You’ve probably heard the terms “hard water” and “soft water,” but what is the difference? And how do you know what kind of water you have in your home?

The “hardness” of water depends on the levels of calcium and magnesium it contains. The higher those levels, the “harder” the water. “Soft” water tends to have higher levels of sodium. Hard water is a naturally occurring phenomenon in different geographical areas.

The signs of hard water are pretty evident, such as spots left on glasses and silverware after you run the dishwasher, mineral stains on clothes coming out of the washing machine, and feeling like a film is left on your hands after washing them. These things are due to the minerals the water contains and the reactions it may have with soaps. Hard water can also reduce water pressure by leaving mineral deposits that build up in pipes and leave scale buildup on sinks, tubs, and tiles. On the other hand, soft water allows soaps to do their jobs, resulting in healthy lathering, cleaner clothes, and better water pressure.

So, if you have hard water, how can you soften it? The simple solution is to add a water softener. This whole-house filtration system removes the minerals that cause hardness in the water through an exchange process, in which water flows through a bed of resin beads that are charged with a sodium ion. These beads seize the mineral ions in the water and remove them, leaving softened water that flows out of the tank and into your home. There are three components in a water softener system — the mineral tank, a brine tank, and a control valve — that work together to remove minerals, monitor flow, and clean the system.

Choosing the right system involves careful deliberation in advance. Here are some things to take into consideration before selecting a water softener:

1. Proper size. To choose the right size water softener for your household, you first need to determine how much hardness the system will need to remove every day. Begin by estimating your household’s total estimated use of water a day and multiply it by the grains of hardness in the water. You can find the number of grains by looking up water reports from your municipal provider or by purchasing a hard water test kit. The average four-person home needs a 33,0000-grain water softener.

2. Filtering capacity and regeneration. A good water softener will have a maximum softening capacity and minimal sodium usage. Of course, the more water that is used, the more often the softener will need to regenerate the ability of its resin beads to do their work. Depending on the amount of water your household uses and the peaks and valleys of that demand, you can choose between two types of regeneration softeners. A timer softener is set to regenerate on the same day every

week, regardless of water usage. An on-demand softener regenerates based on a predetermined amount of water that has been processed.

While water softeners can be a significant investment, they also have low monthly operating costs and require very little electricity to function. Most units will last 20+ years if properly maintained.

Howell Services, a family-owned company serving the Southwest Houston and Ft. Bend County area, offers a wide variety of filtration devices for every situation and price point. Our knowledgeable plumbers are licensed, bonded and insured and can help you select the water softener that’s just right for your home. Call us today to schedule an estimate, repair, installation or comprehensive plumbing inspection.

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