According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, roughly 85 percent of homes in the United States depend on a hard water supply. Hard water is any water supply that contains excess minerals or metals, such as calcium and iron. Although hard water is generally safe to use, it can cause a variety of problems related to cleaning and appliance use. Water softeners remove or dilute the mineral concentrations in hard water and offer several benefits to homeowners.
Clothes and dishes washed in hard water may end up with white spots, streaks and soapy residue. Water softening helps rinse soap residue more thoroughly, leaving your clothing and dishes as well as your hair and skin looking and feeling cleaner. Soft water also reduces the amount of soap or detergent you need for cleaning, which helps to lower expenses for these products. With less soap scum and film left behind, you may also find that bathtubs, showers and sinks stay cleaner and are easier to maintain after you install a water softener.
Extended Appliance Life
The minerals found in hard water can build up on the insides of appliances, shortening their usable life and decreasing overall efficiency. According to North Dakota State University, water-softening systems extend the life of washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters and other appliances that use water. If your appliances last longer, you'll save money by replacing these items less frequently. Longer appliance lifespans also benefit the environment by reducing waste and conserving the raw materials and energy used in manufacturing.
Faster Water Heating
Hot water heaters can heat softened water more quickly than hard water. The Virginia Cooperative Extension estimates that water softeners improve efficiency by 22 percent for electric water heaters and 29 percent for gas-powered units. Improved efficiency reduces energy consumption, resulting in lower utility bills.
Cleaner Plumbing System
Hard water leaves scaly deposits in plumbing fixtures and pipes. As these deposits build up over time, they cause clogs and corrosion that can shorten the life of your home's plumbing system. By reducing mineral deposits, water softening systems minimize buildup and reduce the risks of clogs and corrosion, extending the life of the plumbing system and helping fixtures operate more effectively. For instance, if you have hard water, your shower heads can become so clogged that they are virtually useless in less than 2 years, according to the Water Quality Association.
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Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.