Soft Or Hard Water-Is Your Water Softener Costing You Money?

Sears Kenmore Water Softener 

When I found out that our water softener had gone up the spout because of a leaking resin bed tank (the inner tank) I was a little annoyed. This is the time where either the emergency savings fund or our home maintenance projected expenses will come in handy and why it’s important to budget for home repairs. Mrs. CBB and I did a little price comparison from various sources online and found the price of a water softener is similar across the board. Sorry, I can’t find you ridiculous savings on a new softener, but what I can do is tell you what I found out while researching for a new one.

What is hard water and what does a water softener do?

Depending on where your city/region sources your mains water supply you will be blessed with soft water or cursed with hard water. You can tell if you have hard water or soft water simply by the calcium carbonate deposits around faucets commonly seen as a build up of white crust.

How to tell if your water softener is working properly or not?

Inspect your unit, appliances, valves, faucets etc and if you see a white crust build up this may indicate that your current water softener perhaps has a problem.

Calcium carbonte or CaCo3 in water is a natural occurrence due to water seeping through rocks and causing ground water to contain this calcium carbonate in suspension/dilution. Not every area of Canada will suffer from hard water, it all depends on the geological factors affecting the ground water supply. To control the effects of hard water and the damage it can incur, water softeners are required and in South Western Ontario it’s a particular necessity.

So if you need a water softener, what exactly does it do?

I won’t bore you with the science, a) because you’ll fall asleep and b) I was completely useless at chemistry. The water softener uses a bed of resin beads in which an ion exchange happens removing the calcium carbonate from the water as the calcium carbonate hangs on to the resin beads. If you are wondering how often does a water softener regenerate the answer is, once the resin beads become loaded a regeneration cycle happens which cleans the resin beads and that is where your salt or brine solution comes into effect. The brine solution washes the beads so to speak and lets the water softener to resume normal service.

Do Your Research

I had a look at all the comparables, features and extra bells and whistles and settled with a good quality average water softener unit that does the job without being over the top for no reason other than looking good. This is another good reason to go online and read reviews on certain products especially when you plan to spend a fair amount of money.

Before picking up the unit, I thought I’d be a little proactive and do a little digging into settings, features and any plumbing requirements. I’m going to install the unit myself as I’ve previously installed them with no problems saving myself $175 + Tax (Sears) install cost. I’ll also be picking up the new softener to save $45 + Tax on delivery charges.

To set the hardness level on the unit I need to know what the hardness of water is in my area. You can go buy a water quality test kit from home hardware for $13.99 but being as frugal as I am why not use information you’ve already paid for? The city will post water quality reports online, they’re a bit large and you have to find the information important to you.

I did find this page at Drink N Water Plus Local Water Facts which is very helpful, check out the hardness level on a variety of areas

The Hard Water Calculations

CaCO3 (Calcium Carbonate) and Iron levels are the two pieces of data you need. Take or work out the average between lowest and highest readings taken. As an example I’ll say the average was 450 mg/L which might not mean much, so you have to convert it out to “grains of hardness”. For every 17.1 mg/L of CaCO3 it’s equal to 1 Grain. On the same report you should be able to find the Iron readings in either mg/L or ppm, as an example we’ll use 0.5 mg/L.

Here comes the maths…..

450 mg/L divided by 17.1 mg/L = 26.315879 Grains or 26 Grains

Sounds easy and simple, but now you’ve got to add in the Iron calculation…..

0.5 mg/L is essentially the same as 0.5 ppm so take this figure and times it by 5 = 0.5 x 5 = 2.5

Now add the two figures together…..

26.315879 + 2.5 = 28.815879 or 29 Grains, so you’ll have to set your hardness level at 29.

I know for a fact our old water softener was set at 20 from the day we bought the house and I assumed that’s what it was supposed to be as it had been like that for 13 years previous. Turns out, my setting should have been at 26, so never assume anything.

What are the benefits of checking the maths?

If you’re setting is too high, you’re just wasting salt, if it’s too low your feeding hard water to all your appliances that use water. That’ll explain all the scale build up around the old faucets and why I’ve replaced two faucets already and one seal kit and why both the shower valves are getting towards the end of their useful life.

Hopefully this information will help you and your household save money on either buying less water softener salt or by keeping your appliances in better shape for longer. I didn’t know this until afterwards but Sears will do a free hard water test if you take in a sample, as will Home Hardware apparently.

Windsor System Saver Water Softener Pellets

The New Water Softener- The Installation Costs and Savings

The unit in question is the Kenmore®/MD 400* Water Softener with Ultra Cleanse Feature from Sears at a regular cost of $999.99, but bought on 3 day sale for $899.99. We bought it with our Sears MasterCard as we had a coupon worth $20 in Sears points plus we earned almost $20 in points because of the purchase. Canadian Tire money earned on the purchase would have only amounted to about $10 if I used my Canadian Tire MasterCard for rewards points. The extra bonus of buying with the Sears MasterCard is the fact that we have 3 months price adjustment if they put it on sale cheaper. The unit also came with a sample of Windsor System Saver Pellets and a money-saving coupon booklet.

So far, I’ve saved myself:

$175 +  13% Tax = $197.75 water softener installation cost

$13.99 + 13% Tax = $15.81 for a hard water test

$100 + 13% Tax = $113 for waiting a few days for the sale

$45+ 13% Tax = $50.85 for picking the unit up and not having it delivered

$40 of bonus points

Grand Total Savings of $417.41.

I’m not suggesting that you can save hundreds on all of your purchases, just think about the extras you pay for and how expensive it can get. It’s always easier to say yes to get it installed or say yes to get it delivered but how long would it take you to earn $417.41? What’s a little convenience worth to you? I’m proud to say our water softener is up and running and the money is better left in the bank.

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Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. I really need to learn more about this. We don’t have a water softener, but do get the residue on the faucets. It isn’t bad by any means, and I usually put a zip loc of vinegar around the faucet heads over night to get rid of it when it gets noticeable. Is it doing damage to the inside of the pipes is my question? Is our water within an acceptable limit or should I have had a softener all along?

    • You should be able to research water quality in your city or call your town hall or centre and ask for advice. Hard water is hard on appliances and leaves residue on plates, glasses, everywhere. I linked to an article for Edward in another comment here or you can simply google why a water softner may be important.

  2. I used to sell water softeners that didn’t use electricity or salt, you just put them at the water entrance of the house and for five years they have a magnet that softens the water. If you have one installed, with or without salt, you shouldn’t see any white marks in the bathroom anymore, and the skin feels softer, the shampoo and soap foam more, that is when you know it works properly. The saving is great in appliances as well, a washing machine barely lasts with hard water.

  3. But why do you need a water softener? The water at my mother’s house is hard, but she’s been chugging along just fine for the past 22 years without a softener.

    • That’s her personal choice I guess. Sure you can get by people do especially when they rent apartments or homes that aren’t their own. It preserves your appliances for one and it gets rid of all the unsightly hard water deposits. Here is a good article that will explain more..

      • Ice maker is still running solid after 22 years. Burned out more than one motor in a washer, but I doubt some calcium did that. The deposits themselves aren’t too hard to clean.

        • Some places are terrible with different levels of hardness as it depends on how much calcium carbonate is dissolved in the water. The maths in my post is why it’s important to find out. Some places are absolutely terrible and others may have hard water but not to the extent of some cities. Hope that helps.

  4. We’ve thought about a water softener ourselves as we have terribly nasty hard water. You can see the sediment coming out at times, which is part of the reason why we have a water purifier on our faucet, though I know that is somewhat limited in what it can do. Great work on the savings btw MR. CBB!

  5. Wow, never knew how much I didn’t know about water softeners

  6. We’re lucky in that our municipal water is sourced from a river (Cape Fear River) so is fairly soft. You’ll still get minor residue on faucets but nothing worth putting a water softener in for.

  7. Am I right in thinking that water hardness is caused by the minerals in the water? I know minerals like calcium can be a killer for your appliances but I’d be interested to know whether there are any health benefits from the minerals in hard water. Or is it actually the opposite and the hardness is caused by harmful elements?

  8. I live relatively close to Jose and we get our water from a man made lake, so our water is soft. I have rarely dealt with hard water, but know a few people that have a softener.

    • Put it this way, the few days I didn’t have the softener hooked up my kettle started making loud noises ( I make alot of tea) and when I looked inside the coils were coated…. that’s how hard it is here… it can take over and ruin appliances… it’s worth the investment for us that’s for sure.

    • Jose as in this Jose? If your close we’ll have to get together at some point!

  9. We’re bless to have some of the best water in the country. But I can see the benefits of having a water softener when I go on vacation and have a hard time rinsing the soap from my body.
    Thanks for sharing the tips. If we ever move away from city water and use well water it’s something I’ll have to know.

  10. Thanks for a very informational post! In our new place, there’s no water softener, and the water is hard, so we will be looking at an installation sooner rather than later. This post will be a big help to us!

  11. Such a great post. Thanks for sharing this to us and keep posting. This is really helpful for homeowners.

  12. You really give great post here. This information will help homeowners to save money on either buying less water softener salt or by keeping their appliances in better shape for longer.

  13. $417? Well that’s a huge save Mr. CBB. This is really helpful for every mom and dad who need extra savings. But still, I am really impressed on how much money you save seriously. That’s really huge money for me personally and never thought that those extras was really expensive. Thank for this post Mr. CBB, absolutely great savings 🙂

  14. Mr CBB – just got round to reading this article and kudos on the installation savings. What I did not get from this article is what is the ongoing cost and how often do you incur it. Love the site in general… keep posting!

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for dropping by. I’m not sure what you mean by recurring costs? If you install it properly there should be no issues. Depending on the model water softener you get I can’t see anything you’d have to buy but water softener salt. Cheers mate.

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