Edmonton Water Hardness: Does My Home Need a Water Softener?
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Water softeners can be worth it in Edmonton based on the quality of water in your home.
The North Saskatchewan River supplies Edmonton with some of the best water in the world, but on its way to your home, it flows over sediment and limerock, picking up lots of minerals. As a result, the river water is considered “moderately hard, about 165 milligrams of calcium carbonate per litre on average” (Epcor).
As January and February tend to be the worst months for hard water, you may notice excessive minerals in the water supply.
Due to these reasons, Edmonton’s water is generally considered to be hard, meaning it has a high concentration of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals can cause problems, such as soap scum buildup on sinks and showers, dry skin and hair, and reduced efficiency of water heaters and appliances.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, or if you simply prefer the feel of soft water, a water softener may be worth considering. They work by removing the minerals that cause water hardness, resulting in water that is easier to lather, leaves less soap scum, and can improve the efficiency of appliances.
How Water Softeners Work
Basically, a water softener releases sodium (salt) ions to help counteract the mineral ions that naturally occur in the water supply. By substituting calcium, magnesium, or other hard minerals with sodium, you can filter out hard water to healthy soft water.
They’re often used as a pre-treatment for other home water filtration and purification methods, such as a charcoal or carbon-based water filter.
Through a process called ion exchange, softeners remove the minerals from the water. In this process, the water passes through a tank filled with small resin beads, which are charged with sodium ions. As the hard water passes through the tank, the sodium ions exchange places with the calcium and magnesium ions, effectively removing the minerals from the water.
Water softening systems require ongoing maintenance, such as adding salt to the system. The type of salt you use can impact the performance and efficiency of your unit, so it is important to choose a high-quality salt.
Do You Need a Water Softener?
Common signs of hard water include spotted dishes, film on shower doors/curtains, dingy-looking cloths, mineral stains, and reduced water flow. You don’t necessarily need to test your water supply to know if you have hard water or not. There are many signs of it in your home:
One common sign of hard water are metal deposits that leave rings around your plumbing fixtures and drains. The water supply around Edmonton is known for causing scale buildup. In addition to being unsightly, mineral deposits can make washing more difficult and lead to water restriction and a decline in water pressure. If you are using a hard water supply for your humidification, you might also notice mineral deposits on your furniture.
Damage to Water Heater and Other Appliances
Hard water definitely increases the costs and lowers the lifespans associated with all of your water-using appliances. Raising the temperature of hard water contributes to the buildup of calcium and magnesium minerals. Excessive water hardness can cause limescale on your water tank wall. Since limescale acts as extra insulation, it can lead to overheating. Additionally, mineral deposits can build up in your pipes and appliances, leading to leaks and damaged appliances.
Skin and Hair
The harder the water the harder it is to form a lather for sudsy, effective cleaning. If it is hard to lather and your soaps aren’t effective, you probably have hard water. Hard water plus soap can leave a soapy film behind. The soap scum leaves hair and skin feeling itchy and looking dull. In addition to clogging pores and drying out skin and hair, hard water can also worsen skin conditions and hair loss. Soft water helps with rinsing, unclogging pores, and moisturizing skin and hair.
Drain and Fixture Clogs
Over time, the buildup of minerals and soap scum in your plumbing system will lead to restricted water flow and pressure. Eventually, entire drains, faucets, and showerheads can become clogged with these heavy metals and require replacement.
For the best-tasting water, you want water that is neither too hard nor too soft. Water that is too hard can taste like chalk or minerals. Water that is too soft may have a flat, bad taste. Speak with a professional about maintaining the right soft/hard balance. This will make your water look and taste a lot better.
Water softeners can remove the minerals that cause these multiple problems throughout your home’s plumbing system. If you have bad-tasting, cloudy, sulfurous, or corrosive water, you can attach the necessary filtration technology to the water softener. This water filter attachment can be installed to the main supply line or under a sink for point-of-use filtration.
Hard water can make your clothes feel stiff, rough and scratchy. Similar to dish soap and body wash, hard water makes it difficult for soap to work up a lather. The soapy film can prevent the removal or dirt, creating a loss of color and brightness. Hard water shortens the lifespan of your clothing. As a result of hard water, soap scum can deposit on drains, fixtures, dishes, showers, clothes, hair and skin. This causes numerous problems, especially in the winter time.
How Do I Know My Water Hardness Number?
Here are some ways you can find out the hardness level in your water:
Check with your local water utility
Many water utilities provide information on the hardness of the water they supply to customers. You can contact your local water utility to find out the hardness of your water.
Use a hard water testing kit at home
You can purchase a water hardness test kit at a hardware store or online. These kits usually consist of a strip that you dip into a sample of your water, which will change color to indicate the hardness level. You can then compare the color of the strip to a chart included in the kit to determine the hardness level.
Have a professional test your water
The recommended method for the most accurate reading is to have a professional test the water in your home. A plumber or water treatment specialist can provide this service for a fee. Not all water filters and treatment systems are considered equal. If you have water quality issues, you may need multiple treatment systems as they each tend to focus on a different thing. Once you know exactly what’s in the water, you can choose the most efficient and appropriate water treatment system.
Contact Always Plumbing in Edmonton to test your water supply or look up a national laboratory that can test the water for you. Most at-home kits aren’t very good at identifying all of the metals and pollutants in your water supply.
Downsides of Water Softeners in Edmonton
You will need to put in a significant initial investment with ongoing maintenance, such as the need to periodically add salt to the system. Additionally, the softened water may not be ideal for drinking or watering plants, as it can contain elevated levels of sodium. However, you can use a softener salt that uses potassium instead of sodium when exchanging hard minerals.
Ultimately, whether a water softener is worth it for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. If you are experiencing problems with hard water or simply want to improve the quality of your water, it may be worth considering a water softener. However, it is always a good idea to consult with a professional before making a decision.
What Types of Water Softeners Are Used In Edmonton?
In Edmonton, we see the following types of softeners used most often:
Ion exchange water softeners
Ion exchange water softeners use a bed of resin beads that are coated with sodium ions. As hard water flows through the bed of beads, the calcium and magnesium ions in the water are exchanged for sodium ions.
Salt-free water softeners
Salt-free water softeners use a process called template-assisted crystallization (TAC) to alter the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water. This process changes the shape of the ions, which prevents them from binding together and forming the hard scale that builds up in pipes and home appliances.
Magnetic water softeners
Magnetic water softeners use a device called a “conditioner” that is placed on the main water line entering the home. The conditioner uses a magnetic field to alter the structure of the calcium and magnesium ions in the water, preventing them from bonding together and forming hard scales.
Reverse osmosis water softeners
Reverse osmosis uses a semi-permeable membrane that separates water molecules from sediments.
In this system, cold water passes through at least one pre-filter, which removes dirt and sediment. Another filter removes unwanted chemicals. Treated water then moves into the hub of the unit, which contains a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane removes even more harmful contaminants and particles. After filtration, water leaves the system and flows to your taps on demand.
How Is a Water Softener Installed In Your Home?
When setting up water softeners in your home, you need to choose an easily accessible location (basement or utility room) as doing so will make maintenance and salt refills easy.
A few basic tools are needed including pipe wrenches, a drill, and a hacksaw. You will also need a Teflon tape and any fittings or adapters needed to connect the softener to your plumbing. Before you begin, make sure you shut off the main water supply to your home to prevent any accidents.
Rely on the manufacturer’s instructions to install your unit. This will typically involve attaching the inlet and outlet hoses to the main water supply and drain lines, mounting the water softener to the wall or floor, and making any necessary connections. Once it is installed, turn the main water supply back on and test the unit to make sure it is working properly.
The aforementioned process requires proficient plumbing experience. If you’re a plumber, absolutely go ahead with your project. Otherwise in most cases, it is recommended that you hire a licensed plumber who will ensure that the unit is installed properly without leaks or unforeseen damages.
How Much Does a Water Softener Installation Cost In Edmonton?
The cost of installation can vary by the size and type of water softener, the complexity of the installation, and any additional materials or labor required.
On average, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,500 for a water softener installation in Edmonton. However, the actual cost could be higher or lower given your specific circumstances.
In addition to the initial installation cost, you will also need to factor in the ongoing cost of maintaining the unit, including replacing the resin beads or media and refilling the salt as needed. It’s a good idea to consider the long-term cost of ownership before making a decision on which one to purchase.
How to Maintain Water Softeners
Check and refill the salt
Most softeners use salt to regenerate the resin beads or media that remove the hard minerals from the water. It’s important to refill the salt as needed to ensure that the system can continue softening the water.
Check and clean the brine tank
The brine tank is where the salt is stored and where the softener’s resin beads or media are regenerated. Keep a check on the brine tank periodically and clean it if necessary to remove any build-up of salt or debris.
Check the water flow
If you notice that the water flow from your faucets or appliances is reduced, it could be a sign that the water softener needs to be regenerated or that there is a problem with the unit.
Each water softener unit is different, so it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s specific maintenance recommendations for your unit. This may include performing regular cleaning or replacement of the resin beads or media, checking the water flow, and testing the water quality.
Can I Soften My Own Water?
If you’re not convinced by installing a water softener yet, here are some basic steps to soften your water at home.
Boiling hard water will cause some of the minerals to dissolve and precipitate out, leaving the water softer. However, this method is not very efficient and will not remove all of the hard minerals from the water.
Using a water softening agent
You can add a number of commercial water softening agents to soften it. These agents typically work by binding the hard minerals and preventing them from forming deposits in pipes and appliances.
Filtering the water
Short-run softening media such as calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide can remove hard minerals but become exhausted quickly. They need to be refilled from time to time which can prove to be inefficient.
While these methods can be effective at reducing water hardness, they are not as effective as a dedicated water softener. Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to remove hard minerals from water, which is generally more effective than other methods. If you are looking for a more comprehensive solution for hard water in your home, it may be worth considering a water softener.
What Is the Life Expectancy of a Water Softener?
The life expectancy depends on the quality of the unit, how well it is maintained, and the water conditions it is exposed to. In general, water softeners have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years.
Ones that are properly maintained and used in areas with relatively soft water may last longer, while those that are not well-maintained or used in areas with very hard water may need to be replaced sooner.
It’s a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and to have your water softener serviced regularly to help extend its lifespan. Regular maintenance can help identify any potential problems before they become serious, which can help prevent unexpected breakdowns and prolong the life of the unit.
Contact Always Plumbing & Heating to determine the right water softener and filtration system for your needs. Call us at 587-855-5462 (Edmonton) or 587-601-1253 (Fort McMurray) to schedule your water quality consultation.