“Water softening” might seem like a term out of a (rather dull) science-fiction movie; but, in fact, a water softener can make a big difference to homeowners. Essentially, a water softener strips hard water of certain minerals to make the water feel more luxurious and make your hair, body, and clothes cleaner.

Another huge benefit? “The ease of housekeeping and cleaning,” says Mike Donley, president of Phoenix-based Donley Plumbing and Air Conditioning.

“Once you get used to it, you really miss it when you’re traveling,” adds Donley, who has had water softeners in his last two homes.

Before we plunge into the details of water softeners, let’s cover hard water and why it’s not ideal to have in your home.

What is hard water?

Hard water refers to tap water that contains high amounts of dissolved magnesium and calcium. Your house likely has hard water if you notice the following:

  • Your dishes come out of the dishwasher coated in spots or film.
  • You see spots or soap scum buildup on your glass shower door.
  • You need to use more than the recommended amount of soap to wash your hair and body, or detergent to wash your clothing.

Although those effects are mostly cosmetic, hard water can cause serious damage to pipes. When hard water is heated, it can cause calcium carbonate to form around a faucet. Over time, this buildup can damage your pipes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 85% of American homes have problems with hard water, with the hardest waters found in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona, and Southern California.

What is a water softener?

A water softener is a device that is used to remove magnesium, calcium, and other ions that make water hard through a process called ion exchange.

How much does it cost?

Installation plus cost of the water softener typically ranges from $1,500 to $5,000, according to Donley. For $3,000, he says, you should be able to get a high-quality water softener for a medium-size home.

What should you look for in a softener? One that’s sized properly. The size of the softener is determined by the size of the water line entering your home (measured in gallons per minute) and the number of bathrooms. If you have it handy, the home inspector’s report should list the number of gallons per minute.

How to prep for water softener installation

In order to install a water softener, your home will need to already have installed a soft water loop (a copper line that loops out from the wall) near the main waterline. The main waterline will typically be in the utility closet or by the water heater. If your home doesn’t have a softener loop, a plumber will have to install one, which will take more time.

Installation can take anywhere from a few hours to all day. Be sure to clear the space around your main line so the plumber can reach it. Water will be shut off.

After the water softener is installed, ask the contractor or plumber to check the water hardness to ensure it’s working.

Unless you have copper soldering skills, it’s better to hire a pro to do this job, Donley says. Likewise, it’s typically in your best interest to have a contractor or plumber pick the water softener. If there’s a problem with the water softener, the plumber or contractor may repair the softener instead of charging you a separate fee.


To keep your water softener in working condition, clean the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For most water softeners, you’ll want to periodically fill it with about 30 to 40 pounds of salt or potassium, which help flush out and clean the water softener’s filter.

Have a pro come out and service the water softener every three to four years, says Donley.

With proper care, a water softener should last about 10 years.

Original Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/water-softener/

Original Date: May 10 2018

Written By: