Hard vs. Soft Water

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Water-splashIn my last blog post, I briefly mentioned the problems associated with living in a hard-water area. This blog post will go into the differences between hard and soft water, and what that means for your plumbing, as well as the importance of water filtration.

Hard versus soft water

Hard water is defined as water that contains a certain amount of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Soft water only contains sodium, usually because it has been treated so that other things have been filtered out. Rainwater is soft, until it reaches the ground. As it filters through the ground, it absorbs many minerals, which turn it into hard water, while also making it a lot more nutritious to drink. Soft water is generally less pleasant to drink, because it is missing a lot of added nutritional value and tastes a lot more salty.

You will probably know if you live in a hard or soft water area. If you don’t know, there are different maps online that will tell you exactly what the water hardness is in your area. Water that has 0 to 60 milligrams per liter of calcium carbonate is considered soft water, while water with calcium carbonate content from 121 to beyond 180 milligrams per liter is considered hard to extremely hard. Anything in between is regarded as medium.

It is important to know how much calcium carbonate is in your water, not only because harder water is more likely to clog up your system and appliances, but also because harder water causes more difficulties with laundry. In a hard water area, you will find you’ll have to use more laundry detergent and soap. Even washing your hair in hard water can make it feel sticky. So while soft water is less pleasant to drink, it has its other uses around the house, which is why it would be ideal to live in an area that has soft water for everything except drinking water.

Water filtration

The only way to have both soft and hard water is to use water filtration strategically around the house. There are a few different water filter systems that you could install. There are systems that purify the water for drinking use. There are also systems that can recycle your water for use in the garden, either from rainwater or from water used to shower, for example.

Water filtration systems can be placed at the point where the water enters the house, so that all water in the house is purified, or they can be placed at point-of-use near the faucet. It is best to hire a plumbing contractor to perform this kind of work. There are various different options for filtration, with their associated pros and cons.

One under-the-sink option is reverse osmosis, which wastes a lot of water by filtering out large amounts of contaminated water during the process. While it takes out most contaminants, it also takes out some of the good minerals, which then have to be added back in. It is therefore not recommended. Another option is a solid block carbon filter. While this filter takes up a lot of space, it basically filters through gravity, so it will keep working even during a power outage. While it is expensive and often needs to be worked by hand, it does filter every contaminant you would want to have filtered out. Other options are faucet-mounted filters, and plumbed-in filters that come out in a separate faucet. Some refrigerators also come with built-in filtration systems.

There are also less permanent options for filtering water, which are not necessarily cheaper in the long run. Bottled water, while quite popular, has many downsides such as the high cost, environmental waste, and the fact that some bottled waters may be no different from tap water. Another possibility is a portable pitcher filter. While this is much less costly, it takes a long time to filter enough water for a whole family, and may not remove all the contaminants that you want removed. All filters, regardless of type, require regular maintenance and replacement at various intervals.

To really get to the bottom of what filter systems might already be at work in your house, what kind of water you’re dealing with, and what kind of filtration system would work best for your residence, it is best to consult a professional. Odds are your water is already being sufficiently filtered, but if you are unhappy with the water you are drinking or the cleanliness of your laundry, water filtration could be just what you need.

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