste of soft water. I also run a hard water tap in the kitchen. But I hate to bathe in hard water, and I know what it does to the plumbing. Another point to consider, is if you have run hard water in your pipes for a long time, soft water will 'attack' the mineral deposits in your plumbing, and you may find little particles floating in your glass. Doubt that they are harmful, but it may put you off.


-- Wayne (plefor@hotpop.com), October 08, 2000.

If you opt for a salt charged water softener, you may not notice the salt taste, but your blood pressure may. Ingesting salt is sure to have a negative effect on your health.

-- Joyce (jzd1@juno.com), October 09, 2000.

Every time I read one of these posts on water softners, I always find myself laughing at the hype about all of the salt they put out and how bad it is for your health.

I'm an Environmental Engineer with a large company in New York State. My job involves working with treatment processes and water softening systems. We soften the water to remove resident minerals so that they will not harm our very very expensive equipment!

As an Environmental person, I am trained in chemistry for knowledge in things like ion exchange. Ion exchange is the basis of water softening. Read Chelsea's post, she's right on the money if you're at all concerned about salt intake. Please don't listen to anyone who warns against having a water softner because of the salt that it puts in your water system. This is a marketing ploy put out by non- salt using softner companies to make a buck. Unfortunately, most people don't really undertand how softening systems work and it seems like the salt that the thing consumes must automatically place it directly into their drinking water. This is far from the truth. The salt is only in the process to exchange itself with the minerals that are held by the resin bed and this at only a few ions at a time. The amount of salt released by the resin bed in the long run over this process is so miniscule it's ridiculous.

One of our concerns at our facility is chlorides. The very element of salt. Many water studies have been done on our softening systems to determine the chlroide concentrations. We have softening systems about 10 times the size of a normal residential home unit. Do you know what? Chloride levels from our softners were so low, it became pointless to even take samples from them anymore. So come on everyone, laugh with me and enjoy the benefits of softening; clean hair, long lasting appliance...

-- Scott Gibson (scotty1998@msn.com), May 24, 2001.

I'm new to the water softener scene as well and was concerned about salt in the water. Based on the posts I've seen so far, salt in the water is very miniscule. However, I have a lot of tropical plants. Would these miniscule amounts harm the plants when I water?

Also, I was told that timers usually regenerate at night so that less salt water will get into the system since no one in the house is usually using at water at that time. Is this true? Or can I regenerate in the middle of the day?

-- Jenny Kasap (jzkasap@yahoo.com), May 27, 2001.

Been reading the column and would like to offer a few comments. 1. Water softeners remove calcium and magnesium from the water. They are replaced by sodium that comes from the salt used for regeneration. So, in place of calcium carbonate the water now has sodium bicarbonate. A properly working softener does not put salt (sodium chloride) in the water, but it does put the sodium ions into the water. That's what kills your plants and why houses with softeners have the outside hose-bibs plumbed into the cold water AHEAD of the softener. 2. Softened water is great for pipes and other plumbing. It will kill your plants. The jury is out on what it does to animals and people. 3. Softenera usually are set to regenerate at night because most people are sleeping then and will not want soft water at that time (while the softener regenerates, it stops putting out soft water and puts out unsoftened hard water). The timer can be set to any hour of the day that makes you happy. 4. I have used softeners for years. I have repaired softeners. I also have used magnetic water conditioners for yearsand like them and use them in my home - and yes I sell magnetic conditioners. For more info on that click on http://home.pacbell.net/jkaness

-- Jim Kaness (jkaness@pacbell.net), June 23, 2001.

I have a question. I purchased a water softner at Sears. I want to install it myself. Is it hard? Can anyone assist with a web page or basic directions?

Thanks Michele

-- Michele Camilli (camillml@westinghouse.com), July 12, 2001.

The best water softner you can buy is a Kinetico. It will be expensive but well worth the extra cost. I purchased one in 1977 and it is still working just fine. It cost $600 + in 1977, I think today they are in the $1,500 to $2,000 range but they are trouble free and regenerate based on water usage not time, so you save a lot over the lifetime on salt. There is no electrical connection, works totaly off the water flow through the unit.

-- Bill Hamlin (whamlin435@aol.com), May 31, 2002.

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