Understanding Hard and Soft Water Using A 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.
Through research we found that a water softener leaking from the top and bottom were common problems next to technology failure.
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.
Hard Water Explained
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.
Water Softener Inspection
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 carbonate or CaCo3 in water is a natural occurrence due to water seeping through rocks and causing groundwater 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 groundwater 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.
What is a Water Softener?
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 to remove 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 Water Softener 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
Hard Water Calculations
CaCO3 (Calcium Carbonate) and Iron levels are the two pieces of data you need.
Take or work out the average between the 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 math…
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 afterward but Sears will do a free hard water test if you take in a sample, as will Home Hardware apparently.
New Water Softener-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.
Our water softener unit also came with a sample of Windsor System Saver Pellets and a money-saving coupon booklet.
Water Softener Savings
So far, I’ve saved us:
$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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